21 March, 2018

Exploring Art: Gouache Paintings

Welcome to another addition to our Art series which is going to look at one of the oldest painting mediums, gouache.

So far we have explored some of the most popular forms of art used today. For example, the precision of oil paintings, the charm of watercolours, the boldness of acrylic paintings and the exciting world of pastel art. 

Now we are going to take you through a unique medium which is gouache.

When was Gouache invented?

Before the popularity of tempura paintings was replaced by oil paintings, in the 16th century, they were some of the first gouache-like paintings. Tempuras consisted of an egg yolk acting as the binder and this created a semi-opaque finish.

What is Gouache Painting?

Considered as one of the hardest mediums to master, gouache is a painting medium which is water-based and this makes it similar to how watercolours are made.

However, it's also opaque. This means the white parts of the paper surface will not show through the final artwork which is usually done on a watercolour canvas or paper. This is achieved by adding a white pigment such as chalk.  

Gouache paints are quite versatile in nature as an artist can add them to different mediums. For example, an artist can create highlights on watercolour paintings. In addition, it was used in the 18th century to add details to pastel paintings before impressionists later discovered its value in the 19th Century. 

Gouache paintings will dry in a different shade. That is to say, lighter tones will dry lighter and darker tones will dry darker.

What makes Gouache different to other mediums?

Gouache is different to mediums such as oil, watercolours and acrylic but still share some of their characteristics. For example, the pigment ratio is higher in gouache than in watercolours. In addition, a white pigment like chalk is added. The result is a heavier texture and opacity compared to watercolours.

Gouache has fast-drying properties similar to Acrylic paint. This is advantageous for an artist as they can add more layers to their artwork. It's beneficial to not add layers too thick because it can cause the artwork to crack.

Similarly, with oil paint, it’s advised to let the first layer dry before adding more. Adding in layers whilst it's wet can cause the different layers to mix and become difficult to control.

How to remember a gouache painting can be through this. It can glide over a canvas like a watercolour, blend in detail like an oil paint and dry like acrylic.

How do you make Gouache paints?

Making gouache paints is similar to how you make watercolours. The binder is a water-based soluble. To give it the opaque effect, you can add chalk. The binder will suspend the pigments and this is what allows the paint to be used on a surface. 

Due to this, gouache contains the main qualities of the other mediums. Like watercolours, it can be reactivated with water and then altered after it dries. The added binder of chalk can make it opaque like oil paint. Its quick drying nature gives it characteristics of acrylic paint.  

Notable Gouache Painters 

Henri Matisse is credited as being one of the most famous gouache artists. He used his famous 'cut-out' technique which consisted of abstracted forms of paper being painted with gouache. This created a collage-like finish. This work redefined the definition of painting and sculpture and helped to inspire new generations of abstract artists.

Famous Gouache Paintings:

Some of the most famous gouache paintings are below. The Memphis Belle, a Boeing B-17F painting is above.

  1. The Birth and Triumph of Venus, 1743, Gouache by François Boucher.
  2. La Prise de la Bastille, Gouache by Claude Cholat.
  3. Coby Whitmore, 1950, For the story Heartbreak, Gouache by A. Barke.
  4. Nu Bleu II (Blue Nude) (1952), Gouache Henri Matisse.
  5. Memphis Belle, a Boeing B-17F, Gouache. by Jack Leynnwood.
William George & Co. Art Series: Gouache Paintings
William George & Co. Art Series: Gouache Paintings
William George & Co. Art Series: Gouache Paintings
William George & Co. Art Series: Gouache Paintings
William George & Co. Art Series: Gouache Paintings