“Early Birds'”

What are the benefits and disadvantages of gouache as a medium?
Gouache loves paper and paper loves gouache! A good quality watercolour paper will absorb gouache beautifully, but still present a vivid colour on its surface. Because of the method in which I work, without washes, I use the paint in a particular way – a creamy consistency, aiming mostly for a smooth, even application.
I spend a lot of time mixing colours in an effort to achieve the tint I am looking for. Over a period of time, I was filling more and more palettes, but discovered that, provided they were kept covered and clean, these shades could be rehydrated and used again. This to me is a definite advantage and also saves wasted paint. There are certain hues that I seem to require time and time again; I believe any artist has a certain inbuilt colour spectrum that rarely fails to show itself.
A disadvantage – if it can be termed as such – is that gouache artwork must always be framed behind glass, to keep it perfectly dry. As I develop in my painting life, I find I want to work on a larger scale, which has prompted me to use acrylic and/or oils on canvas.

“Tell us more about the development of your distinctive graphic style and the creation of your painting “Perfect Day?

My ‘style’ is now – for good or bad – quite definitely associated with me! The first time it emerged in a painting, I was fulfilling a project brief, as a young student on a graphic design degree course. I enjoyed mentally dividing a scene into areas of light and dark – with all the tonal variations in between – rather like simplifying a subject for a screen print or lino-cut. It was not directly inspired by any one artist or painting, and it seemed to come very naturally. Yet I don’t believe I used this style again for at least a decade, moving instead into more conventional illustration with watercolour, pen and ink, and pencil.

I revived the method properly many years later when given the chance to exhibit as a fine artist. At the time I felt it was important to display work with a definite identity; this is a topic that our pandemic Lockdowns of 2020/2021 have given me an opportunity to re-visit and re-consider.

‘Perfect Day’ is, unusually, inspired by a photo taken by another family member rather than myself. As I chose to paint on a box canvas, the original was created with acrylic. Unlike my gouache paintings, it was not meticulously mapped out beforehand, but sketched loosely with a brush and then tidied later as I worked through different areas. It was one of those delicious – but rare! – occasions when I could see from the first rough draft that this composition was going to ‘work’. As usual, I strengthened and dramatised the colours to achieve a more convincing impression of light
and atmosphere.

“Your painting ‘Together’ was inspired by scenes encountered in Christchurch, Dorset. Can you tell us about this work and more generally about the subjects that inspire you?”

‘Together’ is a slightly more unusual subject for me, being a study of swans on the river, rather than a broad landscape or seascape. The common factor however is the strength and play of light and shade, which holds a
constant fascination for me. I can literally stop in my tracks when walking through a gloomy area, which may suddenly have a blinding shaft of light passing through it. Silhouette scenes appeal to my love of simplified shapes.

For the original of ‘Together’, I worked from my own photograph, incorporating the play of light on the water and the way my camera had interpreted it – hence the tiny rainbow effects, which I did not see until studying the enlarged print. The colours suggested themselves to me from the qualities of the photo, but as opposites on the spectrum, they
please my search for contrast and drama.

I sometimes wish I could paint with light itself! But I don’t think I could ever be tempted to produce art with an electronic screen device. The way paint behaves on paper is an endless education and one of life’s pleasures!

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