Day 10 – 30 Day Botanical Leaf Challenge

by Mindy on October 11, 2011

in Uncategorized

I am a gouachist!

Long before I ever painted in watercolor I worked in gouache. What is gouache? It is an opaque watercolor. Yesterday I talked about the properties of watercolor and transparency. Today I will talk about gouache and why I like it so much. It is a very forgivable medium. I have found every artist has a unique way of seeing. I see in shadows, light on form. By creating the shadows first….. working dark to light I find that I have the most success in creating dimension. Gouache allows the artist to work light to dark, dark to light and any where in between. This is because it is opaque. Watercolor does not allow one layer to block another.

I first started working in gouache because I had such a hard time working in watercolor. There were too many things to think about at one time. I started doing in-depth tonal drawings so that I could figure out light on form, surface contour and texture. I then saw the work of Margaret Mee. Her work is done in graphite and gouache and her subject matter is the tropics. I was inspired by her work and started to layer gouache over my graphite drawings. I found that the graphite acted as a grisaille painting and all I had to do was add the color on top. All the other work was done in graphite drawing and I could just focus on color mixing and painting.

I scanned this leaf to show the 4 different stages of the process.

Stage 1- Graphite

I start with a completed tonal drawing using a 2H pencil.

Stage 2- Light wash of Gouache

This shows the drawing from underneath and keeps the graphite from moving around. The left side of the leaf is one layer and the right side is 2 layers. These layers are thin so I can see the structure underneath.

Stage 3 – Going more opaque.

The graphite begins to disappear and the form is not lost.

Stage 4 – Final Details.

Here I use dry brush and colored pencil to fill in the finishing details.

If you have any questions or comments about gouache please feel free to leave your comment below.


This leaf is available through my Etsy Shop: BugsBeastsBotanicals

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Wrenaissance Art October 12, 2011 at 8:58 am

I had the privilege to see a retrospective of Mee's work while I lived in Rio. One of the works exhibited was still in progress at the time of her tragic death. It was very interesting to see that Mee finished each area of her composition separately, i.e., one leaf or blossom would be completely painted to the last detail before moving on to the next.

renatabarilli October 12, 2011 at 10:50 am

I'm a  M Mee fan, I love her works and have her books to inspire  my study and my life reserch. But I didn t know the way she used to use gouache. No idea of a tonal graphite study and gouache on the top. Thanks for this, very interesting. I feel I'm a gouachist to.
thanks Mindy as usual you are … the best  ciao renata

Mindy October 12, 2011 at 2:30 pm

I saw a Margaret Mee exhibit at the Smithsonian in Washington DC back in 1998-1999. It was beautiful and inspirational. I love the way that sometimes she left the graphite showing and did not cover it with gouache. Maybe it was because they were unfinished? Not sure , but I was truly inspired. I am glad that Wren and Renata think so too!

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