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My Introduction To Gouache

I didn't want to bring all of my oil painting supplies.

My son and I were going on a backpacking trip to the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming USA. I had been wanting to visit this spectacular place since I was a teen. I had to capture some of this experience in paint. Packing light was essential so I decided to try gouache. I packed a small watercolor pad, six colors of qouache and a few small brushes.

We hiked to a small lake to try the fishing there. I settled under a small pine tree and discovered that I had forgotten my watercolor pad back at basecamp. What could I do?

I have always believed that even a few accurate color notes can provide enough information to help you remember your impressions of a scene. So, I found a business card in my wallet and decided to paint on the back.

Gouache did present me with a few difficulties. I had trouble keeping my colors clean in the tray. When I painted over dry paint, the under layer became active again and mixed with the new layer and it was difficult to match the color of an area that I had already painted because gouache dries a different value.

I did see great advantages to gouache however. It was very portable and light weight because very little equipment was required. Cleanup was a breeze since it is a water-based medium. Also, since gouache dries very quickly, one is able to easily store finished paintings in a sketchpad or shirt pocket.

This business card plein air painting has floated around my studio for a year and I finally decided to create a larger painting.

The few small notes that I made in the field that day provided me with enough information to make a confident start and complete a successful painting.

High-Noon in the Winds

14"x 18", Oil on Canvas, Framed


This painting will be available at the Plein Air Utah Art Show, Sept. 16.

I look forward to learning how to use gouache more effectively. If any of you can offer some tips, or share your experiences, I would appreciate it.

I will return to the Wind Rivers and this time with all of my supplies.

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