Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016


What is Gouache?

Someone asked me to explain gouache. The word can be used in two ways: in reference to a specific type of watercolor paint, or to describe any painting created with this heavier opaque medium. In other words, the image at the top shows tubes of gouache, but at the same time the second picture highlights "a framed gouache."

Artists appreciate gouache for its density. Unlike sheer watercolor, gouache allows the artist to capture deeper, richer hues. And as you can see here, the saturated red gouache reveals none of the underlying white paper like transparent watercolor would. Gouache also dries to a matte finish, so works created with it are well-suited to printing (reproduction). However, the work in this case, Field, Hale County, 2002, is an original painting by Annie Butrus.

From her red-and-white gouache series, it has a cadmium red ground. White forms are silhouetted against this darker background. As she works, Annie paints on the positive space with a latex resist, and over-paints that with red gouache erased to reveal the positive form and the white of the paper beneath.

Most of Annie's work is focused on the changing landscape in and around Birmingham, Alabama, where she lives. Stylistically, some of her pieces are influenced by Japanese Ukiyo-e floating world pictures, and I especially like the subtle Asian characteristics of this painting.

The paints at the top are available at Dick Blick.


Paul Pincus said...

really terrific post ... and this work is lovely too!

Karena said...

Very good Courtney, and now I am off to Creative Coldsnow to pick up some supplies. I have worked with gouache in the past, it has been sometime though. Are you refering to the masking fluid for watercolors to preserve the negative spaces of the art?

Style Court said...

Thanks Paul :)

Karena, I'll have to ask Annie about the details of the resist.

Ivy Lane said...

Very interesting! :)

annechovie said...

I love Annie's style incorporating delicate form and the contrast of bold color. Gouache is my favorite! You framed it so perfectly, too, Courtney!

Style Court said...

Anne -- you do wonderful things with the medium!

Glad you like the frame.

pve design said...

A dear friend and artist paints with watercolor in a heavily pigmented fashion which would make one think at first that it might be gouache, however the "matte" quality is only achieved with this medium which I adore. There is something very Mary Quant, Peter Max-ish about gouache to me. lovely post.

Unknown said...

You forgot to mention one important characteristic of Gouache: when it has dried it can be solved again with water. Thus any painting that has not been covered with a finish can be changed again (or damaged) through water). This cannot be done with acrylics nor watercolours.
This may be one reason why some artists love it. Gouache does only make sense when it is not used in a very paste-like manner because it will break on the paper after drying.

Style Court said...

Patricia VE -- lovely analogy.

Petra -- thanks for the input.