Ser Loras Tyrell (More experiments: acrylic gouache)

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The Knight of Flowers.
Turner acrylic gouache on Etival cold-pressed paper, 20×30 cm. 

This piece was done for a scholarly work titled “The Heroic and Chivalric Codes of Westeros”, by Dr. Carol Jamison.

It’s also another media experiment. This time, I gave acrylic gouache a go. It’s something that a lot of people have never heard about (and that a lot of stores don’t stock), but it’s actually really, really cool as it combines several features that I like about both watercolours, and acrylics, and gouache.

  • When applied thinly and with much water, it looks like watercolour.
  • It dries to be water-resistant, so it allows glazing (unlike gouache). That also means it dries on your palette, so you need to work with porcelain palettes rather than plastic. Fortunately, a little drop of paint goes a long way, so it’s not much of a waste.
  • In thicker layers, it becomes opaque, but you have a lot of control over how opaque you want it.
  • Even in thicker layers, you don’t get the flaky stuff you tend to get with gouache, unless you want to get very, very thick.
  • When dry, the pant looks matte, like gouache, but unlike acrylics (which is why I don’t like thin acrylics – just don’t like it shiny).

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Left: I did a lot of detail and shadows first (unlike with watercolour, where you’d do those last) and then glazed over the detailing with thinly diluted colour washes; the detailing remains intact.

 

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Roast rabbit – and an art revelation

I had a clear “where have you been all my life” moment yesterday. After using gouache quite satisfactorily on Gil-galad, not just for highlights but also for some rendering, I decided it was time for another stab at gouache.

Gouache is often described as opaque watercolour (and indeed, many languages use no separate word for it), and can either be applied thickly and even paste-like, much like oils, or in thinner washes, much like watercolour. I’d often thought about trying around with the former, mainly because I’d been using only the most transparent of watercolours in recent years and felt that going opaque was just the opposite of what I wanted. One and a half years ago, roughly, I bought a book on painting animals in gouache, and faithfully copied the examples. It worked, but I didn’t like it. My gouache tubes went to the bottom of my art cupboard again.

I’d been thinking about the medium again and wanted to take another shot at it, when I looked at some paintings in my “inspiration” folder whose technique had always baffled me and it hit me: They weren’t watercolours. They were thinly glazed gouache paintings.

Gouache has a pastelly, fuzzy quality to it that I’d never really given much thought.

I immediately decided to try that. My mother had asked for a picture of Sam Gamgee roasting a rabbit, and it looked like just the thing to try in gouache.

I painted very much the way I always do, except that I mixed in white instead of relying on the white of the paper. The white gouache made for a fuzziness that just turned blending colours into an absolute dream. The greenery in the background also just fell onto the paper effortlessly. The only thing I’ll do differently next time is that, instead of a thin blue shadow map, I’ll do a bolder, more neutral shadow line the last time, and drop in the blues later, while it’s still wet.

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I recorded the painting process and uploaded it as a timelapse here.

The original painting is available in my Etsy shop!

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Gil-galad was an Elvenking

 

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Gil-galad was an Elvenking,
Of him the harpers sadly sing:
The last whose realm was fair and free
Between the mountains and the Sea.

Painted with watercolour and gouache on 20×40 cm Etival cold-pressed paper.

Video is on my Patreon.

Prints available!

Framed <3

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Testing New Schmincke Horadam paints!

I’m now an official playtester for Schmincke Horadam. ;)

I confess I’d been unfaithful to Schmincke for a while. Most of that had nothing to do with the quality of the paint, which I always felt was one of the best watercolours in the world, but more with my desire to try out exotic stuff. Most of what I’ve been painting with in recent years has come from faraway, exotic, never-seen places like Korea, the Netherlands, or the US. As you know, I’ve been a great fan of Daniel Smith for years, though the tubes were ridiculously expensive for me. But the quinacridone and granulating paints were just too good to miss.

Now Schmincke has put in a great deal of work to reclaim those wayward and faithless European artists that have strayed away from the flock – and my word, they’ve released a new line of fantastic new colours!

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I’ve been talking to Claudia Möller, who works for Schmincke and has been developing these, and I learnt a lot of things I hadn’t known – for example, that granulation was usually considered a mark of low-quality paint, which was why Schmincke didn’t have any granulating paint in its lineup – until it became cool. Now they’ve introduced a few wonderfully granulating colours. Some of my favourite ones are French Ultramarine (which granulates more strongly than Daniel Smith’s), Potter’s Pink ❤ and Green Umber.

The granulating paint seems to mix better (read: with stronger granulation) with non-granulating colour than the ones I’ve used before. See the top left blotches, where I mixed French Ultramarine with Transparent Sienna and Transparent Ochre.

Schmincke has also introduced Quinacridone tones, which I hadn’t known before discovering them with DS. They’re so wonderfully bright and transparent!

Top right there’s Geranium Red, which is the brightest red I’ve ever seen. I kept squinting at the paper because I thought it was still wet – it was so shiny even when dry! It’s even nicer than my dragon’s blood. So, my next battle piece will definitely have Geranium. XD

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One of the new colours is the eye-watering Brilliant Opera Rose. The photo below doesn’t do it justice; the first photo, above, only half-captures just how bright it is. It retains that brightness when you mix it, resulting in bright candy colours. Unfortunately, it completely defeats my scanner, and even Photoshop. It’s definitely a colour that works best live.

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Claudia also sent me a small spray bottle of granulation medium. It’s similar to Schmincke’s effect spray, but leaves no alcohol stains. The effect isn’t quite like granulating paint, but rather reminds me of Ishihara test plates for colour blindness. ;) It tends to leak into adjacent areas of the painting, so it’s best left alone in detailed stuff – though it can be dropped rather than sprayed, which is easier to control.

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I’ll be having a lot of fun with these!

Small Goddesses

(Anyone who caught the Pratchett reference, have a cookie!)

I’m in an exciting phase with my art. I’ve felt a latent unhappiness with aspects of it for several years, and this SmArt School class is such an amazing ride. I’m shaping up my stuff for submission to galleries, I’m learning loads, I’m trying out new things, I’m having my butt kicked by truly remarkable people.

These are small, coaster-sized pieces done using very close reference for the basic figure work and facial structures, but then deviating from them for almost everything else.

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Freya, with a peregrine falcon. Watercolour and gouache on Clairefontaine Nuageux paper, 13 cm.

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Tears of Isis. Watercolour, gouache and lavish gold leaf on Clairefontaine Nuageux paper, 13 cm.

These little beauties are available from my Etsy shop, readily framed and matted!

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The end of a realm, of a world, of a dream

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“Jenny bowed her head again. For a moment, the rough clang of blade on blade filled her ears. She remembered that noise, and the cry of the dying, atop a high hill beneath a scorching sun. Black armor and a bloody blade. And the battle. Such a battle, one worthy of the world’s ending. And hadn’t it been? The end of a realm, of a world, of a dream…”

Watercolour and gel pen on Fabriano paper, 28×38 cm.

The battle of Camlann – the calm before the storm. From an upcoming novel by Paul Leone, merging a Victorian vampire tale with Arthurian legend.

Prints here!

It’s been a crazy summer, with a lot of unforeseen stuff that ate up my summer holidays completely. This is the only full painting I got done during that time, which is slightly frustrating, but it’s also another bit of proof for my conviction that breaks in your art transform you. Months ago, I resolved to try a softer approach to colouring than the one I had developed over the last four years (not fully intentionally either). I tried it, but it didn’t work – I just slipped back into old habits. Now, after three months with virtually no painting, it was incredibly easy to incorporate new habits. So – the break was a good thing in the end.

The Lady of Heron Lake

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Watercolour and gouache, 37×22 cm. Original sold. Prints available here.

Another piece done in the vein of the “Dark Wings Downstream” painting – for years, I’ve had loads of cool visual ideas and never did anything with them because there wasn’t a story to them. But I’m coming to the conclusion that they can be just as rewarding.

I love herons. Behind our village, there are several miles of fields where you can see them all winter – along with storks – standing there regally and demanding to be drawn. I bet the rabbits sharing the same fields will be jealous now, and demand their painting next. I might. But they’ll have to put up with a dragon for company.