Friday, November 19, 2010

Transparent Watercolor with Gouache

Artists, particularly painters, are trying to show us what they see in a three-dimensional world on a two-dimensional surface. I’ve always been intrigued by the ways artists communicate the look and feel of a moment in time .. the sights, the sounds, temperatures and actions. An example is painting atmospheric conditions by layering colors and diagonals. This technique had always piqued my interest … but the question still remained – how to do it?

Lionel Feininger (1871-1956), a landscape and cityscape artist captured movement, action and atmosphere by utilizing diagonal glazes. I’ve always been a fan of his work. In fact, several of his pieces reside at the Minneapolis Art Institute. To duplicate Feininger’s look, I found the combination of transparent watercolor with the opaque qualities of gouache allowed me to create similar results.

An opportunity to experiment with this technique presented itself in October 2010 at the Watercolor and Gouache Workshop with Kate Worm hosted by the Northstar Watercolor Society. Kate utilized a brayer (roller for ink) to create lines, diagonals and atmosphere on her paintings with watercolor and gouache.

As soon as I saw her using the brayer, I knew it was the perfect tool to emulate Feininger’s style. My first attempt was done with a combination of watercolor and gouache on Canson Mein-Tientes paper. The result was interesting, but still didn’t produce the “layered” atmospheric look. Something was missing …… It was too bold, too direct, and too choppy. So, I decided to try another approach.

I looked to the work of Arthur Melville (1858-1904). For many of his paintings Melville coated the paper with Chinese White, an opaque watercolor similar to gouache, washed off the excess and dropped watercolor into what remained. Viewing this painting took me back to a bull fight I attended in Mexico – suddenly I could see the dust and hear the shouting of the crowd.
Finally, by put the three techniques: Feininger, Worm, and Melville together, I am getting closer to what I want.

Curious? Interested? Want to experiment with this process. Come play with me at Susan’s Sandbox on Sunday, January 16th from 12-4. The cost is $40 and includes one pre-primed board (with white gouache) and a paper sample. Bring your own white gouache, watercolors, a brayer and brushes or purchase what you need at the Dock 5 Art Supply Store at discounted prices. Register early and reserve your seat. Learn more here.