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How are watercolor and gouache different? How are they similar? What's the best way to test out two different painting mediums in order to arrive at solid conclusions about them?
One of my objectives during this phase of my art journey is to experiment with as many kinds of paint and supplies I can get my hands on. I think this is an essential part of discovering one's personal preferences and style. It is only through firsthand experimentation that an artist can discover which types of media are most enjoyable for him/her and, most importantly, which complement personal style most.
If you've followed my work you probably already know that I have mostly been focusing on watercolor and mixed-media. I have recently started painting in oils and am enjoying working with them very much. I have experience with acrylics and know that I'm not particularly fond of them. After viewing a few very talented artists on YouTube (the great James Gurney being one of them), I became curious about gouache, especially because I heard it being compared to watercolor so much. So I bought myself a set and was very excited to try it out.
A Useful Way to Compare Two Different Painting Mediums
What I did for this experiment was to first find a reference image that I could use to paint two separate studies, one with watercolor and another with gouache. I went for an image that wasn't too complex, so that I could allow myself to focus more on getting to know the paint than on creating a masterpiece. I chose this pear image from www.unsplash.com and created the two paintings below. You will see that the styles are very different.
After completing my separate studies, I take time to analyze them side-by-side and take notes. I think about differences and similarities I noticed throughout the painting process, as well as how the end products look.
Because I am a visual person, I sometimes like creating Venn Diagrams to organize my thoughts. :)
Final Conclusions About Watercolor and Gouache
Artwork outcomes will greatly vary depending not only on the type of paint used, but on HOW it is used. Results with either watercolor or gouache can vary greatly even amongst their own kind depending on how ¨loose¨ or ¨tight¨ an artist's personal style is. The quality of paints, paintbrushes and paper/substrate really can affect a piece as well.
I would say that gouache has a greater versatility than watercolor in the sense that it can be used within the same painting to create a mix of transparent, blurred effects and thicker, bolder blocks of color. It's also very useful that one can easily fix mistakes and add lighter values at the end instead of having to worry about protecting the lightest parts of the piece from the beginning.
This said, I personally find fast drying paint annoying at times and the fact that gouache reactivates so easily when layering kind of irritated me in the beginning. Also, with watercolor, a large variety of values can be created by simply adding more or less water to a color.
With gouache, if one intends to create a more realistic piece, a good amount of time has to be spent preparing colors and values on the palette before starting to paint. Especially because the paint dries so fast. It is important to know that realism can be achieved with both types of paint, provided the artist has enough practice and patience. With gouache, I definitely need it!
To finish up, gouache is an excellent option for those looking to create very stylized, graphic artworks. It can also work great for lettering, visual journaling, and quick sketches. Artists who like bold color, outlines and expressive styles should definitely give this type of paint a try!
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Have you given both of these types of paint a try? Which type do you think enhances your artistic taste and style most?
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