EDM# 35: Draw a bicycle or a part of one

I painted this yesterday but tried to take my time in developing it rather than rush to scan and upload it. I made it with gouache and drew (most of) it freehand with a brush.  I am replacing my habits developed over years of watercoloring with the approach I used when I was a teenager and first started painting in acrylic. I find gouache quite challenging because I can’t layer color which so often helps me hid my mistakes. With this opaque medium, I have to lay down the color and be satisfied with it before adding the next and it can be quite annoying. I’ll try to explain more about this by showing you a couple of steps I took.

First I painted my vestibule, using flat colors and with little indication of lighting. This was fairly straightforward once I had  a grip on the perspective and I just mixed up a color and then created  a lighter version to make the lighter part of the wall or floor. Probably the hardest color to mix was the parquet floor in lower left just because I had to figure out how to make a darker brown using only yellow and an ochre and blue.

When it was good and dry, I lightly sketched in the bicycle. Then I painted it in with black and white gouache. As you can see, the red wall started to leach into the white of the tires, so I let it dry and added another coat of white which helped a bit but not completely. I wanted to add a bit of the shadow that the bike threw on the wall but  didn’t want to paint around the bike to add a darker red so instead I tried to lighten the rest of the wall with a bit of watered-down white.

I don’t know if this painting is done completely. I should go in and erase the white pencil lines, darken the tires and hit the white one more time to get rid of the pink — and maybe I shall. I also fought the impulse to scrawl a caption on the floor with my dip pen (both Jack and Tommy Kane urged me to just leave the damned things as it is) and I remain of two minds about it.

Before I began painting, I spent a fair amount of time looking at the work of Taliah Lempert, an artist I have always admired, who does nothing but drawn and paint and make prints of bikes. Her work is really lovely and instructive.

EDM #27: Draw a book

Sorry, for the self-congratulation but I’ve never drawn this before. It was nice to be sitting in my air-conditioned studio with all my gear around me. I drew it with both Lamy safari nibs, then painted it with Dr. Martin’s and did the background in gouache and the writing with a dip pen and white ink.

I love seeing people’s versions of my work. Below is a lovely rendition by Matthew Midgeley.If you’ve ever drawn one of my books, I would so love to see it.

By Matthew Midgeley

Love this one by Jinho Jung:

EDM #24: Draw a piece of fruit


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.

EDM #23: Draw your foot

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.

EDM #22: Draw a piece of clothing

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.