I have recently begun to experiment with gouache paint. Previously, I have been very faithful to watercolour and ink. I enjoy acrylics too, but there is something about the immediacy and unpredictability of watercolour and ink that makes those paintings especially rewarding for me. I bought a set of designers’ gouache by Winsor and Newton, and have to say I was surprised on the high price for these smaller sized tubes of a paint that doesn’t lend itself to much dilution. I have heard people say that the reason gouache is more expensive to use than watercolour is because it is less widely used. I can see the point, though I do think gouache is undergoing a bit of a renaissance as contemporary artists are using it more and more now, especially in illustrative style works alongside ink and watercolour. Where inks provide transparency and overlays, gouache can contrast that with solidity and flatness. For one experiment, I drew inspiration from falling cherry blossom petals. I have seen many falling as the spring wears on in Dublin (admittedly, one such day was so cold and windy that I initially mistook said petals for snow). I started off with an ink version, using crimson artists ink, combined with some blue calligraphy ink as flame red, to create various tones.
I then did the first (yellow) painting pictured above, which is predominantly gouache, with touches of ink. I think the ink petals are easily identifiable, from the slightly darker ring that forms naturally around the edge. That sort of natural effect is what maintains my affection for the medium. If you look closely, you can see the top left two petals here are ink, whereas the lower group are almost all gouache. I was particularly taken with the hue of the marigold gouache I bough as an addition to the basic set, with which I added the deeper yellow details. What doesn’t come across in the photos is that if you turn the paper on its side, you can clearly see the gouache sitting on the paper, a chalky, raised coating, whereas watercolour and ink have a totally different texture, and are thinner when dried. Anyway, my conclusions have been that I would like to experiment more with both gouache and ink together. It seems clear the ink needs to be applied first, as it is thinner and could be prone to cracking if applied over the gouache (which might be worth trying, just to see what has happened. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my experiments, and if you’ve tried using gouache with watercolour or ink, pleas let me know how you’ve gotten on.