This is my second painting of the day. My first is now in the dustbin — a failed experiment in painting with raspberry juice which I’ve discovered does not get darker as you layer it but just stays sticky and anemic.
Instead I tried using gouache more like oil or acrylic paint, mixing it thick and creamy and building up opaque layers from dark to light. I love the intensity of the color but the process is still a series of challenges — which is after all the point of this series of challenges. A lesson a day.
I’m out of commission today. Please use this opportunity to watch my interview with Jane LaFazio in its entirety. Or better yet, get ahead of me by drawing tomorrow’s challenge, a piece of fruit.
I started with a simple shape in gouache, a bit of Light Ochre and some Zinc White. When it was dried, after 15 minutes or so, I whipped out the old bamboo. I dipped it in India ink and drew a heavy outline, then lightly added some fur bits. FInally I mixed in a little diluted white to add the tendons and highlights and some water-down primary blue to show the blue blood coursing through my veins.
My favorite bit: the overprinted feeling of the ochre next to the undulating black line of the bambo pen.
A few hours ago I bought a set of Winsor & Newton Designer Gouache for a fairly hefty price. I had a cheap set of pan “opaque watercolors” but they don’t have the vim and pizzaz of my new set and I only used them for the occasional highlight on a watercolor painting. Here’s my very first gouache painting and it taught me a great deal.
First off, it’s beautifully opaque, particularly on a piece of fairly black construction paper. The paint goes on creamily and covers like an 800 thread count Egyptian cotton sheet. My painting looked like someone had turned the lights on.
But it’s not watercolor and it sure doesn’t work like it. I am so used to adding on layers and layers of paint to build the color I want but with this stuff you have to be very careful or you end up with mud. :Look at the bottom right had side of the dress and you can where I tried to slather on a layer of grey on top of the pattern I’d already painted and it turned to potage. Fortunately, I could add another layer on top and fix the error.
It also seems like there are degrees of dryness. I did a little test here: First I put down rectangles of three different colors and waited ten hours (don’t worry — I didn’t just sit there starting at it, I went to work and had my eyes checked for the DMV and some other stuff) and then put down colors on top of the colors and that worked out fairly well. It’s sort of surprising that it seems easier to work better light on top of dark but that’s not an absolute — I even put a second coat of permanent yellow on and it still didn’t work great against the light ochre.
I also tried drawing with my Lamy and that was okay and super contrasty but a little balky and occasionally the pen slid or got hung up on the dried layer. Then I tried writing with a dip pen and some green doc martins and that’s when things got really ugly.
In the end, I quite like the painting I did of Patti’s little Barbie dress (at the time her mom made matching dresses for P and B) and I definitely plan to keep working with gouache because the color is so intense and bright and I like the challenge of working in a whole new way.
Got any other tips on working with gouache? Bring it.
This started with the challenge, trying to examine how getting old was registering on my face. Simultaneously, I decided to use some Chinagraph marker pencils on some colored paper — don’t know why. The combination of a concerted attempt at realism rendered with garish, creamy grease pencils was a blast.
I don’t know how much the drawing actually looks like me — it actually looks more like my great-uncle who isn’t actually even related to me my birth. Oh, and my father, of course, who, despite the fact that I’ve only seen him four or five times over the past half century, insists on appearing in the mirror whenever I shave.
Anyway, it was interesting to see how the folds and pockets of my jaws are coming along, and my nascent jowls are really very flattering. I had my hair cut today so I appear really rather bald but Picasso was bald and Pollack was bald and I’m glad to see that Sinead O’Connor is still bald too.. By the way, why are “bleak”, “dour” and grim” synonyms for “bald, Mr. Roget (who had a comb-over, BTW)?
A couple of people have commented on the elongated rendering of my noggin and I have reviewed the situation and sussed out the cause. I have fallen afoul of a blunder which plagues many of the world’s great artists: Flat On the Table Syndrome ( FOTTS).
The distance from my eye to the top and bottom of my reflection is the same when my mirror is vertical. But if my book lies flat on the table, the distance from the top of the page is quite different from that to the bottom.
If I overlook that difference, I will distort the image because in its supine position it will seem wider than it really is.
Fortunately there are at least two cures for FOTTS that do not require telethons, 5Ks, or government funding. One is to factor in the distortion and try to overcome it through sheer brain power. This can lead to even more distortion if one does not calculate properly. Secondly, one can just stand one’s book up — through the whole process or even just intermittently — and make sure one is not inducting hydroencephalopathic skull compression in the drawing.