Gouache figure painting

Gouache painting of a figure by Helen Davison

Gouache sketch, 10″ x 8″

Following on from watercolour, I have also been experimenting with gouache. It is a medium that I have found to be unlike any other, with its own unique set of advantages and problems. I absolutely hated using it at first, but once I started to understand (theoretically if not practically) what it will and will not do, I began to enjoy it very much.

In particular I love the flat, opaque finish when it’s dry. You can also build up layers and reactivate it by wetting it, enabling further blending and movement of paint for as long as you like. Of course, this can become a drawback when it leads to overworking and results in sludge. In this respect I think gouache has elements in common with oil painting – albeit in an entirely different way – and will help me to develop how I use that medium too.

A huge advantage of course, is that gouache is odour free and water soluble. Very little mess and quick clean-up means experimentation is less daunting. I don’t feel constrained to using it in the studio only, so I’m hoping that it’ll help me to make compositional choices – working in more interior spaces for example – that I otherwise wouldn’t risk.