Two techniques for bug week
Last week I read an article in the newspaper about dragonflies. I've always loved these insects, so I decided to draw some for my sketchbook project. As I thought of dragonflies, I began to list other bugs that I love, and I decided to dedicate a week to drawing insects. I never really thought of myself as a lover of bugs, but as my list grew longer and longer, I realized I was completely fascinated by these creatures, and was very excited about painting them. Gouache is one of my favorite mediums and I use it often in my sketchbook. This week, I used it on every page.
I began using gouache in when I first started my career as a textile designer, in the days before everything was done digitally. I have always loved the versatility of this medium. Sometimes, I like to paint with it like a watercolor, washy and very wet. Other times I like to use it in a way similar to how I use acrylic, using thicker, opaque paint. During bug week, I used both techniques, and photographed two of the paintings in various states to show you how I like to work.
For the praying mantis, I used a technique similar to traditional watercolor. To do this, I begin with some washy, very wet color. The background textures were made by blotting very wet, drippy color with some crumpled toilet paper. Toilet paper is one of my favorite texture makers when I'm working in gouache. Other favorite texture makers are sticks and cotton swabs, although I didn't use any here.
After drying the first stage with a hair dryer (because I'm way to impatient to wait for anything to dry by itself) I go back into the image and add details, here i am allowing it to stay washy and show the layers beneath.
The upper left corner of this one was feeling a little empty to me, so I added some hand lettering in brown gel pen. The details and highlights on the praying mantis were added with full strength opaque gouache.
One of the things i love most about gouache is that I can work with it in a way similar to the way I use acrylic. I like to work this way, because my sketchbook work often gets translated into larger more developed acrylic paintings. For an acrylic painting, I would begin by painting a colorful painted texture ground, but with gouache, I start on a clean white page with a light pencil line sketch.
In the next stage, I am adding more details, painting quickly with very thick gouache. I will often mix the colors right on the page, working them together, while the paint is still wet. When working this way, I allow the brushwork to create texture in the piece, but I have at times scratched into the wet paint with chop sticks or kabob skewers.
One of the things I love best about gouache is that I can easily change things I don't like. In this painting, I felt the greenish grey ground was too close to the color of the moth and they got lost together. I mixed up a grayish purple to make the moth colors pop more, and painted right over the original color.
I hope you enjoyed this look into the techniques I use. I will be doing another post about my acrylic techniques in the near future.