Woodland Glade – Using Oil Painting Techniques with Gouache

This week I wanted to create a painting in Gouache but using some basic oil painting techniques. The main technique I focussed on was Blocking In. This is a way of painting which I’ve not really tried very seriously before. Basically you paint the overall big shapes and basic colours, then you refine them with more complex shapes until your picture appears. Stopping the refinement before it gets realistic leaves you with a painterly styled picture, which is what I wanted to achhieve.

Because Gouache can be overpainted in the same way as oils and blended in a similar way to oils (but less easily) it seems like a good candidate to create an oil styled picture without the bother of waiting weeks between layers for the oils to dry and going through the messy clean up process after each painting session. (You can use Liquin as an oil medium to speed up the drying process but it still takes quite some time for some colours and hues to dry.) With gouache and a hairdryer I can get things dry in a couple of minutes and my brushes and palette can be cleaned under the tap very quickly.

So I first chose a subject. I had a loose ink sketch of a forest glade lying about which I thought might lend itself to this kind of painting approach. Here’s the sketch…

I made an outline drawing of this sketch at the right size for my gouache experiment…

Then I began to have some fun with the blocking in. First I chose basic colours for each part of the painting…

It was great because I didn’t have to be too careful with my painting strokes or get anything right first time. This gave me the freedom to make different shadow colour choices than I normally would. I went with violets in the main but pushed one rock in the far foreground towards a pinkish colour to bring some heat into the picture at that point. Then I began to refine my shapes by adding more shadows…

This was lovely to do as I could see my brush defining each shape. I had loads of fun with this.

My next job was to start tidying it all up. This was enjoyable in a different, more meditative way, as I tried to get lovely flat blocks of colour. I began at the back of the painting and worked forward. I refined my edges as I did this. I also had to work out a way to show the water in the pond for what it is. I had a go at this by painting a very basic interpretation of the sky and trees merging into a darker colour near the front as the viewer begins to see more of the colour of the water and not the reflections. Then I painted in my reflection colours of the rocks. This was the most difficult part of the painting. They had to be the same basic colours but darker and less saturated. Once I’d got everything clean and toned to the colours I wanted I was finished. Here is my finished painting…

I am quite pleased with the painterly effects and the colour choices, although I think I would like to make the colours more subtle next time. I could use the same basic colour interpretation of the scene but with each colour pushed towards grey a little more. This is a bit of battle for me as I seem to get totally enchanted with the effect of strong, saturated colours whenever I sit down to paint.

I also quite like the way there is very little blending in the painting except in the water. I found it quite hard to render the water. Although the contrast between the blended water area and the rest does give the painting an interesting effect, I think the surface looks more akin to kitchen foil than a pond.

The other main thing I would change is my set up for photographing paintings as I often lose details when the differences between colours are smaller. For instance, in the back of this painting there is the indication of foliage shapes behind the main scene which adds to the feeling of a small clearing in the middle of a wood. They are obvious when I look at the actual picture with my eyes but the camera doesn’t pick them up. I’m avoiding scanned images too because my scanner can’t see blue very well at all, especially as it goes towards cyan.

At university when I was doing my PGCE (standard UK teaching qualification), they showed us the proper way to photograph media. It was a flat table with a flash light at each corner and a camera suspended over the top. Now I paint at my living room table so this kind of thing is not going to be possible but I could set up a proper Digital SLR with a couple of flashes somewhere in my home. My Dad is a really good photographer and has his Licentiateship from the Royal Photographic Society so I expect he will know how to get better results. It’s something I’m going to work on.

Field and Forest

Here are a couple of older paintings I did a few years ago.

One is an acrylic painting of the ‘Forest of Dean’.  I went there in my late twenties and was really seduced by it’s beauty.


The second is a watercolour of a barn owl flying low over a field one summer evening.  It was one of the first watercolours I ever tried to paint.  This was also inspried by real life.  I once saw a barn owl flying low like this just a few feet from me in the golden evening light of Cambridgeshire.  It was more beautiful than I can say.

Here’s the picture…



The Dark Forest Lake – Ink on A3 Paper

This has taken about 4 hours and was done over three days.  It’s my first ever A3 Ink drawing.  I was inspired originally by the dark forest picture on pottermore.  At the time I was refining my ability to draw trees and these creepy bent, mostly dead trees seemed perfect.  It took a lot of patience as there’s lots of paper to cover but I loved doing it.  The chance to draw some better detail was wonderful.  I already have an idea for my next A3 Ink drawing.

Anyway, here it is…


(Click for a larger version)

Also, please note I’m not able to find my good camera at the moment so this photo was taken with my phone.  It has lost the most detailed parts of the image – the surface of the water and some of the other fine lines.

Here is my sketch from early on…


And here is the piece halfway through…