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.

14 thoughts on “EDM# 35: Draw a bicycle or a part of one”

  1. What’s interesting to me is that I would not have noticed any of those things you thought to fix without you pointing them out. No, I am not blind. They just did not look like “mistakes” to me. Maybe I am not particular. I like the stance of the bike in that corner vestiwhatever. LOL Happy Sunday to you!


  2. I like this! If I were you I’d go in and do the white on the wheel and call it good. I even like the white pencil showing, but then I like to see a bit of the process in a painting. Taliah’s work is wonderful. I bought my ex her coloring book as a Christmas present (we’re both bicyclers). After visiting her site again, I want a piece for me!


  3. Liked the process story – your thoughts about it and how it developed. And the reference to Taliah – really exciting work and website! All very stimulating and helpful. Thank you.


  4. I love the people you share with us as much as the stuff you do. We are all so different -what you’ve done or not with the paint doesn’t worry me, I like seeing paint being paint and as others have mentioned, seeing process, but the drawing of the wheels bothers me! Thanks Danny, I love that you put yourself out and out and out and out there.


  5. your gouache paintings are awesome-don’t get too precious about them-my first reaction was to love the painting-noticed no mistakes. thanks for link to Talia


  6. I love love love this drawing and how you’ve been able handling the gouache. It’s not an easy medium for sure. I have a question for you. Do you always squeeze out fresh paints when you paint or like watercolors, do you keep it in a palette? The reason I ask is because I can’t ever seem to get the same opaqueness after the paint has dried on the palette and I really like that quality in gouache. It acts more like watercolors after it’s dried. Thanks.


    1. Gouache is definitely more challenging to work with after it’s dried and takes a lot of water to get it reanimated. It also clings to the palette when dried more like acrylic than watercolor. I should probably just start fresh each time but I’m too lazy and cheap.


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