Conversations with Gouache 2

08 February 2022

"Tree People: Through Sunlight Thickening", gouache on very heavy handmade paper

What Is Gouache?

Gouache is an ancient paint formulation created by grinding dry pigment, a binder, a wetting agent, perhaps a preservative, and sometimes additional opacifiers.   

High quality professional artist-grade gouache paints are made with heavy pigment load for opacity and color brilliance, are very lightfast, and fast-drying.  It dries to a velvety matte finish.  

Gouache can be mixed, blended and layered with watercolor for even more flexibility.  They are both formulated with gum binders and water.   

The Conversations

Working with gouache employs a different mindset than working with watercolor.  It allows a much more spontaneous approach due to its opacity and composition, which means lighter color can be layered over darker color, or colors of very different hues can be placed over other colors.  

Gouache is composed of a very heavy gum base, and it can be rewet and reactivated nearly endlessly.  The gum allows the paint color to be lifted from your paper or substrate, allowing the original paper color to come through and be available again for delicate surface washes.

I've been using it in studio as well as plein air work for many years, and I'm still discovering new ways to make it sing for me.  If I'm paying close attention while I'm painting, the paint itself teaches me and guides me where to go.

This is the 'conversation' with the medium that's so exciting and valuable in the painting process. 

Salvador Dali, "Horsemen of the Apocalypse", 1970, uses the power of gouache's color intensity over wet on wet and perhaps wet on dry washes, handled much like watercolor washes. See the intense yellows, reds and whites painted over the dark, nearly black under layers?

Read more about Gouache

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