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.

15 thoughts on “EDM #22: Draw a piece of clothing”

  1. Really fascinating Danny, likewise I just started “dabbling” with gouache after 10 years obsessing with watercolours, and your experience is so useful. I expected not to “like” gouache – the opacity – but I’m finding them a great challenge and quite refreshing. Cool !


  2. I am trying out gouache too (thanks Roz!) and find that it blends very smoothly and the colors stay clear and bright. I would love more info on gouache too and how to use it with my sketches.
    Love the dress, it seems to have a glow to it.


  3. I love the drawing.. I like gouache too. In your book “The illustrated Life” I was turned on to gouache by the travel sketchbooks of Seamus Heffernan. But what i do is make a line drawing first on location then refine it and add gouache when I get home. I don’t get the same results as Seamus but I keep practicing. I search YouTube for anyone using gouache and usually find some good examples.


  4. I appreciate your lessons on all things arty. Glad you did not spend ten hours watching paint dry. 😉 I’ve wondered about gouache. Nice to know from your experiences.


  5. I just received a set of W&N gouache for my birthday along with a set of colored pencils for my birthday a couple of weeks ago. An artist friend of my husband suggested to him that those two materials worked well together and might be something I would like to try. I’ve tried using colored pencils for the base drawing, covering it with gouache, then adding details with more colored pencils. I think I made my layers too thick because the colored pencils would sometimes scrape the gouache off.

    Some of my experiments with gouache were based off a very helpful blog post from Roz:


  6. Love the post and the drawing. I thought it was a picture for the first second.
    You inspired me to try gouache too. Especially because Less in the 1st reply on this post said to treat it like oil or acrylic. I’ve been doing some watercolor small projects and treat it like oil (the medium i’ve worked mostly) and i’m not very happy with the results.
    I really admired your dedication in posting a EDM blog and drawing.
    I’m falling behind but i won’t gave up! :0)
    Nice to learn from you!


  7. My first medium and love has always been watercolors although I enjoy playing with acrylics as well. I’ve never tried gouache paints, but now I’m intrigued to try them.


  8. Hah! Gouache! Do you know the illustrations by Rebecca Dautremer? From interviews I’ve learned that she paints them completely in gouache. Really. So, knowing my way with watercolours, I thought I’d try the Rebecca Dautremer thing. Well, after 4 years (!!!) (yes, seriously!) of trying and studying her art (the uncropped prints where you can clearly see the layers she painted), I still haven’t got the hang of it. Even bought French gouache. Pébéo T7, artist quality. Thought perhaps her paint was better. Because what you also refer to in your post…gouache won’t behave when you work in layers! It comes off. No matter how long you’ve waited for it to dry. It rubs off and goes muddy. I’ve ruined handsfull of drawings with the stuff. And yet, I want to learn how to paint like Rebecca Dautremer does. Not copy her. But I want to know how to make such beautiful painted art with gouache. She’s (i.m.h.o.) a true master. Wish I could sit in her studio with her for a few days…


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