How to

Gouache ~ Wet on Wet

Introduction: Sharing My Journey with Gouache

Most artists, whether aspiring or seasoned, tend to showcase their best work, the successful creations that make them proud. However, I’ve taken a different approach with this blog. When I first started painting landscapes with gouache five years ago, there were very few artists extensively working with this medium. Today, the number has increased, but back then, I could count them on one hand. I was an active member of, where I noticed many people who were also intrigued by gouache but had questions. They were astonished by the versatility and the finished results I could achieve. It was during this time that I realized there was a demand for information about this fascinating medium, and thus, I started this blog to share my discoveries.

Influencing the Gouache Community

Since then, some artists who were already using gouache have created videos and started teaching workshops. Others who discovered the medium later have followed suit, building reputations as skilled gouache artists. My hope was, and still is, that maybe one day, a renowned gouache painter will mention me as one of their influences in their biography. As I approach my 70s, my ambitions have transformed. Now, my focus is on painting, learning, sharing, and if I can sell a few paintings along the way, that will help fuel my motorhome adventures.

The Demand for Gouache Knowledge

The comments I receive on the blog and the emails from readers have shown me that there are still many people seeking information about gouache. Their gratitude and kindness have been incredibly encouraging. Occasionally, I’m asked if I conduct workshops. While I have done two-hour demonstrations, I must confess that organizing a two or three-day workshop is beyond my expertise at the moment. Therefore, for now, I’ll continue sharing my knowledge best through this blog. And here we come to the purpose of this article.

Learning from Imperfections: A Case Study

Sometimes, as part of my sharing ethos, I showcase paintings that I’m not entirely satisfied with. This approach serves two purposes: firstly, to remind everyone that even artists make mistakes; and secondly, to offer valuable lessons for others to benefit from. So, with that in mind, I’d like to share my experience from the several hours I spent painting yesterday.

The Original Plan and Lessons Learned

Initially, my goal was to employ a broken color impressionist technique. I chose a scene that I had previously painted (perhaps my first mistake). However, somewhere along the way, I became too preoccupied with small brush strokes, losing control over the entire piece. But that is not the primary lesson I want to convey in this instance. The real lesson is this: gouache does not necessarily dry the same way it appears when applied to the painting surface. Light values tend to dry lighter.

The Pitfall of Working Wet-on-Wet

Although I am aware of this phenomenon and usually try to compensate for it, I continued to build up the light in certain areas: the foliage of the background trees and a high clump of grass in the left foreground. Take a closer look at the grass clump:

Grass Clump

Please note that the colors may appear different due to operator error while using Photoshop Express instead of the regular Photoshop. However, color is not the main focus here; rather, it’s the value and intensity that were affected as I attempted to enhance the light in these areas.

Gouache’s Deceptive Drying Process

The issue arose because I was working wet-on-wet. Gouache can be deceiving since it dries quickly. Consequently, when a passage lacks the desired intense light, the inclination is to keep lightening the paint and applying more strokes. After all, it’s already dry, right? Well, not quite. Fresh paint and recently wet paint continue to blend even after drying. Within just a couple of hours, the paint noticeably lightened as it cured. I’ve also noticed changes in colors over time. After a few more hours, the once-lightened areas turned almost completely white, with only a hint of color remaining.

The Quest for Balance

I lightened certain areas because I have a tendency to paint in darker tones. Consequently, simply darkening the surrounding areas to offset the light wasn’t a suitable solution for me. Instead, I opted to add more yellow and white until, at that moment, it felt right. However, later on, the once-highlighted areas appeared nearly devoid of color. Moreover, in the case of the background tree foliage, the fresh wet paint blended slowly into the existing wet paint, giving rise to a blended watercolor effect rather than the deliberate broken strokes of separate colors I was aiming for.

Patience: The Key to Successful Highlights

So, the lesson I want to emphasize today is this: before intensifying the light in a passage, especially when using white, allow it to dry overnight. This way, the colors will have dried as much as possible, giving you a clear understanding of what needs to be done to address those vibrant highlighted areas. Sometimes, unless you’re working on a small scale, rushing through a painting in an hour may not yield the desired results.

Conclusion: Embrace the Learning Journey

As artists, we are all human, prone to mistakes and learning experiences. By sharing our imperfections, we not only humanize ourselves but also enable others to grow alongside us. Gouache, with its unique properties, continues to teach me valuable lessons. I hope that by reflecting on my journey and sharing my insights, I can contribute to the growth and knowledge of all those passionate about this wonderful medium.

Remember, we are in this together. Let’s paint, learn, and share our experiences, one stroke at a time.

Alexia Young

Hello and welcome to the world of Alexia. I am a passionate and dedicated artist who loves to create beautiful, mesmerizing art for everyone's walls. I believe in the importance of encouraging people to express their creativity and be happy.

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