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!


by Pamela Sommer


Technique Tuesdays: Painting in Miniature

Technique Tuesday MINIATURE

What is it?

Painting in miniature is more than just painting a small work. The word “miniature” originally came from a Latin term for the red pigment that was used in the creation of illuminated manuscripts. Because the decoration and illustration in these old (and even ancient) manuscripts was necessarily small, techniques for creating them influenced the later creation of small, extremely detailed artworks outside of manuscripts, and the name “miniature” stuck with these as well. The truth is, miniature paintings come in a variety of sizes–it’s really more about the precision, detail, quality of brushwork, and smoothness. No matter what size, a miniature work will be painted on a very smooth surface, with a very fine brush, and a great amount of time and attention will be paid to each small detail. A miniature work is, as we think of them, typically small, but the diminished size will never sacrifice the details of what is being portrayed in the piece.

Examples from art history:

Very small, detailed paintings can be found as far back as Egyptian manuscripts on papyrus scrolls. The tradition of written works being created accompanied by a variety of decorations, borders, and illustrations is one that continued for many centuries across many cultures. In the Persian tradition, these miniature works are especially unique. As portrayal of the human figure was not condoned in mainstream Islamic art, Persian miniatures were able to circumvent this rule due to the personal, private nature of these small pieces, which were kept in a small album and seen only by their owner. In India, as well as Europe, very small paintings were initially created as part of religious texts, to decorate and illustrate the passages being written–this was particularly useful in a time when many people still could not read. The clarity and detail of these works was therefore as useful practically as it was aesthetically pleasing.


(left to right) page from an Egyptian manuscript, Indian miniature maharaja painting, Persian miniature painting, a page from the Book of Kells, and a page from a European illuminated manuscript

As time went on, people began to cut the pictures from illuminated manuscripts, and this inspired the development of independent small paintings created in their own right. The Flemish excelled at painting in miniature and had developed a signature style featuring an exquisite smoothness in the brushwork. Here’s an example of an early Flemish miniature:

“The Future Emperor Charles V Enters Bruges”

This style was largely influential in the later trend of miniature portrait painting. Miniature portraits, usually painted using gouache, watercolor, or enamel, became very popular in Europe for several centuries before the invention of photography and daguerrotypes. Much like we use wallet-sized photos today, the Europeans enjoyed carrying miniature portraits, painted initially on stretched vellum and later often on metal.


Nineteenth century miniature portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte

Examples from Principle Gallery:

One of the artists from this year’s International Guild of Realism Juried Exhibition is Rebecca Latham, an artist from Minnesota with a passion for painting wildlife in the traditional miniature style. Rebecca studied Flemish miniature painting techniques alongside her mother and sister from Flemish master Carl Brenders. Today, Rebecca enjoys using those techniques to create smooth, beautiful works in watercolor with an extreme degree of realism. If you’re in the area and you haven’t yet checked out the exhibition, it’s worth it just to see up close what Rebecca Latham can do with watercolor! These exquisite pieces are among 91 phenomenal paintings and drawings included in the exhibition, so be sure to check it out! The show will be hanging at the gallery through September 18th, and you can see all the works on our website here.

Rebecca Latham - Evening Formal - 11 x 14 - Opaque and Trans W Color72

Rebecca Latham, “Evening Formal” 11×14

Rebecca Latham - To The Nines - 7 x 14 - Opaque and Trans W Color on Board72

Rebecca Latham, “To the Nines” 7×14



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: Dry Brush

Technique Tuesday dry brushWhat is it?

Today’s featured technique is the dry brush technique. Like last week’s technique, the multi-loaded brush, this technique deals with the way that the artist loads their brush before applying it to the canvas. With the dry brush technique, rather than using a brush moistened with oil or water (depending on the type of paint) and an ample amount of paint to get a nice smooth brushstroke, an artist will instead use a mostly dry brush and a smaller amount of paint. This way, when the brushstroke is made, it has a more scratchy, textured, and wispy appearance. This is a technique that is used in both water-based painting (watercolor, egg tempera, acrylic) and oil-based painting.

Examples from art history:

One of the most beautiful and iconic uses of the dry brush technique can be found in ancient Chinese art. Chinese brush painting involves a brush dipped into black or colored inks, and dates very far back. It was during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), however, that Chinese brush painting reached a new level of sophistication and began to incorporate techniques like dry brush painting. The lighter, softer, and more blurred effect produced by using a dry brush allowed for a range of atmospheric effects. The images below are examples from this dynasty:

(left) Fan Kuan “Travelers Among Mountains and Streams”, 11th c.; (right) Chen Rong detail from “The Nine Dragons”, 13th c.


During later periods of art history, artists also began to use the dry brush technique in a way that is referred to as “scumbling.” Though many use “dry brushing” and “scumbling” interchangeably, the distinguishing aspect of scumbling is that it is used in the layering process of paint. (So, while dry brushing might sometimes involve the paper showing through, scumbling in particular allows the other layers of paint to show through.) One of the great Masters of the Baroque period (17th and 18th centuries), Rembrandt van Rijn was perhaps one of the most famous artists to make use of scumbling technique, as he used it to achieve unique and extraordinary lighting effects. The image below shows the technique as used by Rembrandt, as well as an example from over two centuries later, in a painting by Edouard Manet:

(left) detail of self portrait by Rembrandt van Rijn in 1661; (right) Edouard Manet, "Emilie Ambre as Carmen", 1880

(left) detail of self portrait by Rembrandt van Rijn in 1661; (right) Edouard Manet, “Emilie Ambre as Carmen”, 1880

Examples from Principle Gallery:

Artists today still use the dry brush technique in a variety of ways to achieve the effect of lighting, texture, and atmosphere they desire. One Principle Gallery artist who makes frequent and beautiful use of the dry brush/scumbling technique is landscape painter Kevin Fitzgerald. Kevin utilizes this technique in many ways: to give a blurred softness to the edges of the fields of color in a piece, to give the wispy impression of clouds, to add an interesting texture, to loosely blend layers of colors, and to give a misty, peaceful atmosphere to the work–just to name a few! “Indian River Morning,” one of the pieces included in Kevin’s upcoming solo exhibition (opening March 20th!) is an excellent example of this technique:

Kevin Fitzgerald, "Indian River Morning"

Kevin Fitzgerald, “Indian River Morning”

Enjoy these additional beautiful examples of Kevin’s use of the dry brush technique below (or click here to see all of his available work on our website), and be sure to keep an eye out for many new works to arrive soon for his solo exhibition!

Blue Pond Clouds 72

Kevin Fitzgerald, “Blue Pond Clouds”

Chincoteague Dawn 72

Kevin Fitzgerald, “Chincoteague Dawn”

Kevin Fitzgerald, “Boca Dawn”