Gouache painting is growing in popularity. This medium dates back six hundred years, but you would think it was invented last year and everyone wants to try it out. Why is gouache popular? It is water-based and opaque and this makes it super versatile and beginner friendly. But is gouache easier to master? In this article I want to share thoughts on how to improve your gouache painting so that you get more out of the experience.
Beginner Friendly Gouache
I said gouache is a friendly medium and in many ways it is. Unlike watercolor gouache makes it easier to cover your mistakes. Yes I know this may sound weird, but truth is painting involves a lot of corrections. Using a transparent medium like watercolor gives you little room to maneuver. If you make a big mistake it shows permanently. With gouache you can use opaque paint and correct those unfortunate errors.
This means a lot to beginners especially. True, oils and acrylics offer this too, but they are both cumbersome materials to use compared to gouache. Oils have all the solvents, brushes and canvasses. Acrylics dry quickly and permanently. A real nightmare when you mess up your new chinos! Gouache can be washed out even after it dries. Yes, dry gouache is reactivated with water. Amazing.
Gouache is great for sitting down with your journal and painting a few small studies. Perfect for travels, holidays or taking a creative moment at home. Honestly if you like painting then you need gouache paint. Even if it is not your main medium.
What Materials do You Need?
This is the easy part. Gouache is relatively cheap to start with. Yes there are expensive paints, but you do not need them. Yes there are ruinously expensive sable brushes and there is diabolically pricey paper too, but you do not need them either. What do you need? Here is more information of setting up your kit for gouache painting.
Improve Your Painting in Gouache
Now let us start with the juicy bits. Making your gouache paintings stand out from the crowd. Of course this is not a competition and we want to have fun. But I know that artists want to see progress in their work otherwise I am out of a job as an art teacher. Ahem ... moving on!
Paint the Big Shapes
At the risk of repeating myself I have to say this is a massive issue. Too many details have ruined more paintings than saved them. If you can look for the big shape then you can paint that far easier than fiddly details. A shape describes so much.
For example lets say you want to paint a scene in Venice. The Grand Canal in fact. You know there is that famous cathedral right? The Dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria della Salute to be precise. Packed with details. Do you need to paint all of them? Course not.
Look at Monet's painting of the cathedral below. Atmospheric and beautiful? Yes! Details? none. Mood? Plenty. Just use the shape and color to create something special. You can paint this in gouache too. In fact I encourage you to copy this painting for learning purposes to cement the idea of big shapes in your mind. All subjects are first made up of big shapes. Paint those.
To see like an artist means to observe in a meaningful way. I often say that the biggest gift painting has given me is the ability to see. Before that I was stumbling around without appreciating the beauty around me. Even the ordinary is transformed when you see the colors, shadows, lights, shapes and feel the mood of the moment.
If you take time to watch, see and absorb the scene through sensory experience you will be able to communicate so much more with paint.
This tip means that you can take your time to look at the scene. Ask yourself what colors need to be used to paint the shadow, the half-light and the highlights. What shapes do you want to include? What is the weather like? The direction of the sun? Hot or cold?
Build your memory of the scene and you will be able to paint richer scenes back at the studio too. Observation is simply critical to art so start to improve this technique and see quick improvement in your work.
I now have two courses for gouache painting. A comprehensive beginners course and a more advanced course. The one leads on to the other. Most importantly I encourage my students to try out the demonstration paintings, because watching is not enough. Entertaining perhaps, but if you want to improve your painting quickly you need to paint more.
Apply the lessons to practical painting as soon as possible. Only then will you see the desired results. This may sound boring, but this is an important issue. Some artists ask me if all they need to do is practice. Usually they mean that practice is totally dull and they want a quicker solution. The answer?
Practice the right things.
It is so simple to say. Amazingly it is simple to do as well. Thirty minutes a day will make you a good painter within six months. Much better than most. This is because it takes practice of the right things over time. If you do this success is likely. Mastery will follow over a longer period depending on your commitment.
Your Next Steps
This article is not about every technical step to painting. It is about the three biggest issues:
Keep those three things at the back of your mind in your creative journey.
Now if you want to the rest of the lessons you will find them in my two gouache painting courses.
Gouache Painting for Beginners
Level Up Your Gouache Painting
I have included a special offer on both these course for you to try out.
Malcolm Dewey: Artist. Country: South Africa