Gouache

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Portfolio Building Challenge – “Jack the Raptor”

This is a (very crappy) scene I came up with, for the Portfolio Building Challenge some students of the Watts Atelier have organized. Each month a different topic. This one was about a “Genre Mash-Up”, an illustration for a fictional book cover. I choose Detective and Dinosaurs as themes (if dinosaurs can even be called theme).
It was quite a struggle, as it’s the very first time for me to do anything this complex.

I started with a few thumbnails to put some ideas down on paper:

The first one was my favorite, I couldn’t really beat the original idea, so I carried it to a more complete stage in pencil:

And finally rendered the first image in gouache. Everything is from imagination, although I did use references to plan the composition and add believable elements. I used a couple of action figures for the detective and body poses, while I built myself a simple maquette to replicate the Velociraptor’s foot:

Portfolio Building may, velociraptor foot maquette
All in all what gave me more trouble was perspective, although I did not really dare venturing into color yet (I tried something digital but miserably failed), as that would have been a complete disaster.

p.s. Jack The Raptor is copyright Bob Green 😀

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Landscape Sketching in Watercolor and Gouache with Nathan Fowkes – Lesson 1

I finally completed my entries for the first “week”. It actually took me over a month, but am relatively satisfied with the result.
I worked from color, here posted so you can see my references as well.

They are all master copies, painted in gouache on kraft paper (or illustration board for #8, primed with yellow). For all these I followed the procedure described in my previous post: How I tackle Gouache studies in Black and White.

Landscape Master Studies in Gouache Landscape Master Studies in Gouache (color)
I am quite happy with some of them, while others are completely off. It’s easier to tell the difference if you look at the desaturated version of the master painting, but quite complex by the original.

The whole point of it was seeing value for color, and hopefully I managed to do it decently enough to proceed.
If anyone wants to comment below, feel free to! 🙂

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How I tackle Gouache studies in Black and White

For about one month, I have been subscribed to the Nathan Fowkes course on Landscape Sketching in Watercolor and Gouache at Schoolism.
It’s an amazing course and, even if I can’t go through it at the pace Nathan suggests, I am slowly building painting over painting. Each new one leads to a greater understanding of the medium, and it’s also quite rewarding.
The first part is entirely dedicated to black and white studies of master paintings, a great way to discover new artists, and I feel more and more enthusiasm after each one.

I haven’t completed the (at least) ten studies required for lesson one, but I would like to share my approach here, hoping it can be helpful to anyone fighting with the medium like me.

I am by no means a pro, and definitely still quite slow (one hour, only for the painting itself).
Scott Christensen River Painting

This is the Master painting I am working on, by Scott Christensen.
I work from the color version, as the aim of this first lesson is to see color for value (which is not easy at all!).
My copy is fairly small, usually around 10 centimeters wide by whatever height the original has. The surface is a sketchbook I made with brown kraft paper, the same Nathan uses. I have to admit mine is a little too light for the medium, and tends to buckle with moderate amounts of water. Ideally, you should look for a 130-180lb weight paper, while mine is 82.

Before starting with the actual painting, I do a quick study in pencil on toned paper with black and white pencils (Conte)
Scott Christensen River Pencil Study for Gouache Painting
I am a little exaggerated here, still too detailed (and it took ages, almost half an hour), but it helps me figure out the big masses before messing with the real thing. After this, I get to my painting sketchbook.

Gouache landscape master study initial sketchI use a water-soluble carmine colored pencil (Supracolor II), and try to keep the lines to a bare minimum, establishing the bigger shapes and relationships, only. I frame it with low-tack tape as soon as I am done, to have a clean straight edge after completing the painting.
Gouache landscape master study initial color block in

I then proceed blocking in the main shapes. I would like to stay more watery on the river bed (for reflections) but I just can’t do it with this paper. I am painting relatively transparently in any case (translucently, so to speak), trying to block in the main areas of value. If you ever used gouache you certainly know it’s not very friendly to who tries to paint dark over light and vice-versa, therefore, for areas like trees I try to figure out the main general tone, either dark or light. Alternatively, I paint a value more or less in between those, that I can darken in the shade and lighten in the lights.

One thing I noticed about trees and greenery, is that I always see them lighter than they are. Therefore, I recently started using a dark underpainting for them, so that in any case my lights won’t go as light as they would without it, even if I am a little off with the value. Call it cheating 😀 This is true especially for warmer colors, as we always see them lighter than they actually are.

I went quite off on the river bed there, so I tried recovering with the second passage, thicker:
Gouache landscape master study shapes adjustmentHere you can also see I lightened the background masses a bit, for the atmospheric perspective. I also tried softening the farther mountain and keeping trees in the distance quite simple, as another trick to conceive depth.
I forgot to take a picture of the next step, but it’s basically about correcting here and there, adjusting values and shapes. I just always make sure that my previous layer is bone dry before painting over (I use a hair dryer for this).
Gouache landscape master study Scott Christensen RiverGouache landscape master study initial color block in
So here is my final result. You can see I just lightly scrubbed in a tone for the light parts of the trees in the background, without having the edges stand out. For the closer trees I went all the way dry brushing the light tone over the dark part I had blocked in. I went off with the contrast here and made it too dark, it was actually better in the previous photo.
For the foreground water, I just mixed a tone more or less equal to the river bed, added a touch of white and painted in random shapes (yeah, I know it’s not accurate). I did the same, but with a touch of black instead, for those submerged stones’ shadows.
I want to try staying simple so I guess painting each shape separately and precisely would kill the overall feeling, as adding too much contract would have, the same way.

I used almost pure white for the fallen logs and tree trunks, and super dry white for the water foam. Yes, the shape of the rock leaning on the right side is completely off 😀
I also failed to catch the bushes on the same spot. Had a very hard time figuring out what to do.

Overall, I am satisfied enough. While I can’t say it’s perfect, I am happy with the result and have learned to control the medium a little more. It took me more than one hour and a half to finish it, if I consider the initial pencil study, so I’m totally off track with time and I have to try to get the next ones done faster.

The final step is comparing the original turned into BW and my copy, which usually leads to plenty of tears 😀 I will save this and post it together with the others, once I am done with all studies.

 

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Painting the British Graveyard in Gouache

English Graveyard in Gouache
Having joined the “Paint a Graveyard on Location” challenge at Gurney Journey, I went to a small english cemetery located at about 20 minutes from my town. It was the graveyard of an old castle that belonged to the Nelson family (the one of Admiral Nelson).

It was the first test run of my new lightweight sketch easel (on which I will write a blog post soon), and gouache as well, having only used it a couple of times at home.

The result is… well. I am not happy with it. The dapples light caused by the tree canopy above me encouraged me to try some warm/cool contrast between the lit and shaded areas, but I took it excessively far and got a terrible effect.

The challenge requiring to use only 3 colors, I chose Raw Sienna, Burt Sienna and Ultramarine Light, all by Winsor&Netwon, with the addition of white of course.

I have really struggled to get smooth edges, as Gouache is so opaque that it dried the very second after I put it down on paper. Need more practice on this.

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