Art Class, Studio Talk

Oh My Gouache

I have been painting regularly with gouache now for the last four or five years now. Initially I was using it as a quick color sketching tool when I was on location, and wanted to work out a composition in color rather than settle just for my usual pencil sketch.

Eventually my process for painting en plein air evolved, or maybe I just streamlined things a bit. You see, taking large canvases out in the field to paint in oil or in acrylic for really large pieces takes an enormous amount of effort. When you paint en plein air you have to take every thing that you have in your studio with you, because if you don’t, it can turn out to be a really disappointing outing. (Remind me to tell you about the day I forgot to bring my brushes along.)


This evolution came from two directions. First, I will admit, I was getting a little tired of schlepping all of the gear with me on each of my painting excursions. Secondly, the more I was doing these gouache paintings as studies, the more it turned out I was liking them as paintings. I was in love with the freshness that I was able to achieve with them.

Once I started to make that transition to making these smaller paintings in gouache, I really began to dig in to see what I could do with this medium and wanted to see just where I could push it.

Summer Wants You

Years ago, I did a lot of painting in transparent watercolors and was trained that to use white or any sort of opaque application of paint was a no-no. While I played along with that game for quite a while, I never really felt primal attachment to the transparency so deeply that I couldn’t be lead down the path of opacity. Though I will state here that my experience and training in transparent watercolors has served me well with my work in gouache.


Here’s the deal, with transparent watercolor if you are going to live by rules of the American Watercolor Society and other governing bodies like them; any white in your painting, must be the white of the paper. So, you are always working dark over light. It is a very specific way of working that you need to adhere to.

Gouache on the other hand has a few specifics too but, you can work with as much white and other opaque pigments as you like. Can I say, that is just fun! Aside from being able to work light colors over dark ones, I really love how you can manipulate these paints with tools other than brushes. Most particularly palette knives. Since the paint you apply can be relatively thick, interesting things happen when you push pull and scrape through the layers of wet and semi wet paint.

Marijan Reclines

One other thing I love about gouache is that you can miniaturize your painting kit so small as to make it very easy to paint from the driver’s seat of your car. I don’t recommend it while you are driving by the way.

Peace and Rest from Torment

I will just say here that painting in gouache has really become one of my favorites methods to work in. Honestly, every medium has it’s pros and cons. Gouache does have a few draw backs, one is to work on a hot and breezy day, it can be a real challenge to keep the paint you are working with from drying too fast. And working very large is a bit of a problem as well. I have found within my work-a-day world, in and out of my studio, this medium for the here and now is really doing it for me in many ways.

It is Hard to Believe

That said, I am going to be holding a gouache painting class in my studio on Thursday afternoons from 1 to 3, starting on February 8th and going through March 1st.

Class fee:
$180 – Includes all the materials, paint, 2 brushes and paper.
$160 – If you have all your own materials.

If you are interested, call/text: 231.883.1681 or email me:



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