Friday, April 6, 2012

Dabbling in Gouache & Shifting My Focus

I'm always on the lookout for an excuse to buy art supplies. There's something so exciting about testing a new set of markers, opening up a fresh sketchbook, or trying out a new paint color. A world of possibilities awaits! I think it all goes back to those childhood days when nothing made me happier than a brand-new 96-count box of Crayola crayons (with a built-in sharpener!)

I recently enrolled in an online class on watercolor sketching, part of Strathmore's 2012 Online Workshop Series, taught by Cathy Johnson, one of my favorite artists and author of countless books on drawing and painting. Since opaque watercolors, or gouache (pronounced "gwash"), were on the class supply list, I had a good excuse to finally invest in a set. She recommended those manufactured by M. Graham, since they are rewettable and don't get crumbly when they dry on your palette.

M. Graham gouache paint set, repurposed Prang watercolor set with new gouache paint, old brushes, and an extra plastic mixing palette

I took an old (I mean really old, like from my childhood!) metal Prang watercolor set and washed out the paint, which was still remarkably moist and usable, and squirted in the three primary colors, plus black and white, that came in my set of gouache paints. Because of the opacity of the gouache, I couldn't use my good watercolor brushes - remnants of the gouache could affect the transparency of my watercolors - so I dug out some cheap old brushes to use with my new materials.

I had a 5" x 7" Daler-Rowney Cachet sketchbook with toned paper on my shelf, one that I bought years ago and have never opened. It was the perfect thing to use with the gouache, so, even though I always face that first blank page of a new sketchbook with a certain amount of fear and trepidation, I dove in and gave gouache a try!

5" x 7", ink and gouache

I decided to have a particular focus in this little sketchbook, one that will encourage me to notice the little blessings that fill my days and that I sometimes fail to appreciate - those moments that I might ordinarily give little thought to, but that are gifts from God, showing me how beautiful life really is.

5" x 7", pencil & gouache

We're constantly being bombarded with negativity on TV, online, and in the newspaper. I find that those things can really affect my attitude and put me on edge. They influence me in a way that's not healthy. It helps if I limit my exposure to the news, but more than just taking a protective stance, I want to be proactive in filling my mind with thoughts that are good and happy and uplifting.

5" x 7", pencil & gouache

I want to be aware of beauty, to be thankful for the first dogwood blossoms in the spring, for my dog resting his head on my knee, for the smile on the face of my sweet little grandson, and the special light that slants across my yard in the early morning. All these are the moments that make up my days; these are the real and true things.

5" x 7", ink, gouache, & watercolor

So I'll fill this book with simple sketches of gratitude. I won't labor over them. I'll have fun with them and play with my new materials, and on these pages, I'll take a break from bad news and politics, worries and concerns, and instead, focus on joy.


  1. Leslie, I just LOVE this! If I had to use one word to describe your work, the first word that comes to mind is "Happiness"!

  2. Thanks so much for your encouraging comment! I'm glad to know my work gives that impression. I hope I'm bringing a little happiness into people's lives with this blog.

  3. These pages are beautiful! I have the very same sketchbook at home. I usually use pastels or white gel pen and black ink on it, but Gouache looks really effective! Cathy is also one of my favorite sketchers, oh - and Laura from Laurelines :0)

  4. Sandra, I just clicked over to your blog to see some of your sketches and was surprised to see that you've been challenging yourself to draw people - I started the same project about a week ago. I, too, always hesitate to include figures in my sketches, because I'm just not that comfortable drawing them. So I made up my mind to practice, practice, practice. I'll share some of my attempts soon. Meanwhile, yours drawings are encouraging me!

  5. I like this book and the purpose behind it a lot! Good Inspiration! I haven't tried this kind of watercolor before and now you make me want to run out and buy some. I'll use your book as a mentor. Thanks!

  6. Let's learn together, Katiejane! It's a lot of fun, but you really have to think differently about what you're doing, since the paints are opaque. I can't wait to do some more pages!


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