Deep in the lonely bottom shelves of our cherished arts and crafts stores exists what I believe is a supply often forgotten by the mixed media community. This past year, I discovered the remarkable qualities of this hidden gem, not by mistake but by purposely setting out to research and experiment with this mostly overlooked resource.
Gouache, I discovered, is made of all natural pigments and is comparable to watercolor, but has a chalk-like binding agent added, which makes it opaque. It’s similar to watercolor in that, unlike acrylic paint, you can re-wet it after it dries and it will move again. In addition to its opaqueness, its pigments are intense and are highly reflective, and verily, who doesn’t want intense pigment?
Over the years, I’ve seen a few mixed media artists use gouache in their work, but as I learned, it’s used mostly by commercial artists in design work such as illustrations and the like. Traditional gouache has been around for over a dozen centuries, but today artists are using a somewhat new variation called, “acrylic gouache.” Its highly concentrated pigment is similar to historical gouache, but it’s mixed with an acrylic-based binder that makes it water-soluble when wet and dries to a matte, opaque and water-resistant surface. Acrylic gouache differs from pure acrylic in that it contains additives to secure a matte finish.
Now, we all know that one of the biggest marketing ploys today is pop-up advertising following our internet searches for specific products. Consequently, my online research for gouache produced a barrage of ads by various manufacturers, including Arteza. I gave in and ordered their artist’s starter set of 24 small tubes of acrylic gouache in various colors to see if I would like it, and I did so love it for many reasons! First, the colors truly are intense and highly pigmented; the deeper tones dry brighter and the brighter tones deeper. The matte finish is perfect for book art in that dried pages don’t stick together the way acrylic-painted pages do. And layering with these paints was a dream, as each color maintained its original brilliance. What a revelation for art journalists!
The work you see in this Stampington’s “Art Journaling” article was done in a Dylusions Art Journal by Ranger, which contains card stock, and was a perfect pairing because the page strength held up to the wet texture of the acrylic gouache. Since I had read that gouache holds onto its original pigment even over a dark surface, I used the Arteza “Noir” for my first background. Truly, the layers of color I added remained vivid against the jet black. If you’re familiar with my work you know I love a white gel pen against a darker tone, and the gouache made it even more distinct.
All in all, my experiment with this age-old invention was revealing, and I’m now using it regularly to add incredible color to my journals, paper and linen canvases.
As always, prepare your pages with gesso before adding mixed media of any kind. Use black gesso instead of white under black acrylic gouache to achieve a super dark background.
Patience is everything when it comes to dry time. A white Uniball Signo gel pen will glide over a completely dried surface no matter what medium was used, while a wet or even damp surface may ruin your pen entirely.