Why I Choose to Paint with Gouache

Painting for me is as much about the process as it is about the subject and the end piece.  I love seeing the image build before my eyes as I layer first the grey lead pencil markings, then add the texture with my oil pastels, and finally brush on the paint.

painting2I get so much joy even in just the mixing of the paint, in creating the right colour and in applying the paint itself.  The sound of the brush hitting the dry water paper for the first time makes a subtle rasp as it absorbs the colour and impact of the brush.  There is something innately satisfying in the forming of a solid firm line from a deliberate brush stroke.  Because of this I choose specifically to use gouache over other paint mediums.

Abstract by Leah Gay
Abstract by Leah Gay

Gouache has a creamy opacity that can create solid blocks of colour, but is equally able to be used delicately like water-colour paint to create beautifully light watermarks and textures.  I was taught during graphic design studies in my high school years to mix it to the consistency of a runny yoghurt, and I love how this consistency then translates to bold solid colours on my paper.

As my use of this medium has expanded I’ve taken it into the lighter water-colour style tones, using it as a complementary media with oil pastel to create beautiful textures and tones for my images.   It is equally as effective used on the other end of the spectrum with a palate knife for bold textures.

Blue Nude (2004) by Leah Gay
Blue Nude (2004) by Leah Gay

I also choose to paint with gouache because it is quick drying which allows me to complete a piece in one session.  Unfortunately anything left half done rarely gets finished as I find the momentum lost.  Clearly I’m too impatient for the measured application of oil paint, and experiments with acrylic so far hasn’t been my thing.

For me  these days it is rare that I’ll solely use gouache to create my work, but it forms the backbone to my expression of colour and form.   As I develop and explore my style of painting I’ve dabbled into many media, from machine sewing on paper, ink drawing, colour pencil and conté, but there will always be gouache that I will turn to as an artist as my preferred medium of choice.



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