A Demo Pepper—Gouache (Because I Haven’t Said the G Word for a Couple Days)

July 17, 2013

130225_ClassDemoPepperGouacLeft: A pepper that I sketched as a gouache demo in a February color theory class. Faber-Castell Pitt Artist's Calligraphy Pen on Stonehenge tan paper, with Schmincke Gouache, approx. 5 x 8 inches.

I don't think I've been doing enough in the past few weeks to promote the use of gouache, so here's a piece I did as an in-class demo in February. It's a quick sketch made from a pepper I didn't eat at lunch, followed by a quick throw down of color in and around the pepper to make some teaching points. The red side of the pepper I developed a little bit more to show some reflectivity and shading. The stem shows some blending of colors but isn't at the final level yet. The yellow is an attempt to show how I'll work up some different colors over dark colors below (but we ran out of time). The blue background shows how you can work in white and change things up. All this happened in less than 25 mintues, while I was talking, and working in various places while paint dried to the appropriate state in others, and so it goes, you keep moving. I think you can see the possibilities, whether with dry brush, or to blend.

And gouache always looks so lovely on toned paper.

You might want to try some.

Oh, I used a small filbert for all the strokes here because there wasn't time to change brushes .

    • Lisa
    • July 18, 2013

    Dear Roz,

    I’m so glad you posted about gouache again! I finally faced my fear of failures, and broke out the student grade watercolor and added artist white gouache. The student watercolor (Wintons) were awful to use. I had to paint everthing twice or 3 times just to get the vibrancy that I wanted. The white gouache was a positive addition, but I am wondering if I should just switch to all artist grade (M.Graham) most of which I own but haven’t experimented with in years. .. or, if you think there is a SIGNIFICANT difference in artist watercolor vs student watercolor.

    My purpose in using these water mediums is to use them to practice drawing and sketching in a journal. The Schminkes off Dick Blick were much more expensive than the M.Graham.

    So, my question. .. .do you think I should try watercolor again, even though I find the medium more challenging to control, but I love what others do w/ it (Laurelines , Nathan Fowkes). .. .or, just stick with my M.Graham gouaches and use them as my sketch medium?

    Also, can you expand on why you love the PB60 pigment? Your chocolate that you made with it was amazing. Such wonderful subtle browns!!

    Also, should I stick with the same palette that I generally use for heavy body acrylics? I know with watercolor, there are different, transparent options, esp. with the yellows.

    Thanks for you advice. So many decisions and options. But, at least I know. . . I definitely never want to work with student grade watercolor again. Life is too short. And it defeats the purpose if you have to paint the same thing 3 times!

    Thanks for sharing all your generous suggestions with us. If Schminke wasn’t so costly, I’d try a few of them, too. I haven’t used the full M. Graham gouache palette in years, but I recall enjoying them and being pleased with the quality. And I think am a fusspot!

  1. Reply

    Lisa, gouache isn’t about just adding white paint to watercolor. Gouache is a paint in its own right. Gouache brands also vary significantly from student grade through fine art versions (with a professional grade in between that some illustrators use).

    I think you should only use M. Graham and Schmincke brands of gouache for reasons I write about a lot on the blog. You can read about this at this post here

    You can find my gouache palette notes here

    If you can afford artist grade paints you should use them. Using quality paints is one of the most important steps you can take not only to improve the longevity of your art but to improve your art technique. So do I think there’s a significant difference? YES, YES, YES. That’s 90 percent of what I write about when I wrote about art materials on the blog. Artist quality paints will have higher pigment loads, contain better pigments, and have more single pigment paints (e.g., a low grade line will take some inexpensive blue pigments and mix them to make a “cobalt-hue” whereas an artist quality paint will have the cobalt pigment alone. There is no comparison between the two.

    The other nice thing about M. Graham and Schmincke gouache is that they don’t have opacifiers in them so you can actually dilute them down and use them as watercolors so you only have to carry one palette. The pigments used in both will be the same used in their watercolors of the same “color.” The pigments will be ground a little more coarsely. Most people don’t even see the difference when using these quality gouache paints in this fashion. DOn’t bother to try it with other inferior brands.

    I can’t really tell you to stick with one thing or try another because I don’t know how you are feeling when you are using the paints.

    If you have M. Graham GOUACHE, then you can use it both as a gouache and a watercolor (as I just explained) and you should just use it and get rid of your student grade paints. Then as you use the M. Graham Gouache sometimes opaquely, sometimes diluted you’ll get a sense for what you like to do and follow up on that. Laura Frankstone might use both watercolor and gouache, you’d have to check with her, but Nathan Fowkes definitely seems to me when I’ve looked at his blog, to be focusing on gouache. So if you want the look of what he’s doing you would need to get a quality gouache and work with it.

    Sticking with your M. Graham Gouache allows you to do just that.

    As for PB60 well you answered that question yourself. It’s the perfect blue and it mixes with it’s complement to create the perfect neutral, which just happens to be Malamute grey. I don’t really think I have to say anything else about it do I?

    As for a palette of colors if you are using artist grade paints you should be able to get any pigment you want in any of the media you want to use. So I use the same pigments in watercolor (Daniel Smith, Schmincke, M. Graham are all brands that I use), acrylics (Daniel Smith and Golden), and gouache (M. Graham and Schmincke).

    Each company will blend things a little differently so you’ll want to find the color that really “does it for you” even if the pigment numbers on all the tubes are the same.

    But I have the same pigments in watercolor, acrylics, and gouache.

    You might want to shop around for the Schmincke gouache. I buy my schmincke gouache from Wet Paint (locally) and the price is reasonable, but frankly I don’t compare it because what I like is to have the ability to walk into the store and buy the paint. Years ago they stopped selling it because gouache paint isn’t as popular as some other media. And every week I would go in and ask them when they were going to carry it again. The manager called me the day they got it back in the store and I’ve been happy ever since. There are some colors in M. Graham gouache that I’ll use and they carry those too. (Wet Paint does mail order.)

    Good luck with your explorations in paint.

    • Lisa
    • July 19, 2013

    Thank you so much for your advice. I think I just needed some encouragement to follow my instincts. Game on with the gouache. I think I will love them– and I love knowing that I could use them transparently. II can always buy watercolor if for some reason I want my paints to be more transparent. I usually want them more opaque, since I’m impatient, and I like to layer!

    ‘ll have to try the PB60 with burnt sienna, too.

    According to Nathan Fowkes material list– he uses all watercolor (Winsor Newton) and designer white gouache. I agree with you. . . there are a lot of opaque passages. His style. . . and the style of your chocolate is what I’m aiming to accomplish. Rich.

    I can’t believe M.Graham doesn’t carry PB60 yet. I own it in Golden acrylics, but I have only used it once. I’ll be doing some online shopping this weekend! Unfortunately, my favorite local store, Main Art, went out of business in Richmond, VA.

    Helllo, future art one-of-a-kind art and frame shop. . . .Richmond, VA needs you!

    And M.Graham– please do a limited batch of PB60 for Roz and the rest of us! I’ll commit to a tube.

    Seriously, I can’t wait to play around , see if I can mimic my acrylic palette and choose my favorites.I’ve never used raw umber, so that will be new. I’m trying to use less than 18 colors, because that’s all the will fit in my palette! And frankly, that’s enough!

    Thanks for confirming my inclinations, Roz. I’m so glad you’re wound up about this topic. I love seeing how you use gouache. It’s rare to find gouache on people’s blogs.


  2. Reply

    Lisa, glad it was helpful.

    I don’t have Raw Umber on my list of regular paints either. If you look at this link about my palette again you can see my typical palette at the top of that post.

    It contains 11 colors and gets me through a lot. And that typical palette doesn’t contain raw umber. I added it to that palette in the summer of 08 because I was trying to do more landscapes and all my landscape painter friends use it for some interesting greens when mixed with blues.

    I really only carry those 11 colors listed at the top of that post for the most part. Though I will say that in some of my in-studio stuff and in palettes that are easy to change out the colors (like the whiskey painters palette) I have continued to use cobalt blue and Helio blue.

    Stick with pigments you already use successfully as you start out.

    But you can have great fun and success with a yellow, blue, and red if you pick colors that work together and reinforce what you see.

    Have fun picking your palette.

    And I doubt Art Graham of M. Graham paints reads comments on my blog so please write to him directly, but DO NOT ask for a limited batch. I want him to make and keep making PB60 in gouache. Which he should because he has PB60 in his other lines of paints (watercolor, acrylic)

    Happy painting.

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