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  • Writer's pictureBethany Drake

My Journey Using Gouache

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

As a recent graduate from an Illustration course, I am lucky to say that over the last 3 to 4 years I have had lots of opportunity to experiment with different colours, materials and subject matter within my own practice. I have discovered my love for children's illustration, particularly children's picture books and have been experimenting telling stories using many different mediums such as colouring pencils, watercolour, collage and mixed media as well as gouache.

As this post is specifically about gouache I won't be discussing my opinions on other materials in much depth, but may come back to it in another post!

In discussing my journey with gouache I should start from the beginning when I first discovered it. Before I went to university I had never even heard of gouache before. During my time at school and sixth form I had experimented a lot with many different materials and processes including sculpture, collage, batik, twig and ink and all the standard art materials like watercolour, oil pastels, fineliner and so on... Because of this I was intrigued that I had never heard of this art material before.

The first time I experimented using gouache was in my art and design foundation year at university. Someone had mentioned using gouache for their work and I was curious what it was and how to use it and so grabbed a few tubes and tried for myself. Initially I found it quite difficult to use as it dries very fast and I struggled to blend everything together. On this occasion I decided using watercolour would be an easier choice and so put gouache to one side.

It wasn't until years later in 2019 during my final year at university I thought I would give gouache another try. I decided I was going to push myself to test this material further by doing the instagram challenge 'Folktale Week' using gouache for all of my illustrations. In pushing myself to make this material work for me I discovered that by adding more water to the gouache it makes it more pliable and easier to use. I also found that it was easier to fix mistakes with this material compared to watercolour (which was my usual go-to art material).

Before testing gouache again I had been working mainly with watercolour and colouring pencils. I found it was hard to add small details with watercolour and so would use colouring pencils to do this. When it came to using gouache I implemented the same idea and found I really liked the result. I also found you could use gouache much like watercolour if you water it down a lot and so I used this technique to create a snowy background wash for one of the folktale week pieces.

Flash forward to my final major project at university I felt my brief experimentation with gouache a few months earlier had given me the confidence to use the material for the picture book I was planning to create. I used colouring pencils once again to add details and shadows to the illustrations and was really enjoying the process. I pushed my use of material a little further with this project too in trying to blend different colours together for the autumn trees.

Since these successful times in using gouache I have been continuing to use the material in other projects and still try to push the ways in which I use the material. For example, following university I created as series of illustrations for the instagram challenge 'Animal Adventures Week' where I experimented using the dry brush technique to mimic snow.

As I continue to use gouache, I find more and more ways I can push the material and my practice. I have found that gouache is now my go-to material and I love working with it!

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