Tag Archives: cotman watercolours

Mixing watercolour and Gouache….the transparent with the opaque.

“No Experiment is ever a complete failure.   It can always be used as a bad example”.   Paul Dickson. 

watercolour/gouache – view from the Rhiwiau in the Brecon Beacons Wales Viewfromrhiwiau1master.jpgcompI am always asked what is the difference between watercolour and gouache.

Watercolour is a transparent medium.    Gouache is Opaque.    Watercolour and Gouache are intermixable….

In this post, I will show examples of pure watercolour as well as the mix of watercolour with gouache.

Pure watercolour – Brecon Beacons Wales 20181029_115354  About eighteen years ago – I was in my studio in Wales going through a period of feeling blocked.     Always a difficult time for a creative!

Over the years I have learned that the best thing to do when this happens is PLAY.     I put out big sheets of inexpensive paper on long trestle tables.    Using large brushes and anything else at hand I began to throw paint around.      I found some gouache, something I had not used before and began mixing it with watercolour and voila……..I loved the results and have been playing with the mix ever since.

I noticed that the gouache was bleeding into the transparent watercolour producing some very interesting marks.

The top swatch of colour is Winsor Violet watercolour mixed with Permanent White gouache on an orange background.  (more about colour grounds in a minute)

The second swatch is pure watercolour. 20181029_122319

The following portrait sequence of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.….shows in the first example, pure watercolour – where all the white you see is dry white paper.20181030_090534The second example shows pure watercolour on an orange ground.20181025_095849The third example shows a mix of watercolour and gouache.     When painting this way, permanent white gouache needs to be applied for highlights because all the white paper has been covered.  20181025_102005It’s important to note, that no one way is the right way.    The whole point of being a creative is to experiment….as my opening quote points out.

When I am going outside to paint I will prepare some of the pages in my sketchbooks with a ground so that if I wish to use a watercolour/gouache mix, I am ready to do so….which was the case here.    Ground colour naples yellow with a little burnt sienna. 20181029_140537 So what is a colour ground?        

It is when we cover our paper or canvas with a colour.     When using watercolour/gouache it’s important to remember that paper must be grounded at least 24 hours before using so that it is totally dry.    

I often use paint left on my palette for grounding.    If at the beginning of the work day I am struggling to warm up…grounding paper will often do the trick.

As you can see from this example, the paint does not have to be uniform or all one colour.   I am known for my orange grounds, but often use naples yellow, burnt sienna or anything else left on the palette.   You can use both watercolour and gouache  separately or mixed together to make a ground. 20181025_095826I hope this helps those who are interested.     The key is to allow yourself to EXPERIMENT and PLAY,    Remember it is only paper……

I leave you with a magical hummingbird drinking from the sweet nectar of life.…paiinted on an orange ground using a watercolour/gouache mix. 20-11-15 - 1 (358)

A Bientôt.

Working with Gouache.

About 15 years ago when working  in my studio in Wales, I started to PLAY with the idea of mixing transparent watercolours with Opaque Gouache. 

In this quick study of my friend, Claudia Notalle, the French actress, I worked from paper that had a cadmium orange gouache ground, along with all sorts of other paint spatterings!      I have intentionally integrated the paint spatterings into the image. 

The moral of the story is don’t throw old pieces of soiled paper away…….



Frame 1)

I sketch out the face using Indian Red…..and at the same time throw in Gouache permanent white for the highlights and some dark tones to indicate shadow areas. 



Frame 2)

In this frame I add more Indian Red and strengthen the darks around the image…..always working the whole painting….not just one

segment at a time…..



Frame 3)

I now add the vibrancy of turquoise…which is a mix of Cotman watercolour Turquoise with permanent white Gouache….again moving the colour around the image. 

I also add violet, more Indian red and strengthen the darks…..allowing the cadmium orange ground and spatterings to show through the painting.



Final image. 



Wishing everyone a lovely weekend….back here on Monday. 

A Bientôt

Wednesday watercolour tutorial – 13

In this quick landscape exercise, I am using some of the same techniques used in my life paintings.    There are only a few basic techniques in watercolour painting.    The key is to master each technique and this only comes with practise. 


A friend and fellow artist sent me the beautiful gift of Schmincke Aquarelle Lasurorange translucent orange and so I thought I would try it out in this warm up exercise….and it is indeed a beauty. 

Frame 1

In this frame, I have suggested an horizon line and then wet the area above the horizon, leaving the paper beneath the horizon line completely dry. 



Frame 2.

I have loaded my brush with paint and introduced the colour just above the horizon line….allowing the paint to bleed.    For this I am using a mix of Cotman Dioxazine Violet and Alizirin Crimson



Frame 3.

I now introduce some of the Schmincke Lasuroragne and allow it to bleed to the top of the paper.   At the very top I have added a little Naples Yellow, which is a more opaque pigment.    I love the way transparent pigments work next to opaque pigments…again an idea to play with. 



Frame 4.

I now add some more juicy paint  (mix of Violet and Crimson) into the wet area at the horizon line.   Then I take a clean, wet brush and gently pull colour down into the dry area….note that I am leaving some areas of dry white paper next to the horizon line. 

This technique of using a clean, wet brush to pull out paint is possibly one of the best watercolour techniques….It helps to prevent muddiness!



Frame 5.

In this frame, using the violet and crimson mix, I indicate tree lines and field boundaries.     Note that I am leaving a lot of dry white paper.   I also bring some of the violet and crimson mix into the foreground for balance. 

It is also important to note, that I am allowing the paint in the sky to do its own thing at this point….I am not trying to manipulate the paint.  



Frame 6.

I now introduce some of the Schmincke Lasurorange into the foreground….Remember all colour reflects on its surroundings.



Frame 7.

Here are swatches of the colours used in this image.   Cotman series Dioxazine Violet, and Alizirin Crimon.   Schminkcke Lasurorange and Winsor & Newton artists grade Naples Yellow. 



Happy Painting. 

A Bientôt. 

Tutorial 2. The power of negative space.

For this second tutorial, I am using a Calla Lily as my model.    I have always loved its exquisite form, and have used it for many years as both symbolic and decorative imagery in my paintings.      



It is key to train the eye to observe both the subject and the negative space, that which surrounds the subject.    Often we try so hard to make something happen…..to paint a perfect (in this case) calla lily, or solve an ongoing problem.     When what we need to do is observe and record the negative space, which surrounds the subject, and voila…the answer is revealed. 

In Frame 1.  Working on white paper, I have sketched the calla lilly using a neutral colour (yellow ochre) however, if you wish to use a pencil, brush, felt tip pen, that’s fine.    Note that after sketching the form, I immediately begin to add colour into the surrounding area – the negative space.   I am using a mix of burnt sienna and prussian blue. 


 Frame 2.   I continue to add the mix of Prussian Blue and Burnt sienna into the negative space, which automatically reveals the lily.  Note that I am working on a dry surface.      To manipulate the paint, I use one of the most important techniques in watercolour painting.     With a clean, wet brush I pull the paint out to the edge of the paper.    This gives an element of control, and helps to avoid muddiness….the enemy of all watercolour painters. 


Frame 3.   As I pull out the colour with my clean, wet brush….I am able to bleed more colour into the wet background.   I bleed in some violet and turquoise, and at the same time use a kitchen knife to scrape out some of the colour.    This gives a sense of movement and breaks up the density of the negative space. 


Frame 4.  In this image, using some of the same colour that is in the background, I begin to indicate the shadows.    Very little pigment is used for this.     The white paper, in this instance, becomes the whites in the image.     In other words I leave areas that I want to stay white, completely dry. 


Frame 5.   Now I begin to strengthen the shadows and build up the colour in the Lily.   Remember, any area I want to keep completely white, I keep as dry white paper.      It is important to note, that I take the same colours I have used in the background to make up the shadows…..this is because, everything reflects upon everything else, and all things are connected.    It will also help to give the image a sense of balance and harmony. 


Frame 6.   I like drama in my paintings, and so I am strengthening the shadows using pigments that are in the background.   By doing this, the white of the lily becomes more pronounced….again giving a sense of drama.     I


For this image, I have used Winsor & Newton, Cotman series – Burnt sienna, Prussian Blue, Dioxazine Violet, Turquoise blue, cadmium orange, and Winsor & Newton artist’s great Green Gold (a pigment I highly recommend) 

I  used an ordinary kitchen knife to scrape out the paint.    Cutting off the corner of a credit card works very well.    Probably the best use for any credit card:)

Next week, I hope to  show some one minute videos, which might help you with some of these techniques and also talk about my book The Apple Exercise which incorporates all the different elements which will be shown in these tutorials. 

The Apple Exercise, is available through the products page on my website at http://www.janetweightreed.co.uk

A Bientôt

For now wishing everyone a lovely weekend. 

A Bientôt