My childrens book “The Professional Dog” has moved into color! Over the last week I’ve inked more than 12 of the illustrations just so I could see where I was going. Now I’m doing the same testing with colors. I’m using my butterfly palette (a post about that here) – it’s a fun challenge to paint dogs using a palette based in a scientific study of the color variations of butterflies. I have been using a few extra colors – most notably dark brown- but my primary color scheme is butterflies!
Below is a look at three of my Professional Dog illustrations together so you can see how the colors look.
Then here’s a closer look at each of those illustrations: my book text for each portrait is below.
Progress has also been happening on my holiday box project for an upcoming exhibit at Caplan Art Designs. I now have the overall design plan somewhat in view. In the photos below I’m working in my sketchbook to see if my plan has legs so to speak.
I’ll do more sketchbook work over the coming days towards this holiday box project. The box project has a firm deadline attached to it so I’m playing with it every day.
This is true now too of The Professional Dog. There’s a deadline but it’s not as firm as the box project deadline. Even so I have two main projects to work on every day! How nice is that?!
I am still planning to add to my ongoing “For Pleasant Encouragement” art print project and to my “odd greeting cards” project but progress on both of these is primarily in my sketchbook now. My daily focus is on my two main projects but I’m making regular notes in my sketchbook of my ideas for future cards and art prints for when I have time to do them!
If you’re curious about where I’m filming these chats here’s a blog post from some time ago that has a fun photo of the spot in my studio. It is still true for me what I write in that post that art is love made visible and that this spot in my studio is where I practice loving.
This week for the main special get-creative-in-the-kitchen project I added sauteed zucchini but otherwise mostly followed this creamy gnocchi sauce recipe https://www.acouplecooks.com/easy-creamy-gnocchi-sauce/ It was tasty but a bit more heavy than we like to eat so I probably won’t make this again. Still, I’ve not cooked gnocchi very often so it was fun to try it.
Contrary to what it may seem like having two main art projects with deadlines actually frees up my brain time. In addition to playing in my sketchbook I can get some reading done! I’m within whiskers of finishing “A Swim In The Pond In The Rain” by George Saunders for the 2nd time. Gosh I’m glad I bought my own printed copy of this book … it’s such a good source of creative encouragement!
Here’s hoping you have many sources of encouragement this week and that your cat similarly saves a chair for you in your happy place.
Had an oops during ink work this week on my coloring book poem “How to Draw A Dragon” here’s how I fixed it. Despite the mistake all of the hand written text as well as all of the illustrations have now been completely inked!
Here’s how: first I drew the whole book in pencil which sounds straightforward but it actually means draw, redraw each page multiple times. I do a complete draft in pencil and go through it again and again redoing elements so the story flows a certain way, to make sure setting and characters are consistent and to create the foreshadowing. This is very like a writer’s process of drafting and editing a novel. I lost count of how many drafts I’ve gone through.
Before beginning this book I knew it would be a 32 page manuscript so I made sure I had at least 84 sheets of the same kind and size of drawing paper. (Now after finishing the inking I have perhaps 8 useable sheets of blank paper left – if that gives you an idea.)
After the images were more or less set in pencil I penciled in the poem text. The poem text is spaced rhythmically to rhyme, so to speak, with the illustrations. The words and the images dovetail tightly together. This requires more drafting to get the pacing right. Then after I had a complete manuscript in pencil I partially inked each of the illustrations and adjusted the word spacing of the poem on each page in pencil.
Before starting to ink the poem text I read through it looking for grammar and spelling. I asked my spouse to look critically with fresh eyes. Then I inked the text with an ink brush pen.
Even with all that drafting and all the editing and proofreading, even with a fresh set of eyes looking, there’s a mistake! Do you spot it below?
Yes, I misspelled “oops”! Of all the things to misspell!! 🤦♀️ Oh well! When I ink words like this I’m really focused on drawing the shapes of the letters and the spaces on the page rather than writing a word. So mistakes often happen. But 95% of being an artist is knowing how to fix mistakes! The remaining 5% is being willing to keep going!
So to fix my oops on the word “oops” I got another piece of the same paper and drew a couple of “O’s” while holding the new paper next to my mistake so I can draw it the proper size. Then I cut out the newly drawn letter as close as possible not leaving much white paper showing around the letter.
Then I paint opaque white gouache on the ink mistake as smoothly as possible.
I let that white gouache dry completely. If there’s any bump in the dry gouache I use a tiny bit of fine grit sandpaper to smooth it.
I lightly apply archival paper glue to the back of the cut out letter and affix it to the whited out mistake area. I use tweezers to place the glue-y letter.
Now it’s fixed! When I scan these pages for publication I will look closely at this area on the digital file to make sure it looks like a seamless repair. Other than possibly on that “oops” the digital scans of these pages will *not* be digitally manipulated. What you’ll see in the published book will be what I made by hand.
After all the inking is done and dry I erase all the pencil marks on the manuscript.
Foreshadowing happens on every page. There are even indications about time: at first the dragons coffee is very hot and steaming but on subsequent pages there’s less steam. These pages below are possibly the pages with the heaviest foreshadowing. Each of the “art examples” presage or refer to something in the rest of the book.
The foreshadowing is complex. Matching the characters and scenery from one page to another is complex. Matching the edges of the pages together is complex. Getting the rhythm of the poem to flow (rhyme?) with the images … it’s hard to even describe how convoluted and complex (that word again) this project is…
And then there’s that it’s a coloring book. All that I have to tell the story with is a single ink line. That line has got to be right. I can’t cover over it with other sketchy lines like I do when I draw in my sketchbook or cover a line with paint as I do when I draw lines as a foundation for a painting. The single lines I draw for this project must be clear or it ceases to be a coloring book.
This coloring book poem has been one of my most complex books and yet it is so deceptively simple to look at and read. It reminds me of one of the iceberg memes about success in that the visible part of a project is the smallest element of it and the huge part is unseen.
Anyway, also this week I worked towards the continuation of my Odditorium exhibit. The Caplan Art Designs Gallery will exhibit the Odditorium works from earlier this summer as well 7 new paintings in this series. One of the new paintings is below. It was inspired by a friends photo of her ranunculous flowers. From the flowers I thought of a rhinoceros and a dress…
Yes, my household surrealism continues…
As I wrote in my last post I hoped this week to try some of my new butterfly palette paints so I did try them in my sketchbook!!
It will be fun to try doing a painting with them next!
This week we got a few cards in the mail and added them to our mantel. I realize that I really love sending and getting cards in the mail. I’ve loved it even more so since the pandemic. Since unfortunately covid is surging again I’ve been thinking I want to make more cards.
About the time I’d had that thought I heard from Bernadette who had recently blogged on New Classic Recipes my recipe for Magic Beans along with the story of how I got the recipe. Bernadette wrote suggesting that I create some recipe cards. I thought this was a great idea and merged the recipe card notion with the idea of sending postcards. You can see all of the recipe postcards I’ve made so far here. I’m thinking these will be fun to send to friends and family.
As far as food this week goes I ate so much when family was here (last post) that this week has had small salads and bowls of cereal as the feature meals. So never mind about food I cooked this week because it didn’t happen. Oh well.
Nevertheless major progress happened on “How To Draw A Dragon” – a whole manuscript completely inked! Yippee! Next up…scanning the pages and book design! See you next Monday?
This Rabbit, my newest children’s book, is now a free ebook and audiobook on Storyberries.com! How fun is that? Click here to both see the book and/or listen to it read aloud! Basically This Rabbit is now officially available worldwide! Wahoo!
The Aurora Gallery also now has my signed books – This Rabbit being one title – along with a number of the original illustrations from the books framed and on the Gallery walls!
For example the Numpurrs book and some of the artworks in that book are there at the Aurora Gallery too.
Since rabbits can deliver more than just treats for kids this time of year in addition to making lots of rabbits for a children’s book I’ve also made a collection of my rabbits available on my Zazzle shop. These are intended as fun gifts for grownups; greeting cards, jigsaw puzzles and coffee mugs. (The photos below are a small sample of what’s available on my shop.)
Since we’re nearing Easter naturally my thoughts turn from rabbits to eggs. This week I tried, in the name of I’m-to-busy-to-cook, a sheet pan breakfast with eggs, bacon, green bell peppers and sweet potato chunks. It worked reasonably well … one set of eggs got a little more firm than I like but everything – including the eggs – were quite enjoyably edible. And enjoyably edible counts!
This week I rearranged the most important bookshelf in my house: the one in the bathroom. It seems that the average person spends 1 hour and 42 minutes per week in the bathroom. Or to put it another way during an average lifetime we will spend at least 92 full days in the john. Might as well use that time for some encouraging reading. Here below is a photo of my bathroom bookshelf. The purple ceramic thing serves as a bookend as well as holding the extra roll of TP.
For the same reason I have inspiring books in my bathroom – notice all the books by Austin Kleon! – I also like having good artwork there too. Keeping good books and art where they’re viewed often is a way to keep my own creativity sustainable. The framed art you see in this photo is by another Pacific Northwest artist named Jill Mayberg https://jillmayberg.com/ I like the colors and textures in Jill’s work.
We’re here, so we might as well get comfortable. Reading books about writing and creativity are where we learn about, and practice, being human. I’ve written elsewhere in this blog (see links here and here) about the similarities I see between the creative acts of writing and making fine art. Verbal storytelling, writing, drawing and reading are such quintessentially human activities. Are we completely human if we don’t do those things?
These thoughts are why I find it such fun to depict animals reading books and doing other typically human behaviors – it’s my way of pondering what in means to be fully human.
Btw: there are more animals besides rabbits running around in my brain now. The new critters are getting comfortable too. As I wrote in my last post I’ve been thinking about human development and about dealing with feelings. I’ve also been thinking about Jane Austen and her descriptions of emotions within her novels.
Anyway, I’ll keep thinking and drawing… Share more with you next Monday? Oh, and Happy Easter, aka Rabbit-delivers-fun-things-day, in advance. [Thanks again Kris and Nan for this stuffed rabbit!]
My newest artist book for children “This Rabbit” is rolling out! It’s a whimsical look at self-awareness with lots of different rabbits liking a variety of things. As I mentioned in my last post “This Rabbit” shares a cover design similarity with some of my other artist books that also have a bunch of different characters exploring a life concept. In the photo below you can see the covers for my series of books.
Here’s a closer look at the hardcover version of “This Rabbit“
And here’s a look at the page design. I made the artwork large so that it mostly fills each page with a small space at the bottom for the poem lines.
Book signing during a pandemic is a challenge. I’m solving that in a few ways and one of those is by placing a few signed books at the Aurora Gallery. Some of the original artwork for many of my books is there too. In the photo below is an assortment of books signed and destined for the Aurora Gallery. https://auroragalleryonline.com/
And while I waited this week for my copies of “This Rabbit” to arrive from the printer I worked in my sketchbook and over short bursts of time towards a new painting using all of my recent rabbit research. This painting is one of several that will be in new art exhibits later this year.
While working this week I was thinking about human development. In addition to learning what you like as one lives you also learn and practice attention to your feelings. With that in mind I’ve been thinking of what Dr Bob says in the book I illustrated some time ago…”feelings are guides not gods to be obeyed“. For example we’ve all done things like cleaning up yucky messes even when we didn’t feel like doing it at the time – but once it was done we were glad it had been done. So we’re capable of using our executive brain to decide when to listen to our feelings and when to go ahead and do something despite our feelings.
In the picture above is my breakfast: overnight oats (made in a small wide mouth mason jar) along with coffee. And here’s a recipe article link about this quick-easy meal. I like quick-easy breakfasts so I can spend more time in the morning drinking coffee, reading and sketching.
In the photo below I’m working (after breakfast) on a new painting. There’s a collage bit in it from the falling apart copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that I’d talked about in another post.
Here below is what the new painting became: “Attention To The Feelings” – 12 x 9 – acrylic and collage on board.
One of my favorite authors who write about sketching and creative efforts is Danny Gregory. Here’s what he wrote about dealing with feelings in his book “Art Before Breakfast” :
This is inner-voice phenomen is true for any creative effort. Including trying a new recipe for breakfast.
So please be gentle with yourself and the other people in your life this week. We’re all just muddling though trying to remember what we like, trying to pay attention to our feelings – but not too much attention – and trying to regularly eat a good meal.
My newest children’s book “This Rabbit” is about noticing what you like. For the book description I write “This rabbit likes one thing. This rabbit likes another thing. So many things to like and do! Which do you like to do?”
The act of noticing what you like sounds deceptively simple but it’s easy to be swept along in a tide of what’s popular, trendy or what people tell you that you “should” like. It’s easy to forget what you-yourself really really like.
For our entire lives it’s helpful to practice being aware of our inner self and our preferences as they change over time.
Anyway, here’s a few poem lines and illustrations from “This Rabbit”
This rabbit likes doing hair
This rabbit likes the outdoor air
Here’s a look at those same illustrations in the digital book layout I’ve designed in prep for making both print and ebook formats. As I mentioned in my last post I’m making these illustrations large in each page with a small space for the poem line running along the bottom of the page.
Below is a look at the cover art. The cover layout is similar to some of the other books I’ve done: Alphapets, Alphapets Too and Numpurrs. I did this cover design similarity on purpose because I’m working on a series of artworks and books that play with concepts using a variety of characters. This cover layout allows me to show many of the different characters right on the book covers. The cover similarities emphasize that each individual book is an art series collected on a topic that exists within a larger series of artist books.
By now the book “This Rabbit” is finished and will be released world wide on Storyberries Mar 29. I will continue to tease out the book a bit on my social media till then. But for my followers here’s the advance link to the finished printed book: https://www.blurb.com/b/10612530-this-rabbit Yes, you could get a copy of this book early, in time for Easter! (On average it takes 7 to 11 business days after placing your order to get a book)
Before the digital files could be made I began “This Rabbit” by creating a series of ink and gouache artworks depicting rabbits enjoying activities. Then I wrote a poem on a legal pad with a fountain pen – prior blog posts here and here tell more of my working process. Anyway here’s a look at my legal pad scribbling and the illustrations. I like to emphasize the non-digital parts of my book creations – the digital reproduction, in print/ebook formats, are simply an allowance for kids messy fingers – the book is still intended as a work of fine art and of love.
On to other non-rabbit thoughts: Saint Patrick’s Day is coming up and we can celebrate the holiday and also drink to celebrate my new book “This Rabbit” – so here’s a recipe for an Irish drink I really like perhaps you will like it too? No matter what you’re drinking – “Sláinte!”
Saint Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays so my evening lounging-about-before-going-to-bed reading is an anthology of Irish writers mystery stories. The book title is “Murder Most Irish” edited by Ed Gorman, Larry Segriff and Martin H. Greenberg. Some of the stories are so enchanting that I’ve looked up almost surprised to find that I’m not in Ireland following behind a sleuth on a cold rainy night but sitting in my warm living room instead. The book pairs well with Irish Coffee….or peppermint tea.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day in advance and thank you for following my progress on “This Rabbit”! See you next Monday?
When I was a kid I wanted drawings on every page of a picture book. For “This Rabbit”, my newest artist book for kids, I’m doing extra drawings, with simple lines like this drawing below, for the book info pages.
And here is the drawing placed in the software so it will print on the books title page.
Here’s the drawing I did for the book dedication page.
Here it is placed so that the rabbit’s heart shaped balloon floats up towards the dedication text.
In my last post I showed some of the poem lines and the illustrations that go with the poetry. I’ve also been serially posting pages from “This Rabbit” on my Instagram and Facebook pages. Here below are a few more poem lines and illustrations.
This rabbit likes to seed
This rabbit likes to read
I’m filling each page of the book with the artwork leaving a small white space for the poem line below each illustration.
This week I’ve talked with Storyberries.com sent them digital files and whatnot as per their request! They will distribute This Rabbit just before Easter! How fun is that? (Telling this news here first!)
Also this week I made homemade hummus to go with a Persian flatbread my spouse made. It was yummy! My hummus recipe is in my kitchen sketchbook Favorites So Far.
Below is a photo of books I’ve been reading: it’s March and Saint Patrick’s Day is coming up so I’m reading some Irish writers work in a short mystery story anthology “Murder Most Irish”. I’m also reading a book from the Hamish Macbeth series by M. C. Beaton which is set in Scotland.
See you next Monday? Hope your week is as good as possible.
A horrible but predictable insurrection happened in the US last week. My book shaped box to hold the original artwork for Pembral Forgets was at the needs-to-dry stage the day before, so Wednesday, January 6, 2021, the day of the attempted coup, I nervously read a lot of news. And thought of how a seditious insurrection was the inevitable outcome of the right-wing rhetoric of the last several weeks, months, years. But I don’t want to blog on that…. after time spent on the news Wednesday I drew in my sketchbook and read fiction to give myself a mental space from the violent seditious insurrection, to calm down and think.
So on to a more pleasant topic: here’s a few photos of the printed and bound version of Pembral Forgets – you can see more on my portfolio page. The print book is available on Blurb here.
The printed book is slightly different from the original artist book. Same content just a different presentation and minor differences in the book-info pages and, most obviously, the cover. There’s several reasons for this: an original artist book can only be enjoyed in person. And we’re in a pandemic so going to galleries isn’t an option for most people. Multiple printed books can be mailed directly to someone and can be enjoyed by many.
Yet when I create a book to be printed and widely enjoyed I still end up with a physical one-of-a-kind set of paintings. Since I’m a fine artist first and foremost I gravitate towards making things that can be hung on walls or displayed on stands/shelves. But see aforementioned pandemic which has made the use of other means of art production and distribution i.e. Blurb.com or Zazzle.com or Society6.com or Spoonflower.com on-demand shops helpful.
Even so I love making handmade boxes and used to regularly make them for the artist Deloss McGraw and others. So I look for excuses to make boxes…and am loving this box for Pembral Forgets!
Below is a series of photos of the box for Pembral Forgets that you saw a bit of in my last post. In this first photo I have laid the naked box on the handmade hand stenciled paper that I’ll use to cover the box. I lay the box on the paper and try to position it so the paper will be placed well when I glue it on.
I “mark” my choice of placement by creasing the paper slightly. Pencil marks would show through this delicate paper.
Glue is applied to the paper within the crease “marks”, the open box is laid onto the glue, then the box now loosely covered with glue-y paper is gently closed. I use a roller to press the paper firmly in place, wiping away any excess glue. Next, as in the photo below, I add glue to the flaps of paper and fold them around the edges of the box using a bone folder to get the creases smooth.
Then after carefully gluing all edges I turned the box over to check the paper placement.
Inserting wax paper allows me to close the just glued box without accidentally gluing the box shut.
At this point, Tuesday evening, I let the book box dry for a few days. It will be dry to the touch within hours but I have learned the hard way that too much handling too soon can cause the paper to slip.
Then the next day saw the news of the insurrection…
Here’s the fiction book I read as a spirit restorative…
The beverage in the picture is Clancy’s Special Chocolate and here’s the sketchbook drawing I did about how to make it. Whenever I feel stressed it helps to draw whatever is in front of me.
In case you wonder: I get my archival glue and other book-box-making supplies from Twinrocker.com
A helpful technique book about making boxes by hand is by Franz Zeier titled Books, Boxes and Portfolios; binding, construction and design step by step.
There’s still more to do on this project. So I hope to see you here next Monday after, hopefully, a more quiet week – but I know it’s not likely to be quiet here in the US – but no matter what kind of week it is I wish you some calm creative moments.
I’ve illustrated Pembral Forgets written by Steve Tubbs and in my last post I talked about my process of creating the cover and my leaf motif that flows through the book.
Well here, below, are some of the finished illustrations with the text so you can see what I mean.
Later on in the story there are some really large leaves… but as you can tell from the images above I depict leaves from a distance as well as nearer to hand.
I also use leaf shapes as logos on story related objects… for example in the photo below look for the leaf on the sugar and the market sacks. I do this in multiple places within the story in order to emphasize the fall leaves aspect of the story – and to visually bring the leaf motif and good food motifs together.
There are illustrations on every one of the 38 pages of Pembral Forgets… lots of leaves blowing through this book!
Since the author Steve Tubbs was inspired by thoughts of himself as a kid and memories of his own mother – I wanted my illustrations to have a warm soft nostalgic feeling in addition to the colors of Fall. So I used a cream colored handmade watercolor paper for my ink and gouache illustrations.
Since the warm, creamy, yet fall colors are what I wanted for the pages in the artist book reproductions – I’m also making the original artist book box (talked about in my last post) have a similar cream color on the book-shaped box edges where pages are.
I still have lots of work to do on the one-of-a-kind artist book box that will hold all of the original illustrations and text. Also there’s a few more pages for the one-of-a-kind book to do…. more about that in future posts.
And I’m in the process of making a webpage about Pembral Forgets. It includes a short conversation with the author, Stev Tubbs, as well as images of more of the finished art. You can see it here: https://sueclancy.com/portfolio/pembral-forgets/
But in case you think I came up with the cover and these illustrations perfectly right from the first: Here’s a leaf motif pattern I tried before hitting upon the motif and color scheme I finished with.
I decided this leaf pattern was too green and too uniformly regular. Then I proceeded to do the pattern I showed you in my last post and what you see on the Pembral Forgets finished book cover. But as a pattern design goes this more-green autumn leaf pattern was fine – it just didn’t fit the creamy nostalgic vibe I wanted for Pembral Forgets.
I’m still happily reading “European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman” by Theodora Goss – and taking things a wee bit slower but I’ll see you here next Monday! Stay safe – and here’s hoping for a better new year for everyone.
Mid November 2020 I was asked to illustrate Pembral Forgets by Steve Tubbs. It’s a story about fall leaves, good food and an absentminded boy who forgets something important.
In mid December I took a social media break in order to focus more intensely on my illustrations. (There’s 38 pages of illustrations!) I’m glad I took the break as I think my illustrations for Pembral Forgets are some of my best work so far. The story written by Steve Tubbs was great inspiration!
I finished the illustrations and uploaded the digital files for the artist book reproductions on December 21 and told the author Steve Tubbs that Pembral Forgets by Steve Tubbs was now available! (You can preview the reproductions of the artist book via this link here)
Then I shut off my screens and have since been recovering from my creative efforts. Reading books and cooking are my go-to restoration methods and it’s really helped to spend time deeply reading in a novel! And trying new-to-me recipes! Truth be told I’m still in this hibernate and recovery mode.
Still, because it may amuse, I wanted to share some of my working process on this artist book project.
Since fall leaves are a theme in Pembral Forgets I studied leaves I found in my yard and neighborhood. I both drew them in my sketchbook and photographed them….here’s two of the photos
Then out of thick mylar (a sheet of clear plastic) I drew the leaf shapes with a marker and then hand cut stencils in the shapes of several different kinds of leaves. The masking tape tabs on the edges of the mylar make it easier to lift and move the stencil when in use.
With a sheet of handmade paper taped to a board on my easel I set about using the 5 different stencils I’d made. I mixed acrylic paint colors and used a natural sponge to dab into the color and then onto the stencil. This overall leaf pattern was done over a multiple day period to allow for layers to dry.
My spouse snapped the above photos so they could be shared digitally with the author Steve Tubbs and his wife. The pandemic being what it is – the project discussions between the writer and myself were all virtual.
Here’s what the finished leaf pattern looked like while it was on my easel with still wet paint.
And here’s what the cover for the artist book reproductions looks like:
Variations of this leaf motif carries throughout Pembral Forgets….
When I create books I think of them, as an art object. With the attending artistic concerns about rhythm, balance, beauty and, in my case, pleasantness. For this project I was inspired artistically Steve Tubbs’s story Pembral Forgets and did my own artistic response to his story.
My way of working also means that most of the time my book creations have, in addition to the multiple print and ebook reproductions, a physical one-of-a-kind book-like-art-object.
Anyway, here’s the book-box for Pembral Forgets that I’m still in the process of constructing.
I will show pages and talk about my illustrations for Pembral Forgets in coming blog posts. My hand is still very tired so I will write more later…like next Monday.
If you’re curious: I’ve been reading the novel “European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman” by Theodora Goss.
One of the meals I’ve enjoyed cooking recently is a pasta, cheese and pepper dish I’d read about on the Food In Books blog – https://wp.me/p75xYM-1bY – I don’t know if I’d read the novel talked about in that blog post but it’s fun to see the novel that inspired the blogger’s recipe. I can tell you, for certain, that the pasta, cheese and pepper recipe in the post is a winner!
Since I’ve been asked by several people: here’s info about the art media gouache, why it makes me grin and my working cycles with it.
Gouache is a water based paint. It’s more opaque than watercolor. Using gouache feels like spreading soft butter on toast. Applied gouache dries quickly but is easily made moist and workable again. It dries to a matte non sticky appearance which makes it suitable for use in bound sketchbooks, in folded artist books as well as for fine art to be framed. Gouache also reproduces well via various printing mechanisms on fabrics, in printed books and on many other surfaces.
In the studio, because I don’t have to worry about my gouache paints becoming unusable on my palette before I can use them (as is sometimes an issue with acrylics), gouache is suited to my busy life. I call this my gouache and grin cycle.
I prefer to work on multiple art projects at a time in “short bursts” on each project. Rather than count on a long span of uninterrupted time I dash in and work a bit on an art project, then go make lunch or do whatever stuff-of-life or other work matter that needs to be done. Then I cycle back to an art project…
To borrow a sports analogy I just try to advance the ball, my various art projects, a little bit each day rather than doing a project all at once. I try to amuse myself with whimsical art making, aka spreading color, for at least a few minutes every day no matter what else is happening in life. The qualities and attributes of gouache help me to do this, to keep my creative games in play – come heck or high water.
Here’s a series of photos showing my gouache working methods in my sketchbook. (This is also my work method for fine art and other projects.) In the first photo you see my 3 x 5 inch watercolor sketchbook held open with clips. Also pictured from the top left and rotating clockwise: paper towel, peppermint candy model, graphite pencil, 3 watercolor pencils, 2 waterproof ink pens, a water brush and my lidded paint palette with its wells of various dry gouache colors.
In the photo below I begin 3 demo peppermints: the top left mint is sketched in graphite pencil and waterproof ink pens. The bottom left mint is drawn in watercolor pencil only. The mint on the bottom right page was doodled in all of the above; graphite pencil, ink and watercolor pencil. [The quote was just on the sketchbook page I chose to use for this demo.]
So you can see what they look like here in the photo below are two tubes of gouache paints. I like the Holbein Artist Designers Gouache brand best but the Winsor and Newton brand is good too. (There’s a monster called “acryla gouache” also available on the market which I avoid like a character would avoid a flesh eating zombie in a horror film.)
I begin painting by laying down the local color – the general color an item is supposed to be. At this point I don’t worry about shadows or highlights or details. I just get the color shapes down – in this case for the peppermint candies.
I did not squeeze out new paint from my tubes when I began. I got my water brush wet and put a few drops of water on the dried red gouache already on my palette so I can use the newly moistened color. I add a small amount of moisture to a portion of the dried chunk of red gouache until that portion feels like soft butter, then I paint the candy stripes.
Here’s a closer look.
Now I get the general color and shape down for the wrapper in the same method. I put a drop or two of water on my blue gouache color, get my brush damp, dab at the blue paint a second or two to get a portion of it moistened and softened – then I paint.
Now I create the cast shadows using a watery mixture of the red and blue gouache colors. To make the watery mixture on the lid of my palette I dipped my brush on the now moist blue color, dab on an area of the lid, then dab the brush clean on the paper towel, then dipping into the now moist red and adding it to the tiny blue puddle, mixing till it’s a purple color I want for the shadow. Then I add a tiny bit of plain water to the newly mixed purple till it’s a small fingernail size puddle of watery purple – this enables me to do the cast shadows in a faint shadowy way.
Now I do squeeze out a tiny amount of the white gouache from the tube and use it, fresh from the tube, to make the highlights on the candy and wrappers. Note in the photo below how the white gouache can completely obscure the darkest ink lines. This is part of what I love about gouache – any mistake can be covered with the opaque paints. If an edge in a painting needs to be softened or a color edge blended all I need is a wet brush.
Then in a few minutes, perhaps the length of time it takes for a decent sip or two of coffee, when the paint is dry I go back over the paint with ink lines or watercolor pencil lines to snap the details into sharper focus.
Now that I’ve finished painting I leave my sketchbook and my palette open and let them dry completely. I even leave the shadow color mixture on my palette lid to dry. All I will need to do to reuse the mixed color in the future is to get my brush wet and dip in.
Peppermints are one of my guaranteed-to-make-me-grin art subjects that don’t require a lot of time or planning. I’ve learned over years of painting peppermints that different candy makers have their own peppermint candy look. And I don’t mean the wrapper.
Here’s a fabric pattern I did of peppermints for my Spoonflower shop. I used the gouache techniques I describe above to create this pattern. But do you notice how these mints are different from the ones I did in the demo above? Different candy maker… yummy too!
To illustrate what I mean about working in short bursts despite life situations. A hot water pipe burst on our hot water heater recently. (Talk about heck and high water! 🤦♀️) After we got the immediate crisis dealt with I did little quick bouts of drawing as a self calming technique. Also while waiting for plumbers etc restoration crews I doodled and painted in my sketchbook. Gouache makes it easy for me do short bursts of spreading color which makes me smile. And having had a brief grin makes dealing with life much better.
Anyway, there’s a new artist book I’ve done for children called “B Mouse Reads A Book”. In it you can see my original ink and gouache artwork, and how the art media is on folded paper in this video on my YouTube channel. Because this book was meant to be handled in a gallery I used a spray fix varnish to make sure the gouache wouldn’t smear or run.
But since the pandemic hit there’s no going to art galleries to handle or view artist books in person. So I was lucky enough to have “B Mouse Reads A Book” published as an ebook here on Storyberries.com! They also included the book B Mouse is reading too…it’s another artist book I created as part of the B Mouse Reads A Book story…there’s a link at the bottom of the B Mouse book that you can click to see the companion book.
I’m sure you can recognize in the image above the ways I did my combinations of ink and gouache. The video shows how flexible gouache can be when applied on paper bound or folded as pages. The ebook shows how well the nuances of the colors show even as a digital image.
If you look at my portfolio pages you can see my ink and gouache work as both fine art framed in an art gallery setting as well as reproduced in printed books.
That reminds me to tell of another practical matter: if you apply gouache too thickly it can pop or flake off. Especially in a folded or bound paper book. And when scanning or photographing gouache artwork for reproduction a too-thick gouache application can cast shadows unrelated to the artwork subject. So I apply gouache as if I were basting bread with semi melted or melted butter.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and found it helpful for when you try gouache yourself.
See you here next Monday. And in case you’d like to know even more about gouache – here below are a few links to more information about painting with gouache: