We had a friend over for food about a week ago and she left a cupcake for me, but I wound up not eating it. I forgot about it, honestly. Before bed that night I told myself to take it in the morning to work and then four days later I realized it was still on the counter and the icing was hard and the cake was starting to sag to one side. While I’d lost a chance to eat it, I’d gained an opportunity to paint.
Tilted Cupcake, 8″ x 5,” Gouache
I started sketching the dessert at the kitchen table this morning. The sun eventually moved and I was forced out onto our porch to chase my light. I set up at an old painting table surrounded by freshly potted plants. Still the sun was moving fast and I had to constantly push the cupcake back into the moving light. After a couple hours I wound up with the above sketch.
I’ve been having trouble retaining the lights in my gouache paintings. With that in mind, I purposefully started working in the midtones and shadows without touching the lit side of the cupcake. I follow Benjamin Bjorklund on Facebook and he’s posted a lot of interesting watercolor paintings lately, so I tried to keep his technique in mind as I worked. Not to say I was as successful as him, but I turned out a pretty decent sketch I think. Still not entirely comfortable with gouache. Nothing seems to beat the opacity oils can give me in the lights. Which reminds me that I need to return to that oil painting I let sit a couple months ago…
Last weekend I was transitioning from April vacation into the last work-heavy week of my internship. I needed a breather. An unbelievable amount of my free time had already been spent doing projects. Though I suppose since the work needed to be done, it really wasn’t my free time to begin with. Anyway, I took the weekend to do a little gouache painting.
Self-Portrait in Gouache, 8″x 5,” Gouache
On the 30th we were waiting to go for some beer tastings and I decided to paint a self-portrait. The end result came out pretty decent. Even though gouache is opaque compared to regular watercolors, it still does not have the ability to reclaim lights and highlights as well as oils. Therefore, I always struggle going too dark too early. Here I used the white liberally to dig into the tan tones and pull out some light. Despite those struggles, I think the portrait came out well. The forehead needs to be a little warmer, but it was only a 90 minute sketch.
The next day we went to a tulip farm down in Rhode Island.
Wicked Tulips, 8″x 5,” Gouache
It was beautiful but gray that day. I set up on the far end of the pick-your-own field and painted the farm buildings and the flowers together. I only had forty-five minutes or so to work and I’d love to go back and paint with oils for several hours on a sunny day. The sketch was fun though and I like the contrast between the bold, saturated colors in the foreground and the grays and browns of the background.
Got all my internship work finished, so I should be able to turn my attention back to art again! Just gotta apply for some jobs first!
Crash course in high school English: The Birthday Party – Brush, The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World – Marquez, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven – Alexie, The Dome – Millhauser, 1984 – Orwell, Brave New World – Huxley, and Feed – Anderson. I’ve been working with these titles for the first quarter of my internship. Some of the stories I’d read a while ago, but many were new. I’ve been busy reading and grading and researching and planning. In my free time I’ve been working on a new oil painting, but it’s not quite done yet. In order to keep this blog alive and prove I’m still interested in the arts, I took a snippet of free time on Saturday and painted out a gourd in gouache.
Before heading north to Maine for a murder mystery party, my girlfriend spent an hour or so making an appetizer to bring and I plopped down at the kitchen table to hash out this 6″ x 3.5″ painting. Small gourds are wonderful to draw and paint because they have distinct angles and planes. I have a couple other gourds and pumpkins floating around the apartment. Hopefully they’ll feature in my next oil painting.
Yesterday was a day without art. Or at least a day without visual art. I spent the majority of my time finishing up the last volume of James Thomas Flexner’s four-volume biography of George Washington. It was a long grind through fact-heavy prose. At last I’m finished. Today I got back to portrait painting.
Looking through RedditGetsDrawn I found a nice photograph of a pitbull that seemed the best candidate for a portrait. It’s often hard to find photos with lighting I like. Not to mention photos that aren’t ridiculously small or grainy.
After sketching out the dog I covered the drawing in thin washes of gouache.
I really wish I could find better gouache tutorials on YouTube. I’m certain there are little techniques that could simplify my process. From what I’ve experienced so far, I need a way to keep my paints from drying out so quickly. Additionally, I need a larger surface to mix paints on. The small travel palette I use is just too limiting.
Next gouache painting I’m going to push myself to start off very dark and work in the lights. I’m still playing around with the way gouache mixes and dries.
This portrait is 2.5″ x 5″
Had to get in one more portrait before the weekend. We’re going to be hiking Mount Monadnock and going to a birthday party, so there won’t be a lot of time to paint.
Grabbed another reference from RedditGetsDrawn and drew out a 4″ x 4″ sketch.
I’ve been putting in the backgrounds first to establish darks to work from. As I work I move back and forth between the background and the figure.
Though the photo is in black and white, I did not stick strictly to a tonal painting. I brought in a few warms, though by the end I was using mostly cool colors.
I’m in definite need of an actual black. It’s amazing how light the darks get when they dry. Thankfully I’m going back to my parents’ house this weekend and my mom has a tube of black she’s going to let me have.
The perspective on this drawing was surprisingly difficult. I kept having to address the height of the subject’s forehead. I had it too foreshortened at the beginning. My hands and neck are starting to cramp from working so small. Time to work bigger.
Only two weeks left until the school year and my internship. I’m trying to make the best of my time until then. That means paint, paint, paint.
I found time for one more Reddit portrait, choosing user Hotnonsense’s photo of her grumpy daughter. Spent about forty-five minutes on the sketch before moving to gouache. This one’s 2.5″ x 4″.
The face came together piece by piece and I never felt too lost. I think I created a good likeness. Unfortunately my success floundered as I moved into the hair. I got caught up in the individual strands. The solution? Simplify. I took off my glasses, pushed back in my seat, and there they were. The shapes. That’s all I needed. Shapes of color solved my problems. I feel as though it’s almost beneficial to be a painter that needs glasses. I don’t have to purposefully blur my eyes to simplify the subject. My eyes already naturally do that. In the past I’ve caught myself unconsciously with my glasses halfway down my nose so I can quickly glance back and forth between seeing the subject in-focus and out-of-focus. I look like an old man when I do that. But it makes things so much easier.
When I’m browsing the submissions on RedditGetsDrawn I try to look for photos with interesting lighting first and then photos of pets second. It seems that people are less critical of the likeness when you paint their pet. In contrast, a strong resemblance is wanted when you’re drawing a person. Take the Tom Brady courtroom sketch incident that occurred just yesterday, for example. The artist has been publicly shamed because their depiction wasn’t perfect. It made me a little grumpy knowing how hard it is to draw and capture a scene quickly and then seeing the hate the artist is receiving. Anyway, today I worked on a gouache painting of user jdmb3641’s dog.
It took roughly two hours to complete this 2″ x 3.5″ puppy. It was even smaller than my last gouache painting. I’m starting to realize how hard it is to push the darks on gouache. I may need to invest in a black so I can mix it with other colors to get some solid darks.
Cooked some pasta for lunch, closed the kitchen windows to prevent the monsoon outside from coming in, and went back to working on RedditGetsDrawn portraits.
Since anyone can submit to reddit, the quality of photos is usually a mixed back. After a little search I found a self-portrait by user Shmoonify that I liked.
I already use a simple palette, but for this painting I basically only used sap green, ultramarine blue, phthalo blue, and alizarin crimson. There was a little flame red and yellow ochre in there as well. The muted colors forced me to explore the possible ranges of grays in gouache.
I kept the size small for this one so I can later squeeze more portraits on to the same page. It’s 2 3/8″ x 4″.
For my birthday I received a Dick Blick gift card from my parents. I immediately put it to use and filled out an order. Five or so days later I had a box of gouache paints and a new 8 1/4″ x 5″ watercolor sketchbook in my mailbox. Gouache is a type of watercolor paint that can be used opaquely. Last night I sat down and started my first gouache sketch.
It’s been a bit since I visited RedditGetsDrawn, but I decided it would be a good place to practice with my new paints. After some deliberation I decided on user vicecaptainvince’s photo.
I started with a sketch because I’ve noticed on YouTube that James Gurney and Jeff Watts begin that way with gouache.
My girlfriend made delicious seafood shells while I sketched for an hour. Thanks Sarah!
With the sketch complete I went head first into painting, occasionally referencing Jeff Watts’ videos. It took a while for me to adapt to the way the gouache bled into the paper. Too little water and it was like working with gel, too much water and the paints acted like thinly glazed traditional watercolors.
Since I spent so much time experimenting last night, the painting went slow and I was forced to finish the piece this morning. The process was fun and I hope to crank out a couple more portraits today, since the rain is keeping me indoors.