Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Painting in Gouache on a Dry Day

Last weekend we helped out with spring shearing at our friend's Icelandic sheep farm. They still had a couple of lambs on the bottle, and I fed one of them.

Last Shearing, June 6. Gouache, 5 x 8 inches
While everyone worked, I painted the shed in gouache, just a quick impression. The challenge was that it was a dry day with low humidity, and the sun was beating right down on the paint. The paint dried practically as it left the brush, so I had to work fast. 

More than 30 years ago, I tried painting in gouache on a hot, dry day in Death Valley, California, and it was insane how quickly it dried. You can combat the problem somewhat by squeezing the paint out on a damp paper towel and spraying the palette with a mist of water once in a while. 
Gouache Week starts June 22 on the blog and on my YouTube channel, with the release of the new video "Gouache in the Wild."


Warren JB said...

Nice! I'm currently anticipating a local Jacob sheep show, myself. I'll bring the obligatory sketchbook, and maybe a few tubes of gouache.

I'll have to think about just how I'll do that, though. I had thought of squeezing gouache into pans and letting those dry out, as per previous GJ posts and videos about watercolour. Judging by this one, I gather that's not such a good idea with gouache?

HNK said...

Great sketch! I guess te gouache is a great travel medium to work with - and to work with watercolour, too. But I have a problem with my travel kits now.... Where do you store your gouache tubes and could you tell which holder do you use for brushes? Thank you for your inspiring work.

Jared Cullum said...

I love it! I've been taking my (8month old) son to a petting zoo with goats and sheep weekly. After walking around 20min he usually falls asleep for a nap and I've built a small pochade box that I mount to the top of the stroller and get some sketching in. :)

gyrusdentus said...

A great picture cause it is so sudden.
Do you guys know how one would approach the yellow person standing under the shed in gouache?

Would one start with a dark underlayer and then glaze some yellow over it?
Or would one mix the shadow color to begin with and would paint it directly so to speak.

It is a general problem i got with dark patches. Physically, one would assume that a shadow should be glazed cause it is cast by another object onto the existing layer?

Anonymous said...

I find myself struggling with the same problem inside my studio the last week.. once the paints get too diluted they start drying so fast it's almost as if the water is sucked right out, so I work a little thicker and keep washing them through with every refill of my brush. I made a flow medium for them but even that only delays it by a fraction in this heat.. not much you can do with indoor conditions of 40°C and 20% humidity I guess, unless I figure out some other ingenious medium again — most of my work is for shorter than my lifespan anyway, so I don't care too badly about archival quality of the additives.

Ник; I store my gouache tubes in a glasses case, which fits roughly six tubes, four if they're completely full but that doesn't happen often. Carrying only the three primaries, black and two whites, I can get away with it easily

Chris James said...

James, how long do you take on your line/pencil lay in when you do one? How long should one take, keeping in mind that the light changes within a certain amount of time and they won't be returning to the site?

James Gurney said...

Chris, the time taken on the lay in can vary a lot. I've spent as much as an hour on that step, but for this one it was just 10 minutes or so-- it was really pretty simple drawing.

Jared, brilliant idea. That's multitasking. Gyrus, not much glazing in gouache, or if I do, it's just one quick touch, no going back or it will pick up.

Warren, I wouldn't let the gouache dry out in pans. You really need to use it fresh from the tube.

HNK, thanks. I store my gouache in big glass jars, and I use the folding fabric/Velcro holder that comes with the Richeson brush set.

Jenna, thanks for those detail. What's "flow medium?"

Unknown said...

Nice sketch, James. I like how you tied the blues and the reds in the foreground in with the band of trees in the distance, nice color harmony, and it adds a great sense of rhythm to the piece.
@ Jenna: I'm interested in your flow medium, also. I use 'Flotrol,' a paint conditioner you can get at the hardware/paint store. It's designed for acrylic house paints, to improve flow and brush-ability. It also works really well for air-brush and spraying, but I use it as an extender for all my H2O work. (I use 'Penetrol' for oils and enamels.) -RQ

Anonymous said...

James, Roberto; basically it's a water-suspended watercolour medium, based on DIY binder. My quick version is described here:

"1 part honey, 3 parts gum arabic, and a lot of water (I use distilled water to keep other influences out)"
(I described the creation of those gradients in the "Mass Drawing" chapter of the book)

It may not be perfect, but it does allow rewetting much easier without lifting off too much colour, stays wet for a little longer (depending on temperature/humidity) and gives much smoother gradients than I could achieve without. I'll give Roberto's idea of an acrylic medium a try, that sounds very interesting to mess around with c:

HNK said...

Thank you, Jenna and James. Really helpful.

Susan Sorger said...

I would never have the nerve to create a composition that is so obviously divided smack down the middle. But this one really works. Why?

Unknown said...

@Jenna. Wow! That’s pretty kool. My first thought is to be skeptical. Introducing sugar into your paint could be dicey from an archival point of view, but then again, we’re already painting w all kinds of food products: water; linseed, safflower, and nut oils; egg-tempera; casein (milk); gum-arabic. Even some of our pigments are edible (check w your nutritionist, I’ll check w my lawyer). And then there are the really weird ones like mummy-juice, squashed bug exoskeletons, and elephant-dung! It would be nice to hear from any restoration/archivist/chemists out there in Gurney-ville, but a quick google-search turned up some interesting sites on the subject, so I have more reading to do. Thanx Jenna (and Thanx for the Journey, Mr. Gi) -RQ

Anonymous said...

For anyone still following that topic on keeping gouache wet, it appears Winsor & Newton has made a medium for watercolours that promises exactly this! It's the Blending Medium, which I acquired today and will be testing soon.
Right now I've got it drying in a new pan-based palette for use as swatches, since that's always an interesting experiment as well. When we have our next sunny day and the studio is unbearably hot again I'll give the promised "even in hot climates" a try ..I'm hopeful at least! It blends really smoothly into the gouaches already and kind of gives a watercolour flow effect even to the pure tube colour that seems to already last quite long (impressively far beyond the normal drying time!), so I'll definitely consider either replacing my own medium or experimenting with the formula to include it somehow.

Another that promises similar is their Ox Gall Liquid, but I didn't get that so can't test it.

Anonymous said...

Day two, almost 36 hours later and the gouache swatches are still slightly moist in their palette wells — pure, they'd be crackled cakes by now. A very interesting experiment! (the climate is somewhat cloudy and a tiny bit rainy, though) ..this Blending Medium is a very interesting product for sure c:

James Gurney said...

Jenna, thanks for that tip!

Anonymous said...

I do have to add though that I used 10 drops (in colours, 12 in bone black and Ti white) to approx. 2,5–3ml of tube gouache, applied with a standard art-department medium pipette the field you should use less of course, and you might add water which will also change the consistency and drying time again. I haven't yet experimented with more options as I'm currently stuck in a bit of an art block :c

Anonymous said...

Well then, having been a a dry 35°C (95°F) day with horribly painful sunshine and painting in Gouache, I can safely say that the W&N Blending Medium does work, but only doubles the drying time instead of having two minutes you get about five. I think if you keep the paint wet on a cloth as well as use this medium to extend wetness, you could paint reasonably comfortable.

There seems to be no way to keep the paint moist on the carrier, though.. even with the medium it dries so fast it's hard to make smooth blends or if it does stay wet you lift it so easily there's hardly anything to blend with. The paint also mixes wet-and-wet, so you get an average on both your brush and on the paper ..maybe something to experiment in later? This effect appears less annoying with real sables, but those aren't my first choice for gouache.