(Warning–Big long post about painting ahead!)
For the past few days, I’ve been working out the wording for a want ad. It goes something like this:
Freelance artist seeking part-time style for a permanent position. Style must have experience with a variety of media (pencil, pen, watercolor, gouache) and be willing to work 4-12 hours per week. Pay dependant upon experience. If interested, please submit resume, references, and portfolio to Paula Gibbs at blah blah blah.
Perhaps it’s not quite that bad, but I’ve been having some problems with consistency lately. As I begin each new piece, I think, This is it! This painting/drawing will finally coalesce everything I’ve done so far into one really awesome style that I can use consistently from here on out! And then the book illustration deals will start pouring in! (*cough*)
I manage to sustain this enthusiasm until I put some paint or ink on the paper and it doesn’t do exactly what I want. And from there on out it’s more about trying to fix what I’ve already done than creating something new with each stroke. The thought process then becomes something like, Wait, did I say I’d finish this by Tuesday? Oh yes, I did. Phooey–I guess there’s not enough time to scrap the whole thing and start over. But maybe if I just make the corner a little brighter and fix the face…And where on earth did that big streak come from? Aaaargh!
Obviously, this leaves a lot to be desired.
Since I think that some (= a lot?) of my frustration comes from technical issues, I decided to do a little experiment last weekend with ink + gouache. I think I’ve talked about gouache before, but in case you’re not familiar with it, it’s basically an opaque form of watercolor. I like watercolor too but am more attracted by the creamy color and matte finish of properly-applied goauche.
One of the goals of the experiment was to find a way to successfully combine ink and gouache, since I’ve been doing a lot of ink doodles lately and want to find a nice way to put some color into them. So I took the same still life made from some of my little beach treasures and did two versions, one with the ink on top of the gouache and the other with the ink underneath. This tested my patience a bit since I never paint the same piece twice, but in the end the results were worth it because I discovered that…
…I don’t really like either of them!
I’ve heard a number of scientists describe how the process of discovering that every answer is wrong is actually quite productive. While I’m sure this is true, I have a lot of sympathy for the poor grad student who had to run the same tests over and over again without good results. (Hear that, Tim?)
Okay, this wasn’t a total flop–there are things about both paintings that are kinda fun. The colors don’t look that great in the scans, but the paint in the image above looks about like I wanted it to. It looked good enough that I had this long moment of hesitation when I brought out the ink pen and hovered the nib over the paper, waiting to make the first stroke. Don’t mess this up, I thought.
And then I made a line, and it looked really funny. Somehow I always forget that ink pens really don’t like drawing on top of gouache–the tips get clogged, big blobs come out, it’s impossible to get a thin line…I think I’ve made this “discovery” about three times now, so I guess I need to write it down on my pen case or something.
Ink over gouache = technical failure.
The second piece is more painterly and three-dimensional (although a real 3-D representation wasn’t what I was going for), but I had a lot of trouble figuring out the ink vs. paint ratio. Should I do a complicated ink drawing with a light wash on top? Or just a few lines with more paint?
In the end I settled for about a 30/70 mix and then found that the gouache significantly greys out or covers the nice black lines of the ink, so it doesn’t really matter. Oh yah, that’s why people usually use watercolor on top of ink. Duh.
Gouache over ink = technical failure.
I’m out of time (thanks for reading this gigantic post!), but I don’t want to end on a down note. In the end, it really is nice to know that two options really are knocked off the list so I can move on to others. I have a goal of finishing four beach-themed paintings in the next two weeks and plan to keep trying until I find something that works…though at the moment, I think that ink + watercolor or just gouache are my best options, rather than ink + gouache.
I almost titled this post “Dear Lauren” since I’m hoping that she might have some helpful tips, but if anyone else wants to chime in about technique I am definitely interested to hear what you have to say. :)