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Gouache is a paint medium that is quickly growing in popularity—and for good reason. Gouache paint is a water-based paint, but it differs from watercolors in several ways. Because of its higher pigment load, gouache offers a creamy consistency that produces a matte, opaque finish.
The versatility of gouache as a paint medium is hard to deny. It can be rewetted and re-worked like watercolors, but it can also be used with the dry brush techniques of acrylic. It also blends seamlessly with other mediums and techniques to produce original mixed-media creations. Best of all, it is relatively inexpensive, making it ideal for even beginner gouache artists.
To showcase gouache’s wide range of possibilities, we’ve rounded up a selection of outstanding gouache artists who are currently working with the medium in their own ways. Through their unique works, these gouache masters demonstrate the many uses and techniques that you can achieve with gouache.
1. Sara Boccaccini Meadows: Botanical Illustrations
Skillshare instructor Sara Boccaccini Meadows’s botanical landscapes use watercolor and gouache to capture the variety of textures and colors in plants and cacti. Many love gouache for the medium’s bright, saturated colors, but Meadows uses muted tones that are equally effective.
2. Leah Goren: Nontraditional Portraits
Gouache is not often the first medium that painters reach for when they are creating traditional portraits. But illustrator and surface pattern designer Leah Goren (whose Skillshare classes include Beyond Watercolor: Learn to Paint with Gouache) uses broad brushstrokes to work some real magic in this evocative portrait.
3. Dylan Mierzwinski:
This painting by Skillshare Top Teacher Dylan Mierzwinski was originally intended as a watercolor warm-up exercise. However, when she fell in love with these unique shapes, Mierzwinski repeated the process with acrylic gouache paint. As an illustrator, she enjoys gouache because she’s able to create large, flat areas of color that are easy to scan and digitize.
4. Peggy Dean:
This beautiful painting by Skillshare Top Teacher Peggy Dean exemplifies the matte, opaque finish of gouache paint. In this example, the artist chose harmonious colors to capture the magic of wildflowers on a leisurely summer stroll.
5. Vanessa Gillings: Whimsical Woodland Creatures
Gouache can be used in a multitude of ways, as demonstrated by Skillshare teacher Vanessa Gillings. She prefers to water down the medium, so it acts more like a watercolor. However, rather than creating a streaky effect common with watercolor paint, gouache allows her to fill in a space completely with a solid color. This painting in particular is representative of Gillings’s whimsical style; she often uses gouache to create portraits of cute woodland creatures.
6. Marie-Noëlle Wurm: Colorful Creatures
Part of the allure of gouache — and art in general — is the ability to be playful, silly, and wild. Skillshare teacher Marie-Noëlle Wurm embodies these traits as she creates “creatures,” which begin as blobs of paint. She explores how you can start with a very simple shape, made from gouache paint, and add colorful mixed-media elements to create an imaginary companion, like the ones in this example.
7. Liz Trapp: Abstract Florals
Gouache and ink is a winning combination for Liz Trapp, painter and Skillshare teacher. Using gouache as the main medium for her abstract florals allows her to achieve bright, saturated colors. Then, she adds in bold contour lines with black ink to accentuate those flowers. Combining these mediums and techniques allows her to achieve a unique floral composition that pulls your eyes through the entire image.
Henri Matisse is a well-known artist who used a wide range of mediums, but was often drawn to bright and expressive colors. In the last decade of his life, he used the simple materials of white paper and gouache to create a series called “the cut-outs.”
Adolph Friedrich Erdmann von Menzel was a German artist well known for drawings, etchings, and paintings. However, oil painting did not come easy to him, so eventually, he turned to his preferred medium of gouache. Ultimately, he felt gouache was more suited to capturing certain effects, like the sandiness of a path or the wooly texture of a sheep.
Over his life, Albrecht Durer created a vast library of work, from engravings to watercolors. However, he often chose to paint with gouache to bring out a soft glow in his nature studies.
What Is Gouache?
Gouache is a watermedia. In other words, it must be mixed with water before it’s spread across a surface. It provides full color coverage that dries matte, which makes it ideal for a range of different painting techniques, including dry brushing, wet-on-wet painting, and staining. Many artists enjoy painting with gouache for its flexibility; a mistake can easily be covered up by simply painting over it. And even after it’s dry, gouache can be re-wet and re-worked, which allows gouache artists to achieve interesting and unique visual effects.
History of Gouache
The history of gouache dates back thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians were among the first to use a gouache-like paint; they mixed together colorful pigments with honey or other binders to create the medium. Over the years, artists relied on early forms of gouache to create famous works, including François Boucher’s “The Birth and Triumph of Venus.”
By the 19th century, gouache was produced industrially, which made it more accessible and particularly popular with landscape artists. In the 20th century, commercial artists began to rely on gouache to produce cel animation, poster art, and comic books.
3 Easy, Fun Ways to Get Started With Gouache
Beyond Watercolor: Learn to Paint with Gouache with Leah Goren