One of the things I love about gouache is that you can draw directly on the matte surface of the paint with colored pencils. (Link to 30-second video teaser) This is especially helpful for subjects with a lot of linear detail.
|Rutsen Swamp, gouache and colored pencils, 5x8 inches|
Rutsen Swamp is such a subject. It's a complex tangle of grasses, branches, twigs, and saplings, plus layers of transparency and reflections in the shallow water. Here's the painting in front of the subject.
This detail shows the range of textures.
I start by toning the paper in my sketchbook with gray watercolor (covering over another sketch that I screwed up). When that is totally dry, I sketch in the main trees with a dark colored pencil.
Then I lay down a foundation of the big tones in gouache. I paint freely across the smaller forms and concentrate on the big underlying gradations. The gouache is best suited to areas of flat tone or smooth transitions with precise value control, such as the cast shadows slanting across the dark reflections of the trees.
In the final stages, I render the smaller twigs, alternating between gouache and colored pencils, weaving light over dark and dark over light. I also look for areas that I can suggest with the grainy textures of light drybrushed gouache, or dark scumbled pencil.
It's impossible to capture every detail of the infinity of the scene in front of me, so I have to invent a strategy to suggest the textures. I find what works best is a mixture of precision and impetuous energy.
The swamp painting is part of my video download Gouache in the Wild, which is also available as a DVD.
Pencils: Caran d'Ache Supracolor II water-soluble colored pencils
Gouache (I've been using Holbein a lot lately)
Watercolor set in metal box (Schmincke)