Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My love affair with gouache paint!


When I first studied design I had to use gouache. At NSCAD University we started with 'old skool' techniques before we were unleashed onto technology. Back in those days we used pencils, t-squares, markers that required an open window and funny ink pens that leaked a lot.

One of the first things I noticed about gouache was the price! It is NOT a cheap paint nor is it easy to find. You need specific types of paper, illustration board and paint brushes to take on this paint. Also, it's challenging and requires a lot patience. To me it should have come with a warning label.

To sum it up nicely, I couldn't stand gouache!

How could a jar of paint make someone so frustrated? For starters, it dries quickly. It takes some mixing to get the right texture and colour that you want. It chips off if it is applied too thick. It even smudges.

So what was a creative girl to do? Get mad at it! And that is what I did. I made it my mission to master it. I chose hard things to paint. I made it thick and sometimes thin like water colour. I mixed all my colours myself instead of buying the colour pre-mixed in a convenient tube or jar. It had potential and I was determined.

Suddenly I was introduced to illustration at university and my trajectory changed. I took this wonderfully inspiring class called Making Visual & Verbal Narratives which I mention in my book. I was hooked lined and sunk into this idea of illustrating. I was then no longer a design student. I had turned to the creative illustration whimsical side of things.

Gouache is my weapon of choice and has been for over 16 years. I love how bright I can make colours. I love the way you can re-work the paint or touch up mistakes. If I change my mind, I can adjust it. It's more versatile than I initially thought. A little dab of gouache goes a long way. Once it dries on your palette you can just add water and start painting again.

What gouache taught me was patience. It taught me colour and how to mix colour. It taught me detail which is perfect for me. It often makes my work look digital. Many have mistaken my work for digital illustration which I find very interesting. This has opened up new markets for my work. So what started out as the worst medium in the world has turned out to be one of the best creative relationships I've ever had!

2 comments:

Amanda Crawford said...

I love gouache too! As you said, it forgives a lot, and facilitates any and all levels of detail!

Eddy said...

hi Holly
I first was introduced to gouache when i went to art school in 1978. i remember we had a big plastic tub of old WN tubes everyone fought over.
The first lesson was how to paint a flat colour. Not so easy.
I use acrylics mainly because expensive WN gouache i bought about 2 years ago have dried hard in their tubes.
has that happened to you?
cheers
Eddy