Gouache and Watercolour Exploration 2020

Updated: Sep 6



I am delighted to have received funding from the Arts Council of Wales to embark on a new project where I will explore plein air painting in water based mediums- gouache and watercolour. This is a project I have been hoping to begin for a while so I'm really excited to begin!


I have worked solely in oils for the last 10 years which I absolutely love but I wanted to try out water based mediums as work will try faster and will be easier to carry. This will be far more practical when I'm working on island artist residencies. I've found transporting a weeks worth of oil paintings over the sea on a small boat is a bit of a challenge! Also just being out in the landscape all day for long hours amasses numerous oil paintings and studies which need to be carried in large wet canvas carriers. I realised I needed to try a lighter approach to painting to explore more, both physically in the landscape and in my work.

I'm drawn to the transparent textural effects in watercolour paints and their luminosity on the page, they possess such a wonderful light quality. Equally I've been intrigued by the potential of gouache paints- their rich, vibrant opaqueness. I really wanted to try working with them both individually and together to see what range of marks and effects could be achieved.



New paints have arrived!


I sketched out a rough idea for a palette then got to work! Its made from wood that is glued and screwed together. I then added correx for the panels and paint wells using a hot glue gun. I taped the outside edges up with a very strong tape!



Watercolour to the right, gouache to the left. (Above).


I did a long wash that met in the middle to see how well matched the two different paints were. It is pretty seamless apart from that cobalt turquiose meeting with Cerulean... I also opted for a Yellow/ orange in watercolour as it looked nice and bright, its hard to judge a pigment on a computer screen! I've tried to keep to a palette I'm familiar by going for the pigments I use in my oils.


... So ofcourse I rushed out into the landscape with my new paints and palette to try them out! It was slow going as I struggled to get the colour mixes I wanted quickly enough, I wasted paint whilst discovering their varying tinting powers and searching for the colours I wanted to mix. Also I didn't have a clue on how to manipulate the paint to create the marks I wanted so I was quite tentative with them. I later tried to be bolder with them and created some painting disasters! Much to learn!




Below are some colour mixing charts I did with my watercolour paints. This is such a helpful process for getting to know pigments indiviually (granulation, transparency, tinting power etc) and to see how each pigment behaves with the rest of the palette. I learnt more than I expected doing this exercise! I will keep refering back to them too.


- The full palette


- Pyrrol Scarlet

- Alizarin Crimson

- Cadmium Yellow Orange

- Cadmium Yellow Medium

- Cadmium Yellow Light

- Cerulean Blue Chromium

- Ultramarine Blue

- Manganese Blue

- Yellow Ochre

- Transparent Oxide Red

- Transparent Oxide Brown



Extras to play with:


- Lunar Black

- Amethyst Genuine

- Cobalt Blue

- Cerulean Blue



Lunar Black. Amethyst. A mixed Grey. (Below).


Going through my brush collection to see what they can do with watercolour. Also a look at various watercolour techniques and approaches to manipulating paint:



Gouache Palette:



Gouache experiments


I repainted my oil plein air paintings to learn how gouache pigments behave without the pressure of a changing scene or fleeting subject! As my plein air efforts were unsuccessful to say the least.


I experimented with gouache on board, primed with watercolour ground. (Night scene below).

It was extremely absorbant which made spreading the paint slow whic was a shame as I'd been intrigued to try it on canvas, maybe with some extra coats...



Watercolour + gouache experiments.


A selection from the many studies now attempted, all at varying levels of mess! Really enjoying exploring both mediums together now after having spent some time working with them individually.











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