My love affair with gouache.

I am falling in love with gouache paint. That may sound like a strange thing to say, but I think it’s true! Over the years I have painted in acrylics, oils and watercolour, and each in their turn have their positives and negatives.

Acrylics dry fast, which can be a good or a bad thing (good in a wet country like the UK, and bad where I now live in the dry heat of Spain). They also darken quite a bit as they dry and I have found this a little awkward, with paintings turning out darker than I imagined.
Oils on the other hand dry very slowly, which I don’t really mind. I use water mixable oils which dry a bit faster than traditional oils, but you still need to wait several weeks before varnishing and framing. However their colour and tone do not change when they dry – what you paint is what you get.
Watercolours produce a wonderful transparent glow and can have great accidental and unplanned effects. But the technique of using them is difficult and you need to plan well before putting brush to paper.

So this is where gouache paints come in. For someone like me who paints more instinctively than thoughtfully, who dashes in with a brush rather than preparing carefully beforehand, these paints are like magic! Because they are opaque you can cover over anything that you have already painted, and you can paint light over dark as well as dark over light. You can paint thin transparent passages and also flat opaque areas, thereby giving your paintings more interest. They have many of the advantages of oils without the slow drying time.
So what drawbacks are there to gouache paints? I would suggest that they are not good for large paintings – I use them in my sketchbook, as their quick drying time makes them perfect for plein air. I am going to experiment with larger paintings by gradually increasing in size to see how far I can go, but I am assuming that over a certain size they will become too expensive to use. But that’s where oils can take over.

I have found that gouache is great for sketching outdoors, and I recently went out to film myself doing this. Take a look if you would like to here – its on YouTube:

If you are interested to find out more about painting in gouache, In the early part of this year I wrote a course for beginners in gouache which you can find here:

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