Member Led Gouache Friday session

Friday 10th November 2023

Marie Bunce led the last of this year’s initiative to have a member of the society lead a Friday night meeting. Marie talked about the properties and advantages of painting with gouache. She had brought in several paintings she had done as a means of demonstrating how gouache can be different from mediums such as watercolour, acrylic or oil paint.

Marie admitted the first time she used gouache she did not like it but then she tried it again and she is a convert. She asked the room how many people were going to be using gouache and there was a good show of hands. Marie explained that one of the properties of gouache is that the paint never sets. It can be rewet, moved and manipulated after it has dried. It lends itself to be used with a palette knife, or cut up credit card or pieces of board or cardboard.

What makes gouache special is its blending and working time, it is reworkable, unlike any other paint. It is water-soluble so by going back with a wet brush it is possible to change colour or lift colour even after the paint dries. Marie does not need to clean her palette as the paint can still be used when wet again.

To illustrate how it is possible to mix gouache on the surface that is being painted or do the mixing in a palette prior to applying it to the painting, Marie had painted a little soldier twice. The soldier on the right was painted by applying the paint directly to the image. On close inspection there is a subtle difference in the result achieved.

Gouache is well-known for its colourful results. It dries rapidly and has a matte surface that does not reflect light. It is popular with illustrators and graphic designers because it dries to a flat, matt colour that reproduces really well. It also covers really well as Marie illustrated by painting a kingfisher on a piece of old Amazon cardboard. Gouache requires less water so it can be used on thinner paper, like sketchbook. It is opaque so it can be used on coloured paper.

Gouache can be applied very thinly by using more water or thickly straight from the tube. Marie recommends starting with a thin layer as she did when painting the red poppy. Later she added some of the petals the poppy seeds with a palette knife, applying the paint fairly thickly.

Gouache is highly pigmented and the colours tend to stay true once dry, although they lighten as they dry. Gouache paints often have different names to the ones people might be familiar with when using watercolour or acrylic. Gouache is opaque so it does not have the transparent colours available in watercolour. The best way to discover more the qualities of gouache is to have a go and so Marie suggested everyone try it out for themselves.

There is no doubt everyone was inspired by Marie and the room quickly filled with a wide variety of different artwork. Marie had brought in her set of tin soldiers in case anyone wanted to try painting one as she had done. They make a pretty Christmas image and seem a fitting image to end the last of our member led Friday sessions with grateful thanks to Marie Bunce.

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