Going Through Withdrawal from International Fake Journal Month

May 4, 2016

160502_Dick-gouacheCRBRCRLeft: Small Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and Schmincke Gouache painting on Arches Cold Press Watercolor board. (4-3/16 x 6-5/8 inches for live area.)

Two days into May and I found that I really couldn’t give up the Arches Cold Press watercolor board, yet. I took a scrap of it and taped the sides leaving only a relatively small window: 4-3/16 x 6-5/8 inches.

Dick said he would sit for me. (Really, this has to stop—he has important stuff to do. I might have to get a puppy!)

I picked up the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and sketched quickly. Then I started to paint with gouache but it was like my brain wouldn’t work. After a month of painting with watercolor my brain still hadn’t moved into gouache mode again. (The final painting for IFJM was a gouache painting but it was non-natural colors so it didn’t matter which colors I put down as long as the values were working—I wanted this sketch to be more realistic.)

After about five minutes I got up and left the room. I washed off all the paint. I dried the board with a heat gun. What remained? The ink lines and some angry slashes of staining colors.

I had another go. For a few minutes things would go well. Then they wouldn’t. Usually they stopped going well at the exact moment I started to feel cocky and believed it was all working out.

Normally I have a plan of attack when I make a painting. I know which pigments I’m going to use to get the desired results—natural or non-natural color is also a decision I make up front.

On Monday I was working with pigments I’d put out two days before. They were sealed and still soft. (I put my working palette in a plastic bag with a little bit of moisture on the palette in the form of a small piece of folded paper towel which is wet.)

Frankly I just wanted to paint something and feel the gouache move around on the paper (or in this case the board).

160502_Dick-gouacheDETAILLeft: Detail from the image above so you can see the thick and thin applications of paint.

It seemed like an eternity, with me putting down a color and adjusting it, and then working elsewhere while it dried, and repeating. Of course the eyebrows were an issue, but overall I really liked the proportions of the head. It was just that the left (our left) was too far out.

I can hide a lot with gouache—if you look at the finished piece the dark lines you see are 99.9 percent paint. None of the sketch lines in the face are visible, except on at the right on the brow, one under the eye on the right. The shirt lines are all still visible. I didn’t want to do anything with them.

But even though I can hide a dark ink line with gouache things were taking so much effort I didn’t want to work at it. I took a Montana marker and covered the background in raspberry (that’s what I call it I don’t know if that’s what they call it). I cut back into the ear on the left (you can see some paint lines under the acrylic marker).

Next I messed with the hair for a bit. He doesn’t have gray hair, but there is some very light blonde and white hair now. There is also a lot of darker “remnant ginger” as I like to call it. And then of course there is the greenish tinge that all those hours in the pool impart on blonde hair.

I put in the darkest areas and then worked elsewhere, going back with lighter layers when the darker ones were dry. I blended a bit, I added more darks, it finally resembled something like Dick’s hair—which yes, needs to be cut and does stick out at all angles like that. I think it’s charming. (On the few occasions he actually combs his hair—weddings, funerals—I find it actually a little unsettling to look at him.)

160502_DickPenSketch-DSC04317Left: Just for grins, here's the quick pen sketch. I don't draw out the hair to its ends because I know I'm going to have to cover the ink lines and a lot of ink out where it's wispy would be difficult. I also only put the vaguest of outlines of the eyebrow extension for the same reason. You can clearly see that gouache allows me to keep refining. The edges of the board have been taped.

Of course I needed to adjust the eyebrows throughout all this. They are vague here because basically they are vague in real life—who knows where they really begin and end.

What I’m most happy about is I did get a little bit of the cavern of recession beneath those eyebrows, but didn’t make the values so dark there that he looked excessively tired.

It’s the most age appropriate sketch I’ve done of him in ages. (Either I make him look too young or too old.) And he has a great patient look—appropriate for someone who kindly sat still for an hour and 15 minutes so I could paint.

Are there things I would change? Sure. There always are. But I like it as a step back from watercolor to gouache—without my head exploding.

I realized how few colors I work with in gouache compared to watercolor, and yes I was testing a new watercolor palette in my 2016 IFJM journal, but even so it was three times as many pigments (though I didn’t use them all in every painting!!). And I reminded myself that I was working with left over colors. If I’d had out my full gouache palette, or set out colors specifically for this project things would have been different—they can always be different.

I think that’s what I love so much about painting.

It’s about “What can I do right now, with what I have. Make a plan, go!” I just have to remember to make the plan!

I do love this cold press watercolor board—I have a bunch more of them.

The best remedy for painting withdrawal is to paint more…

I wonder what Dick has planned for this evening?

    • Nancy
    • May 4, 2016

    He looks like a rock star!

  1. Reply

    I think you’re just in your watercolor mind with all those lovely washes and glazes and it’s so automatic for you.

    As to fresh gouache, nope I don’t squeeze it out fresh each time. On April 30 I squeezed out about 5 colors on one of my plate palettes as I was working on a large piece (the last for the IFJM journal but it won’t post automatically until May 18) and I had NOT been working in gouache all month. When I was done with that piece I put a small square of folded (about 1 inch folded) paper toweling on the palette and put the plate in a Ziplock plastic bag. That keeps it pretty fresh for even up to two weeks. (But it never lasts that long because I end up using it.) So when I did this the paints were 2 days old but still fresh. And I just spritz them lightly at that point during the work time because I don’t want a skin on them.

    I also used a filbert for most of this and a stiff one at that, so that allows me to work with stiffer paint.

    If the plate palette completely dries out and there is enough paint on it that it’s worth restoring I simply spray it really well before starting a sketch and the paint gets soft by the time I need it.

    It’s pretty dry in our house.

    I work the same way with dried out gouache in my travel palette—spray it well when I start to sketch and by the time I’m ready to paint it’s soft enough.

    I’m using Schmincke and M. Graham only. Mostly Schmincke but there are some colors I like in M. Graham still.

    A landscape painter came over about a month ago—she was going on a trip and wanted to work in gouache but was having all sorts of problems and wanted to see me work and I pulled a totally dry palette out and sprayed it. (She wasn’t wetting her paint early enough or using enough water—she saw that immediately—you do have to spray it more than you would watercolors.) Then I started painting over a PPBP sketch no problem. (But we did talk long enough for them to get softened, about 5 minutes as I was sketching.)

    Then of course you have to watch that things aren’t drying out as you work a long, because when you take the soft layer off it might not be soft below yet.

    So I would suggest you spray the dried paint with more water right away when you sit down to sketch. More water than you think you need—and you’ll find the point that works. I think it’s more humid in Missouri than it is up here.

    Alternately if I want really fresh gouache in the field (which I did one year at the Fair and that was hilarious because of all the barn dust—but just as a for instance) I will take my Whiskey Painter’s palette and I will fill the pans fresh in the morning, and then I will put a small folded bit of wet paper toweling in the case before I close it. They’ll be soft all day AS LONG as I remember to spray then now and then when the box is open (or they start to dry out a bit.

    I’m not very patient when it comes to waiting for materials to be “ready” so this is just what I’ve found works so I can use them.

    I had a really difficult month in April with the watercolor trying to glaze and such. My mind couldn’t get into that mode except once in a while! Now I’m having trouble getting back into gouache mode!!!!

  2. Reply

    Thanks Nancy, I’ll tell him you said that. I did draw him once in the 80s as a “rock star.” It was a joke card series I used to send out in mail art for updates on Dick. The joke of course is that he doesn’t sing.

    • Diane
    • May 4, 2016

    Looks just like your handsome Dick. And that hot pink–nice.

    • Cathy Inzer
    • May 10, 2016

    Rox, I just ordered the gouache palette from Wet Paint. What gouache from M. Graham would you recommend to supplement? I would like to use them like watercolor occasionaly, do you have a blog post that addresses that or will it be in the download? Thanks for your wonderfl blog that is so very encouraging!

  3. Reply

    Cathy, I don’t think you need to supplement this set with any paints from M. Graham. M. Graham doesn’t have a PB60 offering and so if you were making a set of their paints you would need to do something about that, but not an issue with Schmincke.

    I wouldn’t buy any additional paints of either brand until you work with these for awhile and see what you like to do with these colors and see how the pigments relate to other paints you might use already. At that time you can think about which pigments from either line you want to add.

    If you want to use them as watercolors I think the easiest is to fill a palette and let them dry complete (all this is explained on the guide) and then don’t do a lot of pre-wetting. You don’t want them to soften up as you would for opaque work so you can just stroke them as little or as much as you need.

    I have hundreds of posts on the blog where I use gouache in a translucent way so you can use the search engine or click on gouache in the category cloud and find lots of examples.

    Have fun with your new set

    • Cathy Inzer
    • May 10, 2016

    Thanks Roz! I’m looking forward to receiving my new set and exploring all the ways to use them!

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