Category Archives: Gouache

Dapper Drake

Dapper Drake by Meg Lyman

5×7″ Gouache on Bristol


I just got a new computer. I love it. It is fast and it can handle large 300+ dpi files without wheezing, smoking, and dying. I selected the individual components and had AVADirect put them together for me. They did an outstanding job.

The major reason I didn’t go to someplace like Dell is that I don’t want Windows pre-installed. I won’t use it, so why pay for it? I run Linux. Ubuntu is my preferred distribution of Linux. They release updated versions every six months, with cool names like Breezy Badger.

I was running Dapper Drake. It worked like a charm. My wireless card functioned properly. With my new computer I decided to try a newer version, Feisty Fawn. It took me two weeks of agonizing and a new card to get my wireless working again. I often yearned for Dapper Drake, and this painting is to celebrate how easy it was to use. But now it works, and this is my first post from my new computer via my new wireless card.

Look for renditions of the Breezy Badger, Edgy Eft, Feisty Fawn, and Gutsy Gibbon soon! And.. um.. I think all those names are copyright Ubuntu, although I coudlnt’ find anything on their website about it…


Handprint by Meg Lyman

6×6″ gouache on Gessobord

This painting was done without brushes. The only tools were my hands. That’s one of the beauties of gouache – most colors are non-toxic and don’t have anything nasty in them, so you can fingerpaint! Maybe not a masterpiece, but really fun to do.

More on the WIP this weekend.

The Shop

The Shop by Meg Lyman

5×7″ gouache on Gessobord


I’ve been blatantly non-productive for the past week. My ma visited for the holiday weekend, and it was great! but no art. And this week, the innards of my house are being painted, and my art supplies are all stuffed in boxes and my art table is jammed into the middle of the room. As I type, I’m huddling under a plastic tarp and surrounded by bookcases hovering like the evil topiary in The Shining.

At least I have my handy sketchbook, but I miss painting.

Gouache Brushstrokes

Remember when I swore off oil paint? I do. But all my resolve withers at the slightest glance from the muse, so I went crawling back. Plus, I paid for those tubes and they’re just sitting there…

Anyway, I’ve recently been doing some small oils and gouaches, going back and forth. This has helped me appreciate the oils a little more. Gouache still wins hands-down in a head-to-head matchup – it took me a week to do a 6×6″ oil because I had to keep waiting for it to dry (whine! want to paint NOW!) – but there is one thing about it that can’t compare to oil: blending brushstrokes.

They say gouache is great for coloring illustrations because of the smooth, flawless areas of color it can create. I have never been able to achieve such smoothness – I end up with brushstrokes showing everywhere. I’m convinced that it requires 1) very smooth supports and 2) perfect paint consistency. I possess #1, but #2 requires more skill than I currently have. Plus, the stuff dries so fast that the perfect-consistency-paint you mixed an hour ago is now tacky or totally dry. Excuses, excuses, I know… but either way, I haven’t been able to get that smooth finish that gouache is known for. With oils, I can get it every time, effortlessly. Meh.

So, what’s a girl to do? I have completely given up trying to make smooth areas of color, especially on textured supports. Instead, I use the brushstrokes as textures. It doesn’t always work well, but I’m still learning. If you need a large area of color, try doing lots of small directional brushstrokes, or cross-hatching. From afar, it looks smooth and consistent. Close-up, it gives another dimension to the painting, potentially making it more interesting. Some examples:

Gouache on Gessobord:

Gouache on cold press watercolor paper:

Preparing Claybord Smooth

Legless Mouse

5×7″ Oil on Claybord Smooth


Here is an example of how to make oil or gouache work with Claybord Smooth. Go here to see an example of how to make a horrible streaky mess with oil on Claybord Smooth.

I painted the background weeks ago, and it is all streaky and ugly and brushstrokey. However, it dried to a nice textured finish, so painting over the top of it was sort of like painting on canvas. It works really well for oil, and pretty well for gouache.

Cool, huh?

Gouache Supports, Part 2

Today I continue my thoughts on the various supports I’ve abused with gouache. See Part 1 for watercolor paper, bristol board, and illustration board. This time, we’ll look at Canson Pastel Paper and different types of Claybord. I have a few more supports I’ve tried, so there will be a Part 3 in the not-too-distant future.

Canson Pastel Paper is a sturdy paper, but it is paper, which means it’s flimsier than bristol, illo board, or watercolor paper. It looks wimpy, and I was a bit afraid to try it, thinking it would disintegrate if it got wet. But I was too tempted by its lovely tinted shades to be deterred. And it held the gouache fairly well. I didn’t layer or scrub very much, and I didn’t use the gouache thickly. I knew it’d crack off the paper if I did. So, with minimal abuse, Canson paper works very well. It curled up and warped a bit, but nothing matting can’t fix.

Work on Canson Paper

Ampersand Claybord comes in umpteen different varieties, each with a unique surface. They are all white clay on hardboard, and are archival, and I love them. No warping! Great absorption! I’ll go through each of the kinds I’ve used.

Gessobord and Textured are quite similar. Textured is designed to be more like watercolor paper, and is therefore bumpier, with excellent little nooks and crannies. Gessobord is nicely textured, but fairly smooth overall, with little variation. They both take gouache wonderfully. They absorb quickly, so if you use a wash, it’ll dry slightly faster on these boards than on paper. The downside is that you can’t scrub back to white. But that’s more a concern for watercolor than gouache.

Work on Gessobord

Work on Claybord Textured

Pastelbord is made for pastels, so the surface feels like fine-grain sandpaper. It’s deliciously fun to put gouache on that surface. I used a bristle brush, and went for the textured, visible-brushstroke look. Pastelbord is wonderful for that. I loved the feel of the bristles on the surface. You won’t be able to get nice, smooth areas of color on it, though.

Work on Pastelbord

Claybord Smooth is not for gouache. It’s the same with oil paint; you need to put down a few coats to build yourself a textured surface before you can really paint on it. It’s incredibly smooth, like plate or smooth bristol board, but it’s also slick, so it doesn’t absorb paint quickly. The result is that the gouache would rather stay on the brush than transfer to the surface, and you get awful streaks. I haven’t found the patience to figure out how to make gouache work well with Smooth.

Work on Claybord Smooth

Finally, there’s Claybord Black, my very first Ampersand board. It’s black india ink over a Claybord Smooth panel. It is meant for scratching – but I’ve seen some fine works at WetCanvas of scratchboard with color. Usually they use colored inks, but I thought I’d give gouache a try. It worked OK, but my scratching technique didn’t work well with the way the gouache completely covers the india ink. It’s tough to get it back to a nice, dark black after the gouache has been layered on top. Next time, I’ll try something with definite borders, to see if I can put the gouache in the scratched areas only.

Work on Claybord Black

And, before I forget, I got all my supplies at Dick Blick. Their online store has every type of Claybord product, in any size they make (the physical store has only a limited selection). So here’s my Dick Blick plug: if you want to try out any of these surfaces, consider going through Dick Blick: - Online Art Supplies

Angry Art

Not the kind that you make when angry, but the kind that makes you angry. Specifically, your own.

This is the first rendition of my brand-new, never-seen-before, Mid Week Post! This new kind of post will feature art that I have worked on since my last website update. Along with the art, there will be content – quality content – that will range from lessons learned to WIPs to bad jokes. Well, bad art jokes, anyway.

Actually, I don’t know any jokes, except the one about the penguin in the bathtub, and nobody buy my sister thinks it’s funny.


This week’s featured art made me mad. You know the kind – you painted what you planned to paint, but it looks horrible and makes you want to run screaming from the room tearing your hair out because you don’t know why you hate it. Usually this is remedied by leaning the painting against the wall (paint side in) and trying to forget about it for a day or two. That, plus the helpful eyes of others, usually show you the problem. Fixing it may be easy or hard or impossible, but if you can figure out what is wrong with it, at least you can call it a learning experience instead of a total failure.

The Ugly Chickadee:

Ugly Chickadee

The bird and composition aren’t too bad, but those leaves! AARGH! My sister accurately referred to them “flying yam-aliens.” I wanted leaves, not sweet potatoes. So I did the wall thing and got advice on WetCanvas, and tried to fix it:

Better Chickadee

Not brilliant, but I don’t hate it anymore. I just mildly dislike it. I learned from it, and hope someone will buy it. What more could I ask for? Some paintings sell, but the artist never having learned a thing…

Gouache Supports, Part 1

O Gouache, most versatile of mediums, bestow upon me the strength to remain calm and encouraged despite the fact that you frustrate me daily.


Yesterday I spent 2 or 3 hours working and reworking a simple ocean background. The gouache wasn’t behaving. Or maybe I just wasn’t handling it properly. But it brought to my attention that although gouache can be used on just about anything, not all supports are created equal. I was able to spend hours reworking because my support could handle a lot of abuse.

I’ve used gouache on a bunch of different supports. Specifically, nine, with one waiting in the wings for its debut. Ten supports are far too many to rate in one blog entry, so this week you get half of them, hence the “Part 1.” I won’t go into too much detail here, so if you want more info, let me know!

First: Watercolor papers. Most of the advice you’ll find says to start off with watercolor paper. Good advice, but “watercolor paper” has a bunch of variation. I’ve tried three kinds.

Strathmore 400 Series Cold Press: I’ve only tried the blocks. They come in weird sizes, like 13×17″. They’re toothy and durable. The surface is fairly rough, and the gouache tends to puddle and granulate if too wet. It scrubs well, and can take a fair amount of abuse. The paper buckles even in block form. Strathmore’s Aquarius II paper is smoother and more flexible, but although the packaging says you don’t need to stretch it… it still buckles under a wash.

Work on 400 Series
Work on Aquarius

Arches Cold Press Cotton Rag: This paper holds gouache very well. I toned a piece months ago, and it stayed relatively flat. I painted over it with great success. I had to lift a few times to fix mistakes, and the toning didn’t lift, just the new paint. I didn’t scrub much because of the toning, but I bet the paper would handle it well. My only complaint is that it buckled a bunch… but then again, I didn’t stretch it first.

Work on Arches Cold Press

Sennelier Hot Press Cotton Rag: Another great gouache support. It’s a verrry smooth paper. I have a small landscape-shaped block, and although I used washes and wet-on-wet, it didn’t buckle at all. The gouache responds very well to brushwork on this paper – it blends more than lifts, which is a breath of fresh air. I haven’t found a downside to this one yet.

Work on Sennelier Hot Press

Bristol Board
: I’ve worked on Strathmore 300 and 400 vellum and smooth. They’re both very smooth surfaces, and work well with one opaque application of gouache. The final result looks very smooth and velvety. Bristol board can’t handle washes or large applications of color – it just curls up. Because of this, I’ve only done a few color tests on it, so I don’t have any finished works to show you.

Crescent Illustration Board: Make sure you check out the link for this one. It is an awesome matrix of all of Crescent’s flavors of illo board and their compatible media. I have used #300 and #1. The #300 is single-sided, and it is nice and sturdy. It reworks pretty well, but I didn’t test its scrubbing capability. It warped severely under a wash, but didn’t buckle. The #1 is excellent. It warps just a tiny bit. It’s very thick, so it can handle a lot. It reworks very well. Crescent rates these boards “marginal performance” with watercolor and gouache, but in my opinion, the #1 is better than the #300, and both are pretty darn good. Plus, the #1 comes in 22×30″ sheets that you can cut to whatever size you like.

Work on #300
Work on #1

Well, that’s it for this week. I’ll post “Part 2” next month.

Guinness and Gouache Portrait WIP

How could I keep a blog about dark beer and not include Guinness? When I was first introducing myself to beer in general, Guinness was the only dark beer I knew. My first pint was an entirely new experience. I won’t go into the Guinness details, since most people are likely to know them already, and if not, go here.

Guinness will always have a place in my heart, but after having tasted so many other dark beers, it doesn’t stand out. It’s smooth, and actually quite bland compared to some. It’s a drinkable beer – you can have it with dinner – as opposed to some that are an experience, or a dessert, by themselves. Rating:

M: 7
N: 7

Gouache Portrait WIP – the last installment, I promise

This is simply a visual step-by-step of my portrait of Grandpa. Other than the toning wash, all the steps show opaque application with very little blending. The background was done with layered washes, dabbing, and a sponge. The illo board I worked on curled up after the first wash, so the photos are a bit distorted. It is also why the first picture includes a beer bottle.

And the final result: link

Stoudt’s Fat Dog Imperial Oatmeal Stout and Gouache Portraits

Stoudt’s Fat Dog Imperial Oatmeal Stout is this week’s excellent beer selection. It is excellent because there is a fat dog on each label. Also because it is sweet and delicious. Its taste is reminiscent of the perfect oatmeal cookie. One sip and the flavor fills your whole mouth. Swallow and a slight tangy aftertaste fills you with nostalgia, making you long for another mouthful. I can see how it got its name; I could drink these all day and end up 1) drunk as a dog and 2) fat as the dog on the bottle.

M: 9.5
N: 8.5

Gouache Portraits

The weeks-long activity that I wrapped up last Friday encompasses all my experience with gouache portraits. Here is what I have produced:
I’m fairly happy with it, in that naive-new-to-a-medium (gouache) and -genre (portrait) way, and will probably hate it for its blatant shortcomings once I grow into a good painter. Even now, having learned from the process, there are a few things I would change.

I finally got the likeness right and transferred it to Crescent illo board. It was mounted on thin backing, and as soon as I laid down the toning wash, the board curled up. Also, the wash obscured a few of my pencil lines. Lesson 1: use thicker board. Press harder on transfer.

I mixed up the mid-range skin tones and painted those in. I wasn’t careful enough and later found a few spots that were missing paint. Luckily the toning wash showed through (instead of white board). Lesson 2: Mix up more paint than you need, and keep the leftover dried-up mess handy until the very end. Also, keep each mixed color in its own well.

Once I was done, I was planning on blending some of the color “tiles” by softening the edges. I have found a tiny amount of info on the Internets about the gouache “tiling” technique, and thought I’d try it. Instead of nicely blending two adjoining tiles together, all I did was lift up the paint and make a mess. Luckily I learned Lesson #2 early, and had some paint to cover my ass. I still have no idea how tiling works. Lesson 3: Practice techniques before using them for something important. It’s hard to cover mistakes in gouache.

I took photos of each step along the way. I’ll post those next time… after the holidays. Merry Holidaytime, everyone!