Recently I took a class with Bernard Dellario at the Winslow Art Center to explore the use of gouache as a field study medium.
While gouache is less frequently used than either sketching tools or transparent watercolors, it has the advantages of being opaque. This helps the artist in the field by allowing you to paint color-over color, regardless of value.
Dellario’s methodology includes two approaches: limited palette “wet gouache” method, where a few primary colors are mixed on a disposable palette, and a “dry” method, where a larger palette of dried “cakes” of color prepared ahead of time by the artist allow you to paint in a somewhat thinner manner.
I like both methods, and experimented with them recently. Here is an example of a pondside painting I did, first in gouache, then translating into oil in the studio:
Gouache plein air study of pondside rocks (6 x 8″)
Pondside Rocks (oil, 9 x 12″)
Fall is a magical time of year in Columbia County, and this year was particularly spectacular. For some reason, whether because of the rain or the temperatures, the colors of the trees lasted longer than most years. It was a welcome respite from political news and pandemic anxiety to be able to drive and walk and experience the autumn landscape as long as we did.
I particularly enjoyed colorful walks by ponds in the area.
View of Ooms Pond
When the warm weather hits I do feel a certain pressure to get outside with sketchbook and easel. I like to work in the studio, so I manage to make a lot of excuses for why I can’t do this (bugs, heat, clouds, and temperature chief among them). Which is why cameras were invented, yes?
But there are fewer pleasures than capturing nature with pen, pencil, paper, and traditional media. For one thing, it’s quiet, peaceful, and the annoyances of email and phone calls fall by the wayside.
Recently I took a workshop with Jean McKay, a wonderful pen and watercolor artist who works primarily in sketchbook journals, capturing nature’s tiniest creatures. Ever since seeing her creations in person, I have been careful not to squash moths and other tiny flying insects.
The second great aspect of sketching outdoors is that what you see is really different than what you can capture with a camera. Your own eye is just better able to discern the differences in value, and the finer aspects of colors. Taking a photograph compresses and distorts the image.
And finally, it’s good plain good artistic practice to sketch from life. Being able to judge proportion, where a picture frame begins and ends, and drawing on the go trains the brain in a way that working from photographs cannot.
And so I venture outside….
My sketching setup
A page from my sketchbook
In Spring in my area, the flora and fauna emerge with equal ferocity.
Going for walks has become difficult because of bear sightings everywhere. Living in the woods as I do, I have taken to fewer wooded walks and more cautious
Nevertheless, the diversity of nature available to me even from my porch or a walk onto the lawn outside our house is staggering.
The doe above and her relatives kept popping up wherever I looked -first in the long, young ferns along our road, then again and again the garden down by our pond.
A few days later, I found this gorgeous Luna Moth lingering on the log siding outside our porch door. It rested there for a number of hours, then disappeared during the night. Very rare, and exquisitely beautiful.
Watercolor sketch of a Luna Mot