Art theory Faces Gouache Painting People Portrait

Girl in Gouache

Girl in gouache

Gouache on hot press watercolor paper, 7×10″
Click here to see large (then click again)

I painted this from a photo I took of a little girl at my niece’s high school graduation. I’m learning a lot from working with gouache–it’s a great way to experiment with seeing values and color temperature which is so important, especially for working with oil paint. I’m also learning that while you can repaint layers with gouache you do eventually get unpleasant paint build-up and it becomes more difficult to blend, as layers beneath get reactivated (unlike acrylics).

One note for anyone who’s interested in working with gouache: Many of the colors are not at all permanent since many artists who use gouache are painting for publication and the work only needs to look good until it’s photographed. When shopping for gouache, make sure the tube of paint has an A or AA permanence rating. Anything below that (B or C) and the paint may fade or change color rapidly (just in case you paint a “keeper”).

18 replies on “Girl in Gouache”

I’m glad you posted this – I keep thinking gouache is the thing, but I know little about it. The French carnets de voyage painters seem to use it a lot. And I LOVE Maira Kalman – what confidence she has! and how subtle her thought-transitions. Her writing is a lot like Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn – do you know it?


This is absolutely gorgeous, Jana! You make me want to try gouache, but I’m not sure I could this with it. Sorry to hear about your back problems, I really sympathize with you – after 2 weeks of traveling my back is actually better – sitting at a computer screen is lethal.


Jana you amaze me how you can go from your quick, fun sketches to painting beautiful florals and portraits. I use gouache all the time for lettering but have never tried painting with it. Hmmm now you got me thinking again.


Wow. You’re a natural with gouache! I just love this painting.

I find it interesting how your experience with a variety of other mediums has helped you get the hang of gouache. I’ve always loved the look, but it seems hard. I knew a painter who carried only a small travel box of gouache on her travels around Europe and did amazing sketchbook work.


Jana, the papaya is fantastic and I love the portrait as well. I think that gouache might just be your medium to shine with!
I love it but haven’t used it lately. I like it because it mixes like oil to me, but with a more hurried approach. I like to travel with it. It dries quicker than watercolor… you’ve inspired me to break out the goaches. I found a whole box full in the trash at Disney.


your work is gorgeous! i have a gouache question for you…is there a way to “seal” a gouache painting to make sure it won’t smudge or bleed? i spilled wash onto a finished painting and it was a total mess. any ideas?


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