This was my first time to use gouache (pronounced gwash) paints, and I really enjoyed them. It took me a while to figure out that even though gouache is water based, it's not like watercolor. Really, it's opposite. I'm used to working from light to dark and reserving the white of the paper with watercolor, but with gouache, you work from dark to light.
What is gouache?
Gouache is an opaque watercolor. Its ratio of pigment to water is much higher than that found in transparent watercolors. Additionally, a white substance, such as chalk, is added to the mix. The chalk gives the gouache its opaque properties. Gouache has been around for a long time, really going all the way back to the primitive cave paintings. Click here for more information on the history of gouache.
Painting 214. Great Horned Owl in Gouache
The painting started as a watercolor, then I used gouache to slowly build up the feathers. After I finished the owl, I used watercolor to complete the background.
If you're a little stressed and want to spend some time relaxing, try painting with gouache. It's very forgiving, and it's fun to experiment and reverse the painting process traditionally used for transparent watercolors. I found that even after the gouache dried, it was still "active," meaning that if water touched any of the dried paint, it immediately re-wetted and could be lifted or blended (it could also quickly turn to muddy mess just like watercolor). Here's the process in reverse:
Stage 2. I continued with watercolor. Basically, before I started with the gouache, I had a completed watercolor. (I forgot to scan that version!). I used hard-pressed paper for this experiment. I usually use cold-pressed paper, but I read gouache works best on slick, hot-pressed paper. I enjoyed using it...the paintbrush easily slid across the surface. You can see here I'm "reserving the white" because it's still a traditional watercolor painting.
Stage 1. Great Horned Owl in black watercolor on hard-pressed paper. I painted the eyes yellow and worked on the shading of the eyes. If I couldn't get them to look right, the painting would have been a waste. When i was happy with the eyes, I just laid in the darkest darks. It's always fun to see a watercolor at this stage too.
Pencil sketch of the Great Horned Owl
You know me and pencil sketches! I love to draw and start most of my watercolors with a practice pencil sketch. I usually work out the problems in the sketch before even thinking about a watercolor. I didn't put a lot of time into this pencil sketch--just enough to see if I could capture those amazing owl eyes. They were fun to do, so I decided to turn it into a painting...
Great Horned Owl Coloring Book Page or Practice Drawing Pattern
I created this coloring book image for my cousin's daughter, Anna. She has become a very good birder and loves to draw the birds she sees on Red and the Peanut. She wondered if I could do a coloring book page for her, so here it is! My two nieces in Germany, Sarah and Alyssa, are artists too, and they will like coloring book pages or practice patterns too. Anyone can use this pattern to practice painting and coloring a Great Horned Owl. Just click on it, save it, and print it out. Have fun painting your own owl!
This owl's name is Sylvester. He is also one of RAPTOR, Inc.'s birds. For Sylvester's story, click here.