Gouache Paintings

One thing that all students of art need to understand is that most distinctions are not easily defined. For example, watercolour seems like it would be easy to separate from other types of painting but then you have mediums like gouache that work similar to watercolour even as it used different ingredients. Gouache can even be referred to using the term “opaque watercolour.” The difference between watercolour and gouache is the use of an additional binding agent. Watercolour paint is created by mixing water and pigment, while gouache adds in an additional binding ingredient.

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Gouache Paintings

One thing that all students of art need to understand is that most distinctions are not easily defined. For example, watercolour seems like it would be easy to separate from other types of painting but then you have mediums like gouache that work similar to watercolour even as it used different ingredients. Gouache can even be referred to using the term “opaque watercolour.” The difference between watercolour and gouache is the use of an additional binding agent. Watercolour paint is created by mixing water and pigment, while gouache adds in an additional binding ingredient. This creates a type of paint that isn’t as clear and watery as watercolour, but of course, if more water is added to gouache it looks more and more like watercolour.


The Evolution of Gouache

Watercolour is one of the oldest forms of painting because water is the most abundant binder, but it has drawbacks. So it was natural that paintmakers would start mixing in other ingredients with the water and pigment. Different ingredients were tried, but we know as gouache came about when gum arabic was introduced into the mix. This ingredient is made from hardened sap that has been extracted from any number of acacia tree varieties. The name comes from the fact that the trees were historically found in areas known traditionally as Arabia. Now, most gum arabic comes from Sudan, taken from trees that have been allowed to grow in the wild rather than produced in orchards. Given the difficulty of harvesting gum arabic the most common ingredient would eventually become dextrin, an ingredient that could be synthesised in large amounts.


Artists Known for Their Gouache Paintings

An early proponent of the medium was Albrecht Durer, who used gouache to do studies. Stepan Fedorovitch was a painter who was born in the Russian empire and would live through the rise of the Soviet Union. His realistic paintings give us a detailed glimpse into the lives of Russian peasants during this dramatic phase of human history. On the other end of the spectrum is Ralph McQuarrie. His a name that is well known even outside of the fine art world. He was the concept artist who was hired by George Lucas to create the look of the world of Star Wars. His paintings defined the look of Darth Vader, the Storm Troopers, and the X-Wings. It’s safe to say that the look and feel of modern sci-fi would not be what it is without the work of Mr McQuarrie.

Some Famous Gouache Paintings

As Henri Matisse dove deeper and deeper into abstraction, he combined gouache and collage to create a variety of striking works. His most famous from this period is probably “Blue Nude II,” which he created in 1952. German artist Albrecht Durer’s 1502 piece titled “Young Hare” is another gouache masterpiece that has stood the test of time.


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