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.

Guy with Big Fish: People Facebook Thinks I Should Know #6

Guy with Big Fish: People Facebook Thinks I Should Know #6” Gouache, 8x8 inches
“Guy with Big Fish: People Facebook Thinks I Should Know #6” Gouache, 8×8 inches

Now this was fun to paint and everything actually went pretty well. I’m starting to make friends with gouache and enjoying recollecting and putting to use some old watercolor skills.

I left off his fishing pole and some other fishing tools because I wanted to focus on the fish. I LOVED painting this fish and I’m thinking about buying some fish to paint. I’ve painted fish before, but only when standing at the fish counter at the local Ranch Market 99 and sketching these.

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.

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

Albany Bulb Tree, Gouache Plein Air

Plein air gouache on watercolor paper after adjusting in studio, 9x12 inches
Plein air gouache on watercolor paper after adjusting in studio, 9×12 inches

I had an awesome first day painting plein air in five years, inspired by a guy I saw painting the same tree the day before when I was on a hike at Albany Bulb (see last photo below).

My too dark painting in the sun and my subject tree
My too dark painting in the sun and my subject tree

Despite typical glitches there was some bonus fun, like the caricature sketch below of me, my tree and my dog, drawn by a funny, toothless guy from London who hung out nearby while I painted for a while. Then a dance troupe showed up to practice, led by a woman who annoyingly ended every sentence with a question mark. They were there to plan their performance for an upcoming festival at Albany Bulb (a former dump and now a rustic park by the SF Bay.)

Caricature of me, my dog and my tree by guy at park.
Caricature of me, my dog and my tree by guy at park.

Some of the glitches:

  • carrying a way too heavy backpack with easel and supplies when I could have just brought a stool and painted on my lap (a wheeled cart wouldn’t have worked to hike in a mile on rutted trails);
  • finding my palette a total mess because all the wet paint I added before leaving leaked into the others;
  • painting in the sun instead of putting up the umbrella I CARRIED with me so the initial painting came out way too dark due to my eyes reacting to the bright light.
he painter I saw in the same spot the day before, with tree from the other side.
The painter I saw in the same spot the day before, with tree from the other side.

Tattooed Guy on Painted Bull: People Facebook Thinks I Should Know #3

Facebook "People You May Know #3", gouache, 10x8 inches
Facebook “People You May Know #3”, gouache, 10×8 inches

When I posted this painting on Instagram I mentioned that I’d love to know the story behind this picture of a burly guy riding a painted bull in a parking lot in a desert somewhere who Facebook in its wisdom recommends I get to know.

Shortly afterwards someone I know recognized him and told me that this lovely gentleman was her former sergeant and that he is a much loved retired law enforcement officer. Below is my pencil sketch before I painted it.

Pencil sketch before painting with gouache
Pencil sketch before painting with gouache

Semi-Fail Flower Sketch

Stolen Vine, Gouache on watercolor paper, 11x8.5 inches
Stolen Vine, Gouache on watercolor paper, 11×8.5 inches

I painted this sketch from life in gouache from a piece of a vine I ripped off a neighbor’s fence (they’ve moved and the house is being sold so nobody cares). I started with the flowers, which was a good thing because they shriveled quickly.

I don’t know why I feel compelled to post things that weren’t successful but I guess I appreciate seeing other people’s fails, so why not. I was happy with my drawing but just couldn’t get the gouache to work the way I wanted and the pitcher got really muddy and icky colored. At least I got the drawing pretty close to reality. Below is a photo of the setup.

Photo of the setup
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