Gouache Painting Process

When I came upon Cliff Lake in the Sierra National Forest I was fascinated with the mirrored reflections and decided so emphasize the designs they create in a gouache sketch. Here I’ll share the process for making a small painting on site.

I keep my gouache paints in these plastic pans and spray them with water before I start. Notice the grey marker sketch above. I do this sometimes to figure out my design so that when I begin painting I don’t have to think about drawing and can focus instead on mixing colors accurately. I begin really loosely with the largest brush I can.

I’m squinting my eyes and looking for the biggest shapes of color that I can find and just trying to block those in and get as much of the paper covered as possible at this stage. It can be nice when the colors run together and do unexpected things at this point. Here I’m ready to start using a smaller brush.

A painting is really just a collection of colored shapes on a piece of paper. As an artist, you can forget that you are painting a lake or trees or mountains and just look for patterns and shapes and colors. You get those right and it feels like magic… the image appears before your eyes.

The shapes (and brush) getting smaller and smaller. I’m looking for the colors that really jump out in the scene and attract me and always trying to get as much variety as possible in my design.

Feeling happy with this one… it caught the essence of what I was seeing. I get to take part of the lake home with me but still keep my “take only memories, leave only footprints” backpacking ethic.