Art Gouache Portrait

A Beauty and a Gloomy Gouache

Olivia McRae in gouache, 10×8 inches

I had so much fun with the painting above and was really happy how it turned out. I’m (slowly) working my way through the Sktchy “30 Faces in 30 Days” gouache and watercolor class, though at the rate I’m going it’s probably going to take me 300 days, not 30 to finish it.

For the painting above, I followed along with Cecile Yadro’s demo. Her style felt very congruent to the way I like to work. You can see the reference photo for this painting on Sktchy here and download Cecile’s free gouache ebook here.

Although it wasn’t mentioned in her lesson, I was especially happy about how I was able to maintain the (high key) value structure while varying the colors and color temperatures within her face, something that clicked for me for the first time.

On the other hand, the next lesson was by Russian artist Nicolai Gánichev and his approach, techniques and final painting didn’t appeal to me at all (see his painting below).

Painting by Nicolai Gánichev 
Photo Reference from lesson

There seems to be a trend in contemporary art of destructing portraits, smearing paint across the subjects face or wiping off their eyes or mouth. Are the artists just bored with their facility in making portraits and have to show their contempt for skill or for the subject? I don’t get it. Also, the reference photo seemed dark and gloomy to me. I tried it anyway.

My sketch
First painting attempt, ugly and gloomy

I sketched her on Xerox paper and then transferred the drawing to watercolor paper. I tried following along with Nicolai but disliked his process so went off on my own. I ended up hating my first painting (above) so I transferred the drawing again, lightened the photo and discovered she actually might have red hair. I wasn’t having fun so I gave up after the second attempt below and moved on.

My final, still unpleasant, attempt at painting her

Art Gouache Portrait Sktchy Sktchy

Trying Gouache Again

Gouache portrait, 10×8 inches on Arches CP Watercolor paper

I’ve studied gouache before as in this post with color charts and several other times over the years. This month I’ve been participating in the “Sktchy 30 Faces in 30 Days – Gouache and Watercolor” challenge with a different artist demonstrating their way of painting a portrait in either watercolor or gouache each day.

The first gouache demo was presented by Jordan M. Rhodes (@jmr_art on Instagram) who I’ve been following on IG for a long time. I tried to paint along with him but kept on struggling. I ended up taking much longer, painting multiple layers until I was able complete it with some degree of satisfaction. And of course it took me several hours just to get the drawing right-ish first.

My preliminary drawing
Reference photo

I had hoped that doing this 30 day challenge would force me to work faster, but nope. It wasn’t until I got to the next gouache class that I picked up the insights that have given me much more confidence and better skills, which I’ll write about when I share the next portrait.

Art Faces Gouache Painting People Portrait Sktchy

Back to Sktchy, a Gouache Portrait

Portrait of Dennis J. from Sktchy, Gouache, 12x9 inches
Portrait of Dennis J. from Sktchy, Gouache, 12×9 inches

I’m returning to using Sktchy for my reference photos of people for portrait practice since there is such a wide range to choose from. I’m not abandoning my series of “people Facebook thinks I should know,” but those are less useful for portrait practice, which I’m wanting to do right now.

Can you tell those splotches on his face are light coming in from a window through maybe lace curtains? I can’t post the original Sktchy reference photo off that site, but you can see it by clicking or swiping on my Sktchy painting on Sktchy here if you’re interested.

One thing I love about gouache is that it limits me to working on a painting for only one or two sessions. Unlike oils that can go on being repainted forever, gouache fairly quickly says, “Sorry, no more paint, no more layers, you’re done.” It teaches me to get the drawing down, go for the values and then lay down brush strokes of color and let them be.

Art facebook people Faces Gouache People Portrait

Cute Grandma and Baby: People Facebook Thinks I Should Know #5

Cute Grandma and Baby: People Facebook Says I Should Know #5.” Gouache, 6.5 x 6.5 inches
Cute Grandma and Baby: People Facebook Says I Should Know #5.” Gouache, 6.5 x 6.5 inches

Unlike with oil paints, there’s a point with gouache where it just gets nasty if you try to add one more layer or brush stroke. The positive side to that is that it encourages me to try to get the color and value right as quickly as possible; to put a stroke down and leave it, not thinking “close enough, I’ll fix it later” like I tend to do in oils (a lazy, bad habit).

On this painting I passed the point of no return on the woman’s face and have to admit I did a wee bit of softening/smudging in Procreate before I posted this to fix the lumps too many layers of paint made on her nose. Even so I didn’t do justice to how cute both she and the baby actually are in their photo.

facebook people Gouache People Portrait

Guy with Giant Chicken: People Facebook Thinks I Should Know #4

Guy with Giant Chicken: People Who Facebook Says I Should Know #4.” Gouache, 8x8 inches.
Guy with Giant Chicken: People Who Facebook Says I Should Know #4.” Gouache, 8×8 inches.

Another mystery photo! Is he an artist who builds giant chicken statues or perhaps a chicken rancher with his trademark chicken? 

I noticed that when I paint with gouache on cold press watercolor paper I end up with little white spots in dark areas so this time I tried a different gouache technique. I covered the whole sketch first with thin washes. It wasn’t that helpful. I learned that for that to work it’s necessary to get the values right in the underpainting, making darks really dark.

Below is the sketch and in progress photos.

Giant chicken guy sketch with first thinned gouache underpainting
Sketch with first thinned gouache underpainting
Giant chicken guy sketch with finished thinned gouache underpainting
Finished thinned gouache underpainting