Saturday, February 11, 2012

Painting a Great Horned Owl...and experimenting with gouache...

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!

Great Horned Owl drawing pattern or coloring book page for anyone who wants to use it...

This owl's name is Sylvester. He is also one of RAPTOR, Inc.'s birds. For Sylvester's story, click here.


30 comments:

Sue said...

Beautiful. And I may have to try gouache. I'm having a dickens of a time with watercolors, because my mind can't seem to grasp going from light to dark. My brain seems to think dark to light. This may be just the thing for me-thanks!

Elaine said...

He's gorgeous! You captured the feather patterns beautifully. I love how you are experimenting with so many different techniques. The challenge has really helped you step out of your comfort zone and you've created some wonderful paintings.

Roy said...

These are excellent representations Kelly.
You had me fooled to start with, I thought the first one was a photograph.

Dan Huber said...

Kelly, this is truly wonderful. You captured such detail and depth. Thanks so much for sharing your talent. This makes me want to get some gouache paints to try my hand as I have been afraid of paints

Tammy@Simple Southern Happiness said...

If this kind of artistic talent runs in the family then they will be gifted like you are. Breathtaking in every way.

Owls are my favorite, in the summer there is one outside the bedroom window. I am so excited when I hear its call my eyelids curl backwards from grinning so big. I creep to the window to open it so I can listen.

eileeninmd said...

Gorgeous painting! I love owls. And you captured the Great Horned beautifully. Have a great weekend!

Caitlin said...

Your paintings and drawings are beautiful. Experimenting with different mediums is a lot of fun :)
Keep it up!

TexWisGirl said...

that painting is just beautiful! you're able to get his feathers so life-like with this type of paint! wow!!!

Randy Emmitt said...

Kelly,
Maybe I'm more taken in with owls, not sure. But these are the best I have seen you do, grads!!!

holdingmoments said...

You've got amazing feather detail in this Kelly. Excellent.

Montanagirl said...

Excellent - superb! I like how you're willing to experiment with different methods. I had never heard of "gouache". Very nice work, Kelly!!

Carole M. said...

how totally wonderful to share that artistic gene within your close family. I admire your art-work so much; it was nice to see the various styles here

E said...

Well done, Kelly, great art and story, love the owls. Wonderful pics from the last Fall.
very interesting tales. Hugs to all.

Log Cabin Studio said...

Awesome Kelly...wonderful detail.
Caroline

Jenny wren's nest said...

I have been having trouble getting back in to paining, and sometimes it helps to get out a coloring book and just play with highlights and shadows, just to get it into my head. I am so excited and honored to get to use one of your drawings to practice. I was just about to put away my paints, but now I have something fun to do.

Chris said...

Wow simply gorgeous Kelly. I don't know what to say more,.. the results is sumptuous

Gillian Olson said...

Wonderful painting, the eyes are amazing. Thanks for sharing the information on painting with gouache.

Shellie L said...

You have more talent in the wrinkle of your pinky that most have in their entire being!

Susan W. said...

I'd kill for just a tiny fraction of your talent, Kelly! They are all absolutely stunning!

the cuby poet said...

I am totally hopeless with paint but really enjoyed this development through this picture. I'll keep to pi.ctures in words and enjoy your work too

Kerri said...

Once again you've blown me away with your talent!! FANTASTIC!

Timaree said...

He came out super! The gouache gives him a very substantial look. So far this medium has done great for you.

Toni Kelly said...

Excellent! I often use watercolors and gouache together. Especially white gouache with watercolor to get some finer feather detail.

Guy said...

Wow Kelly

Your painting just get more beautiful. Thank you for providing such a great explanation of the process. Maybe I may have to try an owl.

Regards
Guy

NCmountainwoman said...

I loved this post! Given that I have absolutely no artistic talent I am even more in awe of talent like yours.

Tammie Lee said...

wow, love seeing all the stages and hearing your experience with the paint. Your top painting looks SO alive, wonderful!!!

Kelly said...

...thanks, everyone! I really had fun bringing this guy to life. I need to do more with gouache to really figure out how to use it. It makes me want to try oil painting. Last time I painted with oil was in 1978 in high school!!

Mary said...

This is fantastic! You get better and better all the time! I expect to see your paintings in a book some day!

Juan Pablo Prieto said...

Very very beautiful, i like this post, thanks for show this pictures

dAwN said...

I just want to say WOW!