Sunday, June 28, 2015

Final Questions about Gouache

James Gurney, Calla lilies, watercolor and gouache
Joseph Gyurcsak, an artist and brand manager for Utrecht art supplies, wrote to me in the middle of Gouache Week offering to answer any remaining questions. He told me that he worked on developing Utrecht's line of gouache for more than two and a half years, and that he learned a lot about the medium during that time. 

[Gurney]  How would you define gouache compared to other water-based media?
[Gyurcsak/Utrecht] "Firstly, I would like to say by definition gouache is OPAQUE watercolor for those who are confused. Gouache colors were not intended to have the same vibrancy as watercolor because the formulation properties are entirely different. They can be permanent and long lasting; just look at the works of John Singer Sargent or Winslow Homer's wonderful interplay of transparent washes (watercolor) with semi-transparent and opaque passages of gouache. There are times when this interplay (transparent, opaque and impasto) is done as masterfully as an oil painting!

"One more truth: opaque colors in any medium and any brand color line will never carry the vibrancy of color intensity compared to any semi-transparent or transparent color when mixed with white! I preach this color mixing law to all students in my demos and lectures."

[Gurney]  When you helped develop the Utrecht line, what qualities did you want to achieve in the paint, and how did you do it? 
[Gyurcsak/Utrecht] "Gouache colors are very delicate formulations. They need to be opaque, even with pigments that don't want to go this way because of their nature. [They should have a] Flat to satin sheen, [and should] lay down flat, continuous washes without striking [Ed. streaking?] when dry, if possible (mainly for designers), flash dry (for rapid layer build up) and have the ability to create thin detail lines if needed. This is complex and demanding, and that is why the formulations are so very delicate in the pigment-loading ratios compared to all other ingredients.

[Gurney]  What's different about Utrecht gouache? 
[Gyurcsak/Utrecht] "Utrecht gouache is different in way of price. We try to be affordable for all level artists to enjoy professional level materials."

[Gurney]  Is there any way to retard the drying time in gouache, especially when using it in arid conditions? 
[Gyurcsak/Utrecht] "This is opposite to its flash dry [Ed. quick-drying] properties but if an artist must, ox gall or glycerin (with eye dropper) used sparingly will buy some more time."

[Gurney]  Is there any way to eliminate the value changes as gouache dries?
[Gyurcsak/Utrecht] "The shift is going to happen especially more when colors are opaque in gouache and acrylic. Artists develop a sense for working with various mediums and know how to mix in anticipation. Most good instructors advise a test scrap, or as we have seen in artworks from the past at museums, this testing done on borders outside the picture boundaries. I especially love seeing this, as it shows the artist thinking in color notes! Frederick Remington comes to mind."

[Gurney]  Are there any grounds or surfaces that should be avoided when using gouache?
[Gyurcsak/Utrecht] "Slick ones, gouache wants to peel from these more plastic type surfaces."

[Gurney]  Can gouache be used as a substrate for other painting media, such as oil?
[Gyurcsak/Utrecht] "Yes, watercolor, chalk pastel, acrylic and oil color. It must be sealed with a Krylon clear spray for oil, to avoid oil bleeding and staining the colors."

[Gurney]  Do you recommend varnishing gouache to get more depth of color and glossiness? What sealers or varnishes would you recommend using or avoiding?
[Gyurcsak/Utrecht] "Krystal clear Krylon is excellent for this, but beware, it is permanent, so rework may be difficult after application. But it will bring increased depth, and many illustrators and designers use this. Believe it or not, a simple non-museum glass in framing gives it depth."

Painting Calla Lilies in Monterey, Calif. 
[Gurney] again. I thought this would be a good time to answer some of the questions that we weren't able to get to during the live-stream painting last week.

4:29 NatalieBarahona: Do you always do an underpainting for gouache plein air studies?

[Gurney] No, I generally paint directly on the watercolor paper. I use an underpainting either to provide some interesting color possibilities or to seal up the fibers of the paper. Burt Silverman often worked in gouache over gesso, or he primed watercolor paper with a thin layer of white gouache underneath watercolor. It's good to experiment with lots of variations to see what kind of surface you like. In the case of the calla lily sketch at the top of the post, I underpainted the whole image with yellow except for the white areas.
4:38 miaomiao: Hi James! are you usually saving your most saturate colors at end? or it depends?

[Gurney] I do often save the most saturated or highest-chroma accents for the end, especially if they're small accents. But other times I start with high chroma in the underpainting and cut back on the color by covering it with low-chroma layers, such as the passage at right.

4:50 ludicrous-sin-filtro-scriptus: how many camera guys do you use to film your dvds?
[Gurney] I don't use any crew. I shoot them all myself. Sometimes if I'm lucky I can convince Jeanette to operate a camera, but she's usually busy sketching. The moving camera shots are done using geared-down Lego motors on homemade dollies.

4:45 Kozart: any major tips for mixing colors/ getting the colors that you're looking for?
[Gurney] Yes. When you go to mix a color, mix the HUE first, then the VALUE, then the CHROMA. Exercise: Get a bunch of color swatches from the paint store and try to mix a patch of paint in less than five seconds that you can dab onto the swatch for a perfect match.

4:49 nickgoeslife: What are some things you did when you were new at plein air to really push yourself and grow your skills?
[Gurney] Painting outdoors speeds up the decision-making because of the pressure of the circumstances. I did a lot of that, switching media, and working in black and white from time to time.

4:49 dirktiede: I find that when drawing or painting outside, I have a tendency to rush. Any tips on how to stay calm and focused and give the drawing/painting the time it needs?
[Gurney] I think that's one of the most important things to keep in mind. It's not just a matter of time; it's a matter of concentration. We all tend to rush too much and to be too distractable. Going back a second (or third) day when the light is the same is a good practice, just to see how far you can push an outdoor painting.

4:52 arturo-ramirez: Is this being recorded and available for later watching. I would love to watch it again and see the whole process.
[Gurney] I was hoping to have a highlight video at least, but we've had some audio problems. Best thing to do is to press the "follow" button on my ConcertWindow page to make sure you don't miss the next one.

4:53 andreasipl: can you put more pencil on top of gouache? keep building detail?
[Gurney] Yes, because of the matte surface, gouache accepts pencil, pastel, water-soluble colored pencil, or pen. It's a nice way to put in accents and definition at the end.

5:03 MikeA: Do you get kicked out of places often?
[Gurney] No, not too often. But I (and the readers) tell lots of "gamestopper" stories at this previous post.
Own the 72-minute feature "Gouache in the Wild"
• HD MP4 Download at Gumroad $14.95
• or HD MP4 Download at Sellfy (for Paypal customers) $14.95
• DVD at Purchase at (Region 1 encoded NTSC video) $24.50


Faisal Tariq said...

Hi James,

I love visiting your website/blog. I love watching your videos tips etc. I have both your books and just downloaded the Gouache in the Wild and loved every bit of it. To me you are Mr. Rogers and Leonardo daVinci in one. Gentle, artistic and inventive.

I hope you will be creating "Oil in the wild". Please do, I want to see how you do your magic in this medium.

Faisal Tariq

Glenn Tait said...

One thing I have wondered about regarding some of your portrait sketches or even certain locations is in the area of legal issues tied into posting them on your blog.

James Gurney said...

Glenn, I'm not aware of any legal issues to posting original sketches made from observation in public places. Such works would fall under freedom of speech provisions of the Consitution. As a courtesy, if one was posting a likeness of a stranger who might have a reasonable expectation of privacy, it might be prudent to show them what you're doing and ask if it's OK (and allow them to photograph the sketch for their own uses).

James Gurney said...

Glenn, another thought -- you might not want to sketch police stations or military installations in other countries. Some countries have specific laws about photographing or sketching such things, and even in the US, there are laws and warning signs about sketching energy infrastructure, military activity, etc.

Faisal, thanks for the compliment. Mr. Rogers and DaVinci—that's a fun thought!

Glenn Tait said...

Country is a key. I know that it is illegal to plein air sketch in Barcelona, though the rest of Spain is fine as far as I know.

I guess it would change if you were to sell the image or market it.

Robert Doisneau had a number of lawsuits from couples over his famous Life magazine photo "The Kiss" claiming they were the people in the picture. In the end he proved that he had actually used two models, aspiring actors, and shot them in a number of locations in Paris.

Unknown said...

"When you go to mix a color, mix the HUE first, then the VALUE, then the CHROMA. Exercise: Get a bunch of color swatches from the paint store and try to mix a patch of paint in less than five seconds that you can dab onto the swatch for a perfect match." Nice exercise, thank you! Great series on gouache, which I've always been curious about and now want to try. One question: Have you ever done a blog post/will you ever on the hue/value/chroma? And I'm going to sign here because no matter what I do it's going to tell you that I'm "unknown", sigh. --Jane

Unknown said...

Hello james. Gouache in the wild is awsome to watch. I love it. On your last live streaming painting you said you have a plan for "pencil in the wild"? That would be awsome, i think especially for beginners like me. What release did you Plan for that?

James Gurney said...

Hi, Patrick, thanks! I think casein will be next, probably later this year. Pencil wouldn't be til 2016 or '17. I expect to be able to release about three full tutorial features a year. It's a lot of work, as you can imagine, to shoot and edit each one. I appreciate your interest.

Jane the Unknown, I talk about hue, value, and chroma in the Color and Light book, but I don't think I've ever really talked about this color mixing thinking on the blog or on video before. I'll try to make that part of a future vid....

Glenn, I just read a book on photography that mentioned that "public kiss" photo by Robert Doisneau, and it said he had proof as you say that the apparently candid photo was a paid model, which won the case, but was an embarrassment in a way.

krystal said...

"Krystal clear Krylon" probably should be "Crystal", but hey, that's how my name is spelled so I'm totally fine with it! :)

Deb Austin said...

When will you be releasing your DVD on casein?? Thanks to your online videos I'm hooked on this medium! It's been frustrating trying to find books on casein. I did find one, published in 1955, by artist Adolf Dehn called "Watercolor,Gouache & Casein Painting". It's a good book for anyone starting in one of these mediums.