A Guest Post by Cassia Cogger
“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating.”
How does watercolor differ from gouache? What are their individual characteristics, and how might each best be applied to a mixed-media art practice?
These very questions got me thinking, I wonder what would happen if I painted the exact same picture with each material; how might they differ?
Mixed-media explorations allow the artist to engage and experiment with materials in many different ways; to find new ways of using materials. Before one can find new ways of working with a material, however, one must first know the material’s basic characteristics.
Watercolor and gouache—two paint types often sharing an aisle in the art supply store and often applied in similar ways. A common answer I hear to the question “What is gouache?” is “It‘s opaque watercolor.” Is it really?
Watercolor and gouache are both made of similar materials (pigment, gum Arabic, possible additives), call for similar application and the same cleanup. Watercolor by nature is transparent and often loved for its fluid washes. Gouache, however, has a much higher pigment content and the pigment is ground into larger particles than watercolor. This is what makes gouache opaque and prevents it from granulating, and leads to the finished matte appearance—characteristics very different from watercolor.
The bigger question becomes, why do we care? Because knowing the qualities of each can open up a wide variety of applications in all of your mixed media work.
- gouache paints, Turner Acryl Gouache: Opera Red, Fresh Green, Chocolate, Japanese Pale Yellow, Aqua Blue
- palettes for mixing paints
- pencil for sketching
- watercolor brushes, Royal Aqualon round 4
- watercolor paints, Holbein: Opera, Leaf Green, Cadmium Yellow Pale; Winsor & Newton: Cerulean, Caput Mortem
- watercolor paper 90-lb Arches natural cold press and hot press
For this exploration, I used a mix of Holbein and Windsor & Newton Artists’ Watercolors and Turner Acryl Gouache (this paint has an acrylic medium as a binder and dries permanently). I did my best to choose similar palettes in each medium. I drew two images— a traditional floral study on rough watercolor paper and a bold graphic on smooth watercolor paper. I painted one of each drawing with watercolor and the other with gouache.
Exploring Watercolor and Gouache – Wet on Dry – Hot Press
Exploring Watercolor and Gouache – Wet on Wet – Cold Press
What have I taken away from this and how will I apply it?
I believe gouache is better suited for flat, colorful shapes. It also dries more quickly. I can see using this as a first layer on multi-layered works or as my go-to for single-layered, bold, shape-based pieces. Gouache also dries with a very attractive matte finish.
I believe watercolor works for flat, colorful shapes but it requires a stronger skill set to achieve an even application. It is perfect for multiple layers, allowing the story of what came before to show through. When applied heavily it dries with a satin sheen.
Cassia Cogger—artist, teacher and author of Creating Personal Mandalas—is inspired to create artworks, creative courses and experiences that allow individuals to enter into greater relationships with their surroundings, becoming present to that which is essential. As much as she is excited by color, shape, pattern and beauty, she is more excited by what the creative process reveals.
Her work has been featured at the National Academy Museum of Design in NYC, in Watercolor Artist magazine as a rising star as well as in a host of other galleries and private collections.
Learn more about Cassia and her work at www.cassiacogger.com.
To see a technique for using gouache in action, watch this short video featuring Jean Haines