Gouache, the forgotten medium?

Gouache, the forgotten medium?

Why I feel gouache should not be overlooked, especially for artists not keen on pure watercolour.

I have never been keen on watercolours, always preferring my oil paints. However, several years ago I used gouache as part of a mixed media workshop and absolutely loved it. Since then I even developed my own range of high-pigment gouache colours, that’s how impressed I was! Unlike pure watercolour, gouache is a relatively opaque medium where white is also used. That said, the ingredients to make gouache are the same as watercolour, it is simply the formulation which is different. Colours can be used in the same was as watercolour and will create relatively translucent washes, depending on the pigment. It is the pigment which determines the opacity/translucency of colour more than the binder. What I really like about gouache is the way it emulates oil colour in that you can paint opaque colours over each other and work with white to add highlights. Like watercolour it is re-wettable so washes can be blended or if you keep the second layer relatively dry, then being opaque, new colour will completely cover the underlying wash. It is also possible to add a texture medium to gouache – mine is called Artist’s Putty. Winsor & Newton make a product called Aquapasto which does much the same thing. Apart from using gouache on watercolour paper, I recently started to work on Fabriano Pastel papers (I do like painting on a coloured ground). In order to prevent buckling, I spray Display Mount Glue onto the back of the paper and stick it to a sheet of mountboard. This seems to work extremely well as a robust painting surface, ideal for those quick outdoor studies when a white sheet of paper seems far too bright. To find out more about Melanie Cambridge® Artist Gouache, visit: www.melaniecambridge.com
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Having checked with the colour chemist who created these paints, here are his comments on using pastel fixative to preserve gouache paintings for the longer term. Over time as gouache dries out, the water in the base evaporates turning the surface to something akin to soft pastel. Therefore in effect changing the surface to that of soft pastel. Using pastel fixative should not compromise the gouache (although it might make it appear a little darker) and generally would be a good idea for long term stability. I hope this is helpful.

Glad you found this interesting, Ruth. As for possibly using fixing spray, I will look into this for you with my colour chemist. I have used oil re-touching varnish successfully to seal the surface of a finished gouache painting done on board rather than paper. Will be in touch when I have more information.

I find this article very interesting, Melanie. Gouache was my first love along with watercolour...many moons ago!!... It works well on heavy card which I use at times for Greeting cards. Its main appeal for me is its covering capacity, also it is simpler to use than Acrylic as it is re-usable from the palette via simple re-wetting, as of course you know. I have pots (yes, glass pots!) of gouache which date back 40 years, and are still usable. A great medium, but with time the work tends to become unstable in that it will crumble or powder off, depending on how it is used. I have never tried using a fixing spray...Perhaps that would work as it does on pastels?