Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sketching in gouache

Gouache is a marvellous medium for doing quick sketches. I often use it when working on portrait commissions and wish to present a series of ideas . In a previous blog, I showed a portrait of Tony Langford, Managing Director of John Smedley Ltd. (2003-9)
This was only arrived at after various other alternatives had been considered.

Whilst it was great fun to paint , this was not really a portrait suitable for the Company Boardroom.
Tony is also a passionate sailor, so I was taken on board his motor launch and given a trip along the Orwell. Fortunately, it was a calm day as I am no seafarer! This voyage resulted in the following sketch.

One of the previous Chairmen, however, also had a nautical theme as background, so this alternative was rejected.
Finally, we decided on a Cambridge setting as Tony grew up there,went to University there and now lives there. Hence the idea of having his old College, Clare, as the backdrop. A couple of alternatives were considered


This second version was chosen as the design for the finished portrait. Whilst indicating the Cambridge connection the pose was also intentionally relaxed and casual. As such it was a good foil to previous portraits now hanging in the John Smedley Boardroom.

The finished portrait.

“Tony Langford, Chairman, John Smedley Ltd. ( 2003-9)
oils 38″x 30″
The advantages of gouache as a sketching medium.
It is water based and dries instantly but remains soluble if you wish to work back into it. You can paint with a thick impasto or using a wash technique. It is opaque so you can paint light over dark . As such it is a very forgiving medium. It is much underrated and is well worth experimenting with if you’ve never tried it before.