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Getting Started with Watercolor & Gouache Paints

Lesson 12 of 13

Demo: Gouache and Watercolor Ball and Cube

Mary Jane Begin

Getting Started with Watercolor & Gouache Paints

Mary Jane Begin

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Lesson Info

12. Demo: Gouache and Watercolor Ball and Cube

Lesson Info

Demo: Gouache and Watercolor Ball and Cube

So what I have here are two shapes that I pre-drew and put a tone on. And I'm just gonna explain what I have here and what the surfaces are that I used. So this is a hot press paper, which means it's really smooth. It's a 90-pound. I just wanted to use, it's what I had, so I used a thin piece of paper. I had to soak and staple it. You can see the staples on the edge. And I also did my usual technique of the taping. I wanted you to see the difference between looking at a picture with the blue versus looking at a picture with the white. So, as you know I like to do, I'm going to put my white tape back on, and I'm also gonna cover these staples so I don't tear my hand up. But the two things I wanna do here is I want to show how you can create a kind of modulation of color, or what I'd call a, almost like rendering where you're creating a soft transition, which watercolor is happy to do, as long as it's wet, versus a hard crisp edge, which it loves to do as long as the wet is hitting the d...

ry of the paper. So I'll use both those sort of methods and techniques as we paint this. And again, I'm covering this with white tape, but probably the edges across the staple I might use a cheaper tape, I might use masking tape. This stuff is like gold. Everybody's like, where's my white tape? Because it's a little more expensive than regular tape. Okay, so now you can see, I've covered it up. The two colors that I used here, and this was, I used watercolor, but I think I'm gonna jump in and bring gouache into the equation, kinda mix them both. I'll use both materials. And the gouache, it's the same rule of colors and actually the same names of the colors, for the most part, gouache versus watercolor. So if you were building just a gouache palate, you would do a grouping of reds, a grouping of yellows, a grouping of blues, your primaries, and then an orange, a secondary, a green, a couple greens. This actually has two types of greens, viridian and the olive green. Just to have, you know, two transitions. But the umbers and the tertiary or brown colors as well. Same kinda palate as with watercolor. But we're gonna bring the message of both these materials into this. So the first thing I wanna show you with the ball is I'm gonna do subtractive color. I'm gonna grab my stiff bristle brush, which is here. It's got a little bit of color on the end of it, so I'm gonna clean it. Once again, you can see that the water is becoming a little purple. It's still coming out clean, but if I were in studio I'd jump up and clean it. I like fresh water when I'm painting. But this works. So this is raw umber, which is a neutral tone. It's one of your tertiary colors, and it's watercolor. But I'm going to pull off the color to create a ball. And I kind of, this is one of my favorite things to do. I absolutely love subtracting color off the surface. I don't know why this just feels so good to me, but it's fun. And you can see, it's coming off pretty nicely. But subtracting the color like this, and I'm just pushing harder where I want the light to be brighter, and then releasing from the pressure with this stiff bristle brush as I move across the ball surface. I'm also trying to keep my strokes fairly even. I'm not going back and forth in 10 different ways. I'm trying to keep the direction of my brush strokes pretty consistent. And I'm gonna try to make what looks like, maybe it's the moon, I don't know, it's just a ball shape. Go a little lighter here. And you see there is a little bit of texture to this color, but it's not the same as the rough or the cold press. So I'm softly trying to pull color off, releasing from the pressure as I get further across this little ball shape. And watercolor wants desperately to make an edge. And I'm fighting that edge just a little bit as I drag this almost dry brush into the area of color that's gonna be really like the shadow. And I can blot it to pull up some of the color. Okay. I can even rub it to soften that mark, okay. So you kinda see, you can even see still the water, where it stops, there's more of an edge than I really want there. I'm gonna lightly graze my stiff bristle brush over anything that feels a little too textural to me. I want it to be a smooth transition, okay. So the purpose of subtracting the color, for me, is really about establishing light versus shadow. So I use this technique in my work, and I'd like to be able to show that on the drawing that I showed you, the panda drawing, but it's a nice way to establish light and value. So the next thing I'm gonna do, I'm gonna let that dry. Because, as I said before, when watercolor's a little damp, it makes for a rougher surface to work on, the colors start to merge in funny ways, than when it's fully dry. So we'll let that dry for now. But then I'm gonna go over to this side. And you can kind of see, there's this weird texture here. Well this is frisket right here, liquid frisket, and this is used to block out watercolor from reacting to what's coming up on top of it. So this is completely covered except that corner. If I pull it off a little bit, that's actually rubber. It's coming right off. I have saved the white of the page, and that's gonna create a super beautiful edge. Now let's see, if I pull this off, you can see. And it's weird, two things about liquid frisket, and there's lots of different brands, the brand doesn't really matter, but, I mean, it's kind of a strange sensation. I'm peeling away this rubber, but what it's allowed me to do is to save the white of the page. This is pulling the white back, by subtracting this, saved the white. I'm gonna add opaque white on the side and use the white of the page here for my color. I mean that's, it creates a really really crisp edge, which, if that's what you're trying to go for, the frisket is a beautiful tool. I'll open this up. The one thing about frisket, it stinks. Yeah, it doesn't smell good. Some of them smell like smelly feet and others just smell chemically. It's not harmful, it just doesn't smell very good. And I can show you, it gets really gummy. And you don't wanna use a really beautiful brush, you wanna use your least nice brush to use the frisket, because the frisket is rubber. Let me find a brush that I'm not crazy about, okay. This is rubber. So I'm actually gonna put some of this frisket on top of, let's say on top of this part of the cube. And you can use frisket on top of something that's already watercolored, not just the white of the page. Which is kinda interesting. But basically, what the frisket is doing is it's a rubber, it dries, you know, like rubber, it dries stiff and it will not let the color that you're putting on top of it change the color that's underneath. So it's really like a protector. If you were in Photoshop, you'd be using a mask. So liquid frisket is basically masking out what's right below it. But you have to wait for this, if I were home I would use a blow drier, and I would dry this liquid frisket. It's a little distracting because it's a color. You can get white frisket. There may even me, I think there might be clear as well. But this was the least expensive frisket that I could get, so that's what I'm using. But you can see, it's functioning just like any other paint. You just paint the surface and then we'll test that after. But we have to wait for it to dry before we can pull it up. It's actually starting to bead up into little strings of rubber as I paint it. And that's just because that's the way it's made. Okay, liquid frisket, gonna leave it alone. I'm gonna put the cap back on because it stinks, and then I'm gonna rinse this brush. If I don't rinse this brush now, it will be full of rubber. And that is not a nice way to treat your brush. So I'm gonna rinse it out as well as I can, test it, make sure there's no rubber on it. And this is a sable brush. I thought this was a cheap brush, this is a really good one, so I'm gonna rinse it again. Sable brushes should be treated with delicacy and care. All of your brushes should. And as I showed you, you can hold it in that holder, which holds it upside down, but for now I'm just gonna put it back in my metal tray. So while the rubber frisket is drying, I'm gonna go back into the ball and I'm going to pop this to make it more volumetric by grabbing some gouache, because this is very transparent right now and I want this to be, have opacity and transparency. So the gouache we know is gonna do that. I'm gonna pull from some colors that I think will react well to this. This is turquoise blue, yummy. I'm gonna put it on the glass because I'm running out of room there. Oh, that's a great color. I love that color. Well, I'm sorta wearing the blue as well. I'm gonna add a little bit of white. Although I don't need to add a lot of it, I'm just doing it to make the ball seem like it's lit on one side. But I'll also use that color in the shadow area. So the first thing I'm gonna do is, when you're painting, I tend to think thick over thin. So that's really like, the thicker part is the opaque part and the thin part is usually the transparent part, and the transparent part tends to be the shadow and the thick part tends to be the light. That's just how color functions. But I don't wanna get too deeply into color. So I'm going to re-wet this whole circle, my ball. And I'm going to add some of this blue to it. And I'm letting the water activate that color. But I don't want it to be too too wet, because I wanna make sure that the color moves around, but I don't want it to be fluid, I wanna control the color a little bit. Less water, little bit more control. More water, the water's gonna do its own thing. Okay, so I'm making the shadow shape of the ball. And I'm trying to make this gouache color a little more transparent than it normally is, simply because I want it to react to that brown that's underneath so the two will neutralize each other and will create a shadow. But then, I'm gonna pull some water into this area so that I can add really dense opacity. Let's see if this works. So, as I said before, this stuff is pretty much like watercolor, it's just a little more dense, a little more opaque. And in some cases a lot more opaque. So now I'm going to make the light side of the ball. I'm gonna wet this first so that the color ekes into the side. And then I'm gonna add some white to it. And I'm utilizing the scrubbed out area of white as my guideline. Okay. Now that's pretty yummy. One of my favorite things. So what's happening right now is you have opaque color in the light, transparent color in the shadow. And then I'm gonna try to make what will be called translucent or semi-opaque, semi-transparent color in the shadowy area. Okay, hold on a second. Now I'm gonna add a little more of the pigment. It's a little bit of white mixed with the blue. And you see the water's kinda helping me along here. It's making that transition because the water itself is pushing and moving that color along. So it's kind of a nice combination and use of water plus brush plus pigment. The other thing I mentioned about gouache is that it does tend to dry a little more quickly than watercolor. So this is drying a little faster than watercolor would, and is becoming more dense. But I'm trying to let the water move this color along so I don't get too much texture or mark-making from my brush. We can make this a little more of a transition. I'm adding a little water. There. So it has a little more of a gradation. But you can see the water is helping to move that color across the surface. I'm gonna leave that alone. If I keep monkeying with it, if I keep pushing that brush as this dries, like I said before, it gets crunchy. And I can show that on a separate piece of paper, but for right now, I'm just gonna flip this upside-down. And we'll go over to this side, which is still a little bit damp. But I'm gonna ask, Kanna, what color would you like this cube to be? Great question. I was gonna say green, 'cause green and purples are my favorites. Well actually, that's a really good choice. Because, if we chose purple on purple, what would happen? Not much. No. If you chose blue on purple? Meh. If you put green on purple, they are complements, they'll react. So, I like reaction, and reaction is what makes colors so interesting. So if I grab, I'm gonna grab, because this is a cool blue, I'm gonna go with that nice olivey green, and again, I'm gonna use gouache, just for the fun of it, just so you can see how gouache works. And my cube is upside down to my mind, but that's okay. So we're gonna make this a very densely green cube. But the first thing I'm gonna do, and actually I'm gonna use a different brush for this because I want, it's a square shape so I'm gonna use my angular brush and show you that it's just so much easier to create something square with an angular brush. I just have to make sure that my brush is clean. This is what this looks like. It's actually kind of beautiful. But once it gets dense with color, it goes in the trash and I grab a fresh one. So it's, I would call it a blotter. That's what I'm trying to do is blot previous colors out. And you can still see, there's still orange in there. And that's another reason that people, another reason why mud, or I should say neutralized color, happens, is that brushes aren't clean enough. When you go back into the color and you're mixing color unintentionally, the water is too densely colored. That also neutralizes color. And the third way that I mentioned was when you try to go back into the watercolor as it's almost dry. Okay. So I'm gonna put some of this green down. And it's easier with this brush because I can make a nice clean edge. I don't have to fight the brush's shape. I'm using the brush's shape. And I'm also doing this, not wet into wet, I'm doing dry brush. I wanted you to see the difference. You can see a little bit more of the mark. And it's drying, literally, there's an edge. If I don't keep going fast that edge will be a part of the picture, and I don't really want it to be. Okay. I want the edge to be at the edge of the box. It's also really helpful, I'm not doing it now, but I would normally in studio spin my picture around, maybe I will do it. Just try to be careful. So, oh this is a gorgeous color on this purple. Nice choice Kanna. Okay, so this is like a shadow color. And the reason why it kinda looks like a shadow is because the purple and the green are opposites, they're neutralizing each other, right? So that's just a little color tip. Again, color fundamentals, I talk a lot about that, but I just wanted you to literally see it. I can't pull this up yet, 'cause it's still a little too wet. It's almost dry. I'm gonna just show you, like, when I go over this area, which is gonna be your area in light and I'm using the white of the page, not opaque white, and I'm gonna try to create an edge. You can see that the white of the page is really keeping the vibrancy of the color. It's the same exact amount of the color as I used in the shadow, but there's no purple here. So it's the pure pigment on the white of the page, semi transparent. But I don't need the opacity of the white to create this lit area, I'm using the white of the page. Now I can go right over this. And look, it resists. There's no color being absorbed into the paper. That's its whole point. That's what it's there for. And when it dries, I can peel that right off of there. Again, I'll use this brush to go right up to the edge. The angular brush is beautiful. Now this is a synthetic brush, but it's still a nice brush for its purposes. It might not last as long as the sable brush, but it's still a good brush. And they're much less expensive. So if you're just testing and playing, feel free to get the synthetics and have a good time with them. And then treat yourself to the Kolinsky's or the sables when you get, you know, if you get into watercolor and you're like, I love this, then try the other. But again, what I'm doing right now, this is pretty basic stuff. Anybody can try and test these little examples for themselves, use the frisket, make a cube, make a ball, and see what happens. Okay, so that's my cube. I don't know that I can pull that frisket up yet. I can try. But what we should see under there is the purple of this tone right here. I'm getting rid of my edges so it doesn't look like a metallic ball. Here we go. So the difference here, once again, is I've used, there are two ways I can do this. I've used the white of the page to make the lit area, and I can actually, I can go back in and pull some of this color up if I want to. If I want it to be more lit. Just pull that color up with the brush. And this is a nice tool for pulling up with the color because it's got a clean edge, it's not like a tissue or a paper towel which is kinda crunchy. So now, let's just see if this rubber cement is gonna come off this surface yet. I think it's dry. I'm gonna blot that bit of green color that's on top of it. And I'm gonna try to pull it off. Whoops, I put my finger on the green. Yeah, it's coming off. It is the weirdest sensation. Yeah, here goes. It's like, if you've ever used rubber cement, that's what it kinda feels like. And then there's a little, oh I just touched it so I got a little color there. So that's been saved and protected, and now I can go over that. Let's say I want to add a little opaque white to that green color and make this the lightest area. Let's just try that for fun. Okay. You can save almost anything with the frisket. It basically blocks out and saves what you want to have saved underneath there. It's primarily used for saving the white of the page. But in this case, I also wanted you to see what the opaque color looks like next to the transparent white of the page and the neutralized shadow color. Now, you can see that it's a little bit harder to do what I'm doing than the angular brush. I have less control. I can do it but I hae to be a lot more careful. Okay, and we're almost done with this part. Okay, so that. There's my cube. So again, you know, I've got this dimensionality based on the edge of the watercolor. It dries, it creates a crisp, clean shape, versus the kind of, you know, transition and modulation. Once that dries I'd probably go over it again and then again, but I can't touch it now because it's still wet. I could show you what happens. I could show what happens when you do that. Maybe I will. Poor ball, I'm sorry, I'm gonna, I'm going to go in and do things I wouldn't normally do. Just to show you what happens when you do it. So if I, let's say I want to add blue to this color. I'm gonna use watercolor now. Now this is not dry. So when I add the blue to this, what it's doing is it's starting to pick up the color that's underneath it. And look what it's doing, it's turning this sort of grayish tone. Because my brush is lifting the color that was there before. If I try to add blue to the white area, I'm just moving that white around, I can't really glaze on top of it. So it creates, it's like this crunchiness that happens with the color. And I'll do it actually, if I have, this is still a little bit damp, I'll test it here. I'll do this. Yeah, it creates a kind of, how should I say it? Like this one's dry now. Oh, it's still picking up a little bit. So it's mixing with your brush, and the more you do this, the more the color kinda, I call it a crustiness, it crunches up and does weird things. And it's not, it isn't ideal. And you can see here, yeah, it's starting, it's pooling in all these weird and uncontrollable ways. Patience and a blow drier keeps you from mushing up your ball and making it, like look, you can see, the shadow's no longer a shadow. Because as soon as I threw this dark blue on top, it picked up the blue underneath and shifted the tonality of it. So we don't wanna do that.

Class Description

Are you interested in working with watercolor and/or gouache paints but not sure how to get started? In this course artist and illustrator, Mary Jane Begin will introduce you to the world of watercolor and gouache paints. This class is perfect for beginners looking to learn the basics of the medium in order to begin a painting practice. By the end of this course, you will be equipped with the know-how to pick up a brush and start experimenting with watercolors and gouache!

In this class you’ll learn:

  • All about the different types of watercolor and gouache paints available on the market and how they work
  • Which brushes and papers to use with those paints
  • How to begin making simple marks and shapes to familiarize yourself with the medium

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I really enjoy Mary Jane Begin's style of teaching--I have a degree in Fine Art and have been painting for years, but think she does such a good job of building on the basics and encouraging play. Get your supplies ready ahead of time, if like me you want to play along. Thank you!

Kelly LaFrance

Awesome class! Awesome instructor! Exactly what I was looking for, and highly recommended. :-)


Fantastic class - so informative and inspiring. After watching the lessons, I picked up my watercolors and started playing around with some of the covered techniques. Highly recommended!