Category Archives: Gouache

Gouache Wash

I have a tough time with gouache washes. Large, smooth areas of color elude me. I am learning slowly, and painfully, what works best. I have, for a while, suspected that washes work best on fast-absorbing surfaces – so I did an experiment. The contestants: Gessobord and Sennelier Hot-press watercolor paper. Both are smooth and have about the same surface area.

I mixed up a wash of Horadam (good stuff) raw umber and used a middle-of-the-line Blick #14 round wash brush.

Gessobord first. I slopped some paint on it. It does not absorb anything quickly – it does absorb, but takes its own sweet time. Note the puddling.

I covered the board… in bubbles. I didn’t mean to, it just always does that.

The evil bubbles:

Next up: the Sennelier. I slopped some paint on it. No puddling, no bubbles.

I covered the paper. Sorry about the glare. No puddling, no bubbles. Hmm.

After they dried a bit, I gave them both a second coat. This helped smooth the wash on both surfaces, but little bits of stuff are still visible on the Gessobord. Some are bubbles, but most of it is dust and hair.

The culprits:

It perplexes me that the Gessobord holds onto these bits o’ crap. The paper had a few, but I got rid of them with a few strokes of the brush. On the Gessobord, if I scrub hard enough to get rid of them, I’m back to white board in that area.

I can’t have a wash full of dust and hair, nor can I have white streaks all over. Until I figure out how to get the Gessobord to work with me and release its hold on the bits and bubbles, I’ll have to stay away from washes. At least I can wipe the slate clean with water:

Here is the result of rubbing a damp paper towel over both surfaces. Each had dried for a while, but I did dump a bit of water on the Gessobord (see above). The difference is obvious; the Gessobord hadn’t absorbed much of anything – it nearly returned to white. And this is a staining pigment!

Lesson: Meg needs help with gouache washes on Gessobord. I have a ton of this stuff to use. Also, if you can’t paint in a dust-free, fur-free environment… how do you avoid the bits o’ crap?

The Art of Rejection

A few weeks ago, I submitted a seven-piece portfolio to a juried show. It was my first attempt at jury submission. It failed.

After I finished blubbering and sketched myself a sad squid, I started looking objectively at the situation. Had I simply been rejected, I may not have asked why. But they mistakenly sent me two e-mails; the first one said “Congratulations, you’ve been accepted!” and the second, which came the next day, said “Sorry, but you have not been selected.” Shortly afterward, the art director sent another e-mail explaining the mix-up and told me the “reject” e-mail was the correct one.

I was fairly mad, considering the “accept” e-mail came first. I slept on it, and finally decided to write the director about the situation. I politely expressed indignation about the fiasco, and I also asked if the jury had any comments. I really wanted some insight about why I was rejected.

They were nice enough, and came back with this: “Your work is inventive but lacks focus.” That one line, that short sentence, says so much. I had selected a variety of styles to show the jury my versatility.

Turns out, the majority of juries, galleries, and buyers want consistency rather than variety. Think about it from a buyer’s standpoint: you want to be able to sum up the artist’s style in a few seconds by looking at a wall of their art.

I am still learning and exploring with styles, mediums, supports… everything! Because I’m still new to painting, I don’t know what I want to focus on. I have so many interests that it’s painful to pick just one area. But I have to if I want to become a serious artist. It just feels too soon! I don’t want to limit myself when I hardly know anything and have oodles still to learn. Does anyone else feel that conflict?

I learned a bunch from my rejection. The lesson this week: use your failures to evaluate yourself and improve your art. It’s tough, but it’s worth it. I was back to my normal self in no time, and wiser to boot.

Back to Work

Flying Ace by Meg Lyman

Pencil doodle

Hey everyone, I’m back from Anthrocon! It was a lot of fun meeting people I met online. I talked to a bunch of great artists, traded sketches, doodled a lot, bought art, and sold a few things. I only moved 2 prints, one commission, and 3 originals, but one of those origials (the Cuddlefish) got 8 written bids, which sent it to voice auction. Yay! I have to wait until August (when they send out checks) to find out how much it went for, since I had to leave the auction early.

I met, bought art from, or am otherwise promoting the following great artists:

Ursula Vernon

Bloodhound Omega





Cassandra Rising

I think I am coming down with a cold. It’s either “con crud” or something I got on the airplane. Oh well. Time to go make art before my nose starts leaking on everything.

A Tropical Diversion

Hawaii Sunrise by Meg Lyman

5×7″ gouache on Gessobord

Although I will be going on several vacations this year, none are to a tropical location. So, for those of us who can’t make it to the coast this summer, here, have a beach.

I tried Claybord fixative on this. It worked well for The Shop. However, it turned the black areas of this painting into salt & pepper – there were little white spots everywhere. I had to repaint all the shadows. Lesson: black gouache doesn’t like Claybord fixative.

Breezy Wednesday

Breezy Badger by Meg Lyman

5×7″ gouache on bristol

This is the next installment of my nerdy Ubuntu Linux art. I was stumped at first – how does one make a living thing “breezy?” Windy, perhaps… but breezy? At first I tried to envision a badger’s fur rippling in the wind, and wasn’t too impressed with the resulting picture in my head. Then N mentioned Marilyn Monroe, and I was sold.

This one isn’t for sale; I matted and bagged it for the upcoming Anthrocon Art Show. I will blog about Anthrocon, and my preparations for it, this weekend.

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?