Keeping it Simple with Gouache

After working on value sketches and simplifying shapes last week I wanted to put what I learned into practice. Gouache is a super medium for this. I really like it because it’s quick to paint, like watercolour. You can dry it off in less than a minute with a hair dryer. On the other hand, although it dries as fast as acrylics, when it’s dry it’s not fixed forever so you can reactivate it if you want to. (On top of that, due to a pain condition, I’m mostly painting in bed and both watercolour and gouache wash out of my duvet a lot better than acrylics or oils!!! Lol)

Norfolk Memories

My main aim was to try to simplify shapes as I painted and keep an eye on the values (how dark or light each colour is). The first picture I did was a view we had from a holiday cottage in north Norfolk many years ago. It was easy to simplify as I couldn’t remember all the details. I didn’t sketch beforehand because I wanted to think in shapes and not in lines.

So here it is…

About Gouache

This was the first sketch I’ve done in pure gouache for a while.  It’s a really interesting medium.  The amazing thing is that you can use it in two completely different ways.  You can use it like an opaque watercolour or, if you mix it up to a thicker consistency, you can use it much more like acrylics and oils but without all the fuss of using mediums or having paint that doesn’t wash out.  I often use some watery gouache in watercolour paintings where I want a less transparent layer but here I decided to go for the stronger consistency option and paint exclusively in thicker gouache.    Another thing I really like about this medium is that there’s no rush if you want to mix all the colours you need at the start of a session because even if it dries on the palette you can get it back to a useable state in seconds.  On the canvas too, you always have the option of reworking something, although there is a limit to how much you can do.

The limitations of gouache are not too difficult to deal with.

  • Because gouache paint can always be reactivated you have to be careful with parts of your canvas which are finished, but the same is true of watercolour.
  • Although you can put light values over dark, and dark over light, there is a limit to how much work you can do on one particular spot before the paint underneath starts to muddy the paint above which takes away the vibrancy of the final product.  Also, when adding paint on top of other paint I’ve found that stiffer synthetic brushes tend to dig into the layer below more.  Pure natural fibre brushes are much better at not doing this but they’re very expensive.  I use mixed natural and synthetic fibre brushes which are a decent compromise.
  • When the paint dries the light values tend to darken a little and the dark values tend to lighten so you need to always push the contrast in gouache paintings a little bit more to have a final picture with a full value range.


Clouds at Dusk

My second picture was an attempt to study a YouTube artist’s demonstration. She’s called Lena Rivo.  Her work is really beautiful with a very loose and distinctive style. I really admire the way she paints so freely.  I thought that studying one of her paintings would be really helpful in encouraging me to be a little more relaxed and use bigger simpler brushstrokes in my work.  So I watched her video late one night and then the next night had a go at painting the same scene.  Here’s Lena’s demonstration video…



Here’s what I came up with…


I think her stroke shapes are very different to mine.  Partly this is because I prefer a round brush while it looks like Lena is using a flat brush.  Partly though it’s probably to do with the way each of us paints.  Overall I’m fairly happy with my study, although I still prefer Lena’s work.  I really enjoyed working with gouache again too.


10 thoughts on “Keeping it Simple with Gouache

  1. I was inspired by some gouache paintings I had seen and so I bought myself a set of paints. Yeah…no, I couldn’t handle the media at all! I’m sticking with oil. Hats off to you. You’re doing a great job with it.

    Liked by 1 person

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