Before accepting the fact that I needed to rest my wrist and take an extended break from art, I started up a daily gouache practice. Gouache is something I've been meaning to learn for several years. I love the opaque and chalky look of it and the vibrancy of the colours. I bought a 24 colour set of gouache paints from Arteza, a more affordable option to the Windsor & Newton and Holbein varieties that I see all over Instagram. I got the paints, tried them once, and then they sat in a pouch on my art shelf for eight months. I'm sure that's a relatable series of events, especially with something aspirational like art supplies.
For some reason though, I picked them up again during quarantine. And this time it went much smoother than the last; instead of becoming instantly discouraged I saw immediate (if subtle) improvement, just from practicing 4 days in a row. I had previously purchased a small book of watercolor paper when I first bought the gouache, so I pulled that out again too. I divided my page into four smaller canvases using washi tape to lower the pressure and to waste less paint. Here is what my first spread looked like:
I had trouble getting the paint consistency right by using the appropriate amount of water. If you go to the paper with just the paint on your brush, you won't get far. It needs water to spread, but juuuust enough to let the paint glide further without diluting it too much. You can see this issue was especially hard for me when covering larger areas, like the backgrounds. I ended up with it looking more like watercolour or thinned out paint, which isn't necessarily bad, just not the look I was going for.
The other part that I found a little frustrating was mixing colours! Colour is something I am often complimented on in my work, and I typically have a strong sense of which colours I like together and how much contrast I want to achieve. Because I normally work digitally, I have the whole world of colour options in front of me, and what's more, I can adjust it after the fact, to be lighter, darker, or a completely different colour. When painting, you have to mix any colours you want that aren't available right out of the tube. I'm nervous about that, which is why I bought the 24 pack instead of the 12, to get more options straight from the tube. This definitely required some compromise, and also a bit more advanced planning. On this first attempt I didn't sketch anything, didn't even really have an idea in my head for what the final artwork would be, I just grabbed some random colours and tried to avoid mixing. I did end up mixing some white and blue and white and red, but those seemed pretty straightforward to me. Moving forward, I started planning things out more and more, sketching the illustration first and even doing some colour thumbnails in pencil crayon and on my ipad:
I sketched whatever popped into my head mostly, and also browsed through past sketchbooks to revive some things that never progressed further. Because I had four whole panels to fill, it felt like it didn't matter what I was drawing since I would be drawing so many more anyways...does that make sense? Anyways, this loose and fast production style of art definitely helped me let go of perfection, something that I think is really important when you're learning a new skill. Lisa Congdon talks about this a lot, how when we envision the art we want to make with a new medium or style, we picture according to our taste and not our skill level. This ultimately means you'll be disappointed, discouraged, and more tempted to give up and go back to what you know. You have to be able to push through the first work that is likely to look considerably worse than you imagined, until your skill matches up with your taste. Having this fast production method helped me feel the looseness and let go of the perfectionism I tend to feel with other art projects. Painting with gouache wasn't about any outcome other than improving and being able to paint better in the future, maybe for actual projects that I will be more invested in.
I painted for four days in a row, and was really enjoying the practice, and seeing my quick improvement. It was very hard to tell myself to stop and take a break when riding such a creative flow, but ultimately the health of my wrist is much more important. If you want to read more about that experience you can here. Here are a few more pictures of my creations in the short time I was working with gouache.