Technique Tuesday: Gouache

What is it?

Happy Tuesday! This week we are talking about a type of paint that doesn’t often get a lot of attention– gouache! Pronounced “gwosh,” this type of paint is an opaque, water-soluble medium that has some of the qualities of both watercolor and oil, and in the case of acrylic gouache, even acrylic! The name is a French word derived from “gouazz,” which is an old Italian term meaning “mud.” Although it was not referred to as “gouache” until the 18th century, gouache paints originated long ago, as a derivative of watercolors. In order to make watercolors more opaque and therefore easier to layer and use as a highlight, they were mixed with an opaque white pigment.

Examples from art history:

Opaque watermedia is a very old medium, and can be seen in examples as early as 9th century Persian miniatures. (Later, Italian artists would attempt to achieve the same look by layering oil paints over tempera paints, giving it a matte (or “muddy”) finish.) In the 18th century, as it became more popular, French artists mainly used gouache to add highlights over their pastel work, but the use has expanded over time and many artists today paint entire artworks in gouache. It is a unique medium in that, though water-soluble like watercolors, it gives the artist an option to layer light colors over dark because of the matte opacity. An artist must use gouache very carefully to avoid a very flat and muddy effect, but those who have mastered the medium have created some incredible works with it! Modern gouache options now include acrylic gouache, which, because it is made with an acrylic-based binder, dries to a more water-resistant surface despite the water solubility of the wet medium. Let’s take a look at some examples of paintings either partially or fully created with gouache throughout history!

(left to right) Behzad, “Advice of the Ascetic”; Albrecht Durer, “Young Hare”; Thomas Moran, “Above Tower Falls, Yellowstone”; Fidelia Bridges, “Leaves”; Henri Matisse, “Black Leaf on Green Background”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

Gouache is not something we often get here at Principle Gallery, but just recently we’ve gotten a few pieces created with watermedia, including gouache! Here are a couple of examples from Mark Kelvin Horton, who recently sent us a great series of small landscapes on paper, in a variety of media. Here are two that use gouache!

Mark Kelvin Horton, “Winter Trees”

 

Mark Kelvin Horton, “Rural”

Ben Barker is another artist that we work with who enjoys the challenge of using gouache from time to time! Though all of the other artworks from Ben that we’ve shown so far have been in oil, here’s a very cool landscape of Rock Creek Park, painted in gouache!

Ben Barker, “Boulder Bridge”

We are always getting in new works from our widely varied roster of artists, so be sure you’re on our e-mailing list if you’d like to get a first-peek at new art when it arrives! To be added to the mailing list, just shoot us an email at info@principlegallery.com!

 

by Pamela Sommer

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Technique Tuesday: Watercolor

Technique Tuesday watercolor

What is it?

The topic of today’s post is a medium that many folks (and certainly anyone who had a childhood art class!) are familiar with: watercolor. One of the very oldest types of paint, watercolor consists of pigments suspended in a water-soluble solution. The brush is prepared with water, which thins the paint enough to spread on a surface, typically paper. The history of its use goes back very, very far (perhaps as far back as paleolithic Europe!) but–as with many things–it was not until the Renaissance that it became very popular and regularly used as an art medium. As time has gone by, both the quality of the paints themselves and the techniques have evolved, but the essence of the medium is a seemingly classic one that stands the test of time.

Examples from art history:

When watercolor first began to become more widely used after the Renaissance, it was still frequently reserved for sketches, copies, and botanical or wildlife illustration, rather than as a medium for a larger-sized, “finished” work due to its more delicate, transparent nature and the relative durability of the paint. In the 19th century, however, watercolors reached new heights of popularity and many notable artists began to experiment with the medium, with some beautiful results. For most of these artists, oil painting remained their primary and preferred medium, but many beautiful watercolors are found in their bodies of work as well, especially for subjects such as landscapes which were painted en plein air. In the 20th century, Andrew Wyeth and his grandson Jamie Wyeth (who favored drypoint watercolor, using very little water) were among several artists to give watercolor another boost in popularity, and it was during this time that artists began to experiment with the texture and application of the medium to the point that many modern watercolors are just as durable and colorful as oil and acrylic works.

AH WC Collage

(top row) Albrecht Durer, “Young Hare”; J. M. W. Turner, “Looking East from the Guidecca”; Jamie Wyeth, “The Raven Girl”; (bottom row) John Singer Sargent, “Karer See”; Paul Cezanne, “Medan Chateau and Village”; Vincent Van Gogh, “Fishing Boats on the Beach”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

Though the majority of the work that we show is oil painting, we have seen several lovely watercolor works come through the gallery over the years. One of the most notable examples in recent years was Iain Stewart, an artist originally from Scotland who now lives and works in the US. Iain first showed with us at last year’s incredibly successful Urban Aspect exhibition, and came back with a few stunning works for the Small Works show last December as well. Here’s a few examples of Iain’s watercolor art:

Stewart Collage

(left to right) Iain Stewart, “Oppede Le Vieux, Provence”; “Pitlochry, Scotland”; “Noon Cooking Fires- Akbiyik Cadessi, Istanbul”

If you’ve been following our blog or newsletter in recent months, you’ll have seen our announcement about the 10th Annual Juried Exhibition for the International Guild of Realism being held right here at Principle Gallery this August! As we are approaching the opening of the show, we’re getting more and more excited. This is a truly a fantastic show, with over 80 artists represented and 92 paintings and drawings included. Among these are some incredibly beautiful watercolor works: check it out!

IGOR WC Collage

(left) Marsha Chandler, “Good to the Core”; (middle) Rebecca Latham, “To the Nines”; (right) Rebecca Latham, “Evening Formal”

Keep an eye on our website, social media pages, and right here on the blog, as in the coming weeks we highlight other fantastic paintings from the upcoming exhibition, which has its opening reception Friday, August 28th!

Technique Tuesdays: the Art of the Self-Portrait

Technique Tuesday self portrait

What is it?

This week’s Technique Tuesday subject is not a new concept for anyone (particularly in today’s “selfie” filled world!). But not only is the self-portrait is an important exercise for an artist to undertake, it is also significant to view as well, and provides fascinating insight into an artist’s mind or mood. These artists, who spend so much time looking at, observing, and studying the world before them and then choose to focus on themselves as a subject often end up creating something quite remarkable.

Examples from art history:

It’s nearly impossible to tell how far back the history of self-portraiture goes; it’s probably one of those things that’s been around nearly as long as art itself–as human beings, we’re naturally fascinated by the body that we inhabit and the persona we develop day by day throughout our lifetime. As far as its popularity in fine art, though, we can trace the rise in popularity of self-portraiture back to the early Renaissance. For a long time, art featuring human figures was primarily created to tell a story, whether religious or mythological. As the Renaissance brought about a new group of wealthy patrons, interest rose in the concept of a single individual as a subject of a painting. Indeed, the depiction of one single person became a very popular subject for art. Many, many artists since the Renaissance have made a good portion of their income from painting portraits of others, but whether for practice, amusement, or expression, many artists have also delighted in dabbling in the art of painting or drawing themselves. Here are just a few of the fascinating examples of self-portraiture from art history:

AH Self Portrait Collage

From left to right, top then bottom row:

Rembrandt van Rijn, “Self-Portrait, Surprised”
Pablo Picasso, “Self-Portrait with Palette”
Zinaida Serebriakova, “Self-Portrait at the Dressing Table”
Albrecht Durer, “Portrait of the Artist Holding a Thistle”
Frida Kahlo, “Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird”
Katsushika Hokusai, “Self Portrait at Eighty-Three”
Vincent van Gogh, “Self-Portrait”
Adrian Piper, “Self-Portrait Exaggerating My Negroid Features”

Examples at Principle Gallery:

The BP Portrait Award, given annually at the National Portrait Gallery in London, is one of the most prestigious award competitions of its kind today. This year, a record-breaking 2,748 entries from artists in 92 countries were considered, and the finalists were honored in an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. We are so pleased to congratulate Principle Gallery artist Felicia Forte, whose work “Self-Portrait, Melting Point” was among these incredible finalist selections! Click here to check out all of our currently-available work by Felicia Forte.

felicia forte

A great many of the artists we work with at Principle Gallery have experimented with self-portraiture, and we have frequently been fortunate enough to exhibit these fascinating pieces! Here are just a few of the incredible self-portraits we’ve shown at the gallery in recent years, including one from Michael DeVore, which will be part of the upcoming International Guild of Realism 10th Annual Juried Exhibition, opening at Principle Gallery on August 28! Stay tuned for more details, and in the meantime check out our website for more amazing artwork by Mia, Teresa, and Terry.

PG Self Portrait Collage

from left to right: Mia Bergeron, “Harborer”; Michael DeVore, “Self Portrait in Black Cap”; Teresa Oaxaca, “White Collar 2”; Terry Strickland, “Self-Portrait with Beard”

 

Technique Tuesdays: Charcoal

Technique Tuesday CharcoalWelcome back to Technique Tuesday! Today we’ll be looking at a fantastic substance that has been used to make art for thousands of years: charcoal!

What is it?

In the most basic sense, charcoal is the remnants of burnt wood. It’s likely that it didn’t take long after man discovered fire for man to also discover the bold mark-making ability of the remnants of that fire. Charcoal as an artistic medium has come a long way, and artist’s charcoal today is a more deliberately crafted mix of powdered materials, often held together with a kind of gum or wax binding agent. Art charcoal comes in many forms, including hardened blocks or sticks, “vine charcoal” which is a softer form for sketching, as well as powders, crayons, and pencils. Charcoal is a fantastic and expressive dry medium that can be applied to a variety of surfaces, and is easy to smudge, blend, and lighten for a dramatic range of values.

Examples in art history:

Charcoal is arguably one of the oldest mediums for the creation of two-dimensional art. Cave paintings have been discovered all over the globe that show how charcoal has been used in art for well over fifteen thousand years.

Prehistoric Collage

Some prehistoric charcoal images found in caves in France

Unfortunately, the same properties that make charcoal so excellent for expressive sketching and drawing also make it a substance without a lot of staying power, and one that easily flakes off of paper or canvas. Artists used charcoal for many centuries to help them plan compositions, but it was always considered an ephemeral medium, and few of those works on paper survive today. In the late 1400’s, a method was finally discovered that helped “fix” the charcoal to the paper more permanently. This early process of fixing charcoal drawings involved dipping the drawings in a bath of gum. A short time later, Albrecht Durer began to really popularize charcoal as a primary medium rather than just a means of preliminary sketching, and by the 20th century more and more artists were exploring the medium. Thankfully, fixatives have come a long way since the gum baths, and today artists can choose from a variety of advanced spray fixatives to preserve their artwork.

Collage 2

(left) Michelangelo, “Study of a Man Shouting” c.1523-34; (middle) Albrecht Durer, “Knight, Death, and the Devil” 1514; (right) Pablo Picasso, “Marie-Therese, Face and Profile” 1931

Examples in Principle Gallery:

We thought it was an especially great time to take a look at charcoal art, since among the newest work to come in the gallery are some fantastic charcoal drawings! Many of the painters represented at the gallery enjoy working with charcoal for sketching purposes as well as a primary medium, and Casey Childs and Susan O’Neill are two who are certainly talented at using it. Seen below are just some of the drawings from Casey’s “Influtential Figures” series, and trust me–they’re even more incredible in person (click here to check them all out on our website)!

Childs Collage

(left) “Abraham Lincoln”; (middle) “Mark Twain”; (right) “Walt Disney” -drawings by Casey Childs

Also new to the gallery are some incredible and expressive figure studies by local Alexandria artist Susan O’Neill. Deeply inspired by the human figure, Susan enjoys crafting spontaneous and energetic images with charcoal. Here are just two examples of her latest group of fantastic drawings (click here to see them all!):

O'neill Collage

(left) “Lissome”; (right) “Lithe” -drawings by Susan O’Neill

Be sure to check out our website (www.principlegallery.com) and sign up for our mailing list to receive newsletters featuring other incredible new works like these!