Painting With and Over Gouache

Since gouache dries to a matte finish, some painters use the thicker-bodied, opaque gouache to correct mistakes. I use gouache to create effects I couldn’t get any other way. Because the colors have been consistent in all the years I’ve been painting, I prefer Winsor & Newton watercolors and gouache. I use gouache along with watercolor because I like to contrast areas of transparency with areas of translucence or opacity.

About halfway through the painting, when many of the other areas have been finished, I sometimes notice that the pattern in one area has become too dominant (demanding too much attention or locking the viewer’s eye). Or perhaps the pattern has created an unwanted effect–throwing the arrangement of planes off kilter. In either case, I apply a semi-opaque glaze of gouache (usually Chinese white and a color that corresponds to the underlying color). The gouache glaze mutes the intensity of the original color and softens the insistent pattern. But I don’t want the gouache area to dominate either, so once the glaze of gouache is dry, I carefully sponge some of it off–weakening the color at the same time I’m re-wetting it so it can be manipulated and reworked. With this practice, I often discover surprises I could never have envisioned.

“Because I respond to what I’m seeing and feeling in the moment, it’s hard for me to explain how I got a certain effect. I couldn’t paint a painting over–even if I tried,” says June Selznick Drutz. Born in Toronto, Ontario, where she still makes her home, Drutz is a graduate of Ontario College of Art where the program demanded that apprentice artists take everything–drawing, printmaking, design, painting in watercolor and oil. “If you failed one course, you failed the program–a drastic policy, but the training was a good introduction to every aspect of making art,” says Drutz. A signature member of The Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour, she recently won the top award at the 1998 show (see article, “The Best and the Brightest” in our Winter 1999 issue). This year she will celebrate her 80th birthday.

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