Thursday, August 16, 2012

Demonstration: Peachy Still Life with Corrections

I started this painting just for fun because I had these wonderful little peaches at hand. I wanted to paint the the lush, rich colors. I had my camera next to my elbow so I decided to record the process, without any idea originally of showing them here. That's why the photos are so casual! As I progressed I realized I wanted to do a big edit, removing a large portion of the painting, and that's when I thought maybe I'd post the whole thing here. People often ask me how you can do corrections in gouache, and this was the chance to show how really easy it is.

1. The paper is Arches 300 cold press, a nicely textured watercolor paper. It's my usual 2.5" x 3.5" size. I did a very quick pencil sketch and mixed up a light neutral. I always splash paint along the edges so I can cover them easily and get a nice edge line, a wonderful characteristic of opaque media.

2. I added pure white paint in to establish the light and shadow shapes. (I immediately wondered if the upper shape worked but ignored my gut instinct!)

This is my butcher's tray palette. The paint was all dried, so I sprayed it with clean water and used a brush to draw out the now-liquid paint. The whites--Titanium for mixing and Permanent for impasto--are freshly squeezed.

3. I started with the dark colors and very roughly established the shapes. I know they will grow in size as I go, so I'll easily cover the pencil marks in time. No worry. (Still worrying about that top one, but ignoring the feeling.)

4. I add a watercolor-y wash for the shadows. Meh. Not great, but I figure in time I can tweak that color. I add the lighter yellow on peach number two to give it form, and establish the dark core on each peach.

5. I add the dusty peach fuzz look to the top and sides, and like the shapes of the peaches and the light on the top surfaces now. I want peach number two to be the star of the show. But I've gotten myself in some real trouble! I hate the dark shadow and the upper peach's shape, so I quickly try to wash out the offending shadow. Before long I realize my gut has been telling me the top peach is wrong, so I decide to get rid of it completely. The idea to show this step-by-step process here is born.

6. I add a lot of water to the whole area until it's soupy.

7. A clean paper towel blots up the offending color. I re-wet and blot it three times.

8. The result, still damp, is a ghost of the colors, but they will flavor colors I put on top.

9. I use thick, barely watered down, fresh Permanent white on a clean brush, with clean water, to begin to cover the area.

10. The result is a slightly lavender white that I like, but I decide I want to play with the shadow shapes and the edges.

11. I add more white at the top and play with the shadow, tweaking the color by adding a little more dark red to it. I like it!

Here's a closeup of the light on the peach. You can see that I've built light over dark, adding watery lavender strokes that are slightly dry-brushed to make the peach fuzz on the left, and much more impasto strokes of medium and light colors, overlapping them to create the shape and light.

Below is the finished painting, Peach, Peach, with the color corrected, shown a little larger than actual size.

Hope you enjoyed seeing my corrections. Remember, no one's perfect! That's why I love a forgiving medium like gouache.

If you have any questions I'm happy to try and answer them. Oh, and let me know if you'd like to see more of this kind of post here.



  1. Demos are great, thank you, Deborah. There is so little teaching around on gouache. Do you know of any good textbooks you would recommend? Thank you very much, Ruth

  2. Thanks, Ruth. Glad you like it. It's true there is little to be fund on the subject of "pure" gouache. I haven't found any contemporary books devoted to it, only gouache as a sideline to watercolor.

    However, do come over to the Gouache Corner of the Watercolor Studio at Wet canvas and join us, if you haven't already. You'll find a lot of people doing step-by-step demos and showing their WIPs (works in progress) so you can see a lot of gouache techniques in use, different materials and a variety of approaches.

    Here's a link to the Watercolor Studio there:
    Look for the Gouache Corner, usually stickied near the top somewhere.

    And for anyone who is interested in this month's thread (August 2012):

  3. Your artwork is amazing! Fresh and vibrant and colorful. Ty so much for taking the time (and huge effort) in posting these demos for those of us who wish to learn! And I am learning (hopefully? and in copius amounts? I do watercolor and am just learning acrylic and oils ..yep at the same time lol) but I am in the process of learning gouache as I am not a fan thus far of the fast drying acrylics. I am not giving up on them quite yet? I tried them a year ago and hated them and at least I am enjoying them somewhat now but I believe this gouache may be the next medium of choice! I love watercolor, oils the verdict is still out! Again ty ty ty ty for these very beautiful and well laid out demos! They help so very much. Stephie4_ever


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