Autumn Fieldfares in Indian ink and gouache by Emma Faull


This technique is a really good way to loosen up a watercolour painting and produces a woodblock style image. I worked as an archaeological draughtsman for seven years and my pictures have always been dictated by line, so I was looking for a process that could change that habit. Although I start with a drawing one can really go to town with bright gouache colour. The results are always unexpected and quite different from anything that could be done with watercolour and pen.

Stage 1

Start with a small (12 x 9") piece of good NOT watercolour paper 300gsm (140lbs); I use Langton as the surface works with this technique - there is no need to tape down. Leave a margin round the image, which needs to be simple but with some finer detail in areas. The birds here are fieldfares which work well with their patterned plumage. I start by drawing with a black biro over pencil to sharpen up the image.

Stage 2

I use ready made coloured gouache (I find Winsor and Newton the best). This works better than white with watercolours added later, as the coloured gouache stains the paper when washed off. Carefully apply gouache to areas which one doesn't want black, use a creamy consistency, but the thicker the better, and use bright colour. If a textured background is required use a stiff, medium sized oil brush and apply the gouache quite dry.

Stage 3

Wait for the gouache to dry, then cover with black Indian ink using a size 11/12 brush. Apply the ink in smooth strokes and do not go over areas more than once or too thickly. Make sure you keep the margin clear.

Stage 4

Allow to dry completely, then rinse under a slow-running, tepid tap, rubbing gently so that the gouache dissolves. You may need to use a sponge on any stubborn areas. When all the gouache has gone, dab the work dry with kitchen towel. You can add more watercolour afterwards and tighten up the image with a black pen, but I find it best to leave as is. Remember this process takes a bit of practice but it is such fun to do and completely addictive.

The Eagle, above,was done with white gouache but I stained the paper to begin with with Koh-i-noor coloured inks. I also used wire wool and sandpaper, the picture is 3 x 4ft which shows that this process can be done on any size - although I did have to use a hose to wash it off!

See more of Emma's work in the PaintersOnline gallery by clicking here, or visit her website

This demonstration originally featured on the November 2016 Bonus Features E-newsletter. Make sure you are signed up to receive our regular e-shots for more great features like this.