While it's fun to use watercolour, sometimes it's good to switch it up! This FREE demo will focus on watercolour's little sister, gouache. As taught by artist Andrew Peña, gouache is the opaque version of watercolour. It behaves similarly but is opaque when undiluted.
If you are a complete beginner to gouache, I highly recommend that you check out our article, The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Gouache Painting or watch Andrew's Introduction to Gouache course so that you have a better understanding of the medium.
You could also just jump in to this tutorial, so without further ado, let's explore a different art medium and have some fun while painting a landscape!
Step 1: First Layer
Andrew is the kind of painter who paints whatever he sees, which means he often paints outside, with subjects ranging from cityscapes to landscapes. It may look like he has a "haphazard" style, but it always works in the end.
To start, he recommends using a limited colour palette of turquoise green, alizarin crimson, burnt sienna, cerulean blue, brilliant pink, cadmium (or lemon) yellow, and permanent white.
Andrew advises using a ¾" flat brush for the entire painting and keeping it small (A5 hot press paper will work here). These tips will help speed up the painting process and set limitations so you won't fuss over every little detail.
While you might feel like you're missing some colours, you can blend the colours to fit what you see. It's a way to learn how to make your colour palette work for you rather than buying the "right" colour every time!
That said, today's subject is a dilapidated restaurant near Joshua Tree National Park, California. To prep, tape the edges of your paper to a hard surface with artist tape. If you're not using loose paper, tape the edges to frame your painting. Then, squeeze your paints onto a ceramic or glass palette. Gouache works best straight from the tube.
With your ¾" flat brush, paint a light wash of burnt sienna. You're just aiming to cover all the white for a warm undertone in this Californian landscape. Next, mix in a little cerulean blue and turquoise green to your burnt sienna, and mark the main lines in your painting; the horizon line, the road lines, the mountain range, and telephone poles.
These lines act almost like perspective lines, which Andrew liked a lot when he first saw this landscape because they lead the eye to the composition's focus (i.e. the building).
Tip: Use the edge of the flat brush to get a thin line and the corner to get a small dot.
Step 2: The Sky's the Limit
Next, mix cerulean blue with a tiny bit of turquoise green and white. The consistency of your paint should be relatively thick starting from now. Use this colour to block in the sky, cutting an edge around the building, mountain range, and telephone pole.
Note: Gouache dries pretty quickly, but it's okay even if some paint mixes with the layer of burnt sienna. Because it's opaque, you can cover unwanted brushstrokes with more paint.
Even though you're not painting outside, try to make every brushstroke count. Try not to overlap your strokes too much because it saves time and gives a sense of intentionality to every brushstroke in your painting.
While you paint, you can use a spray bottle to keep your paint damp. Most of the time, though, you don't need a lot of water. Your water container is generally just for cleaning your brush when changing colours. You're meant to use gouache thickly, like acrylic paint.
Step 3: Grounding your Ground
Once you have the general shape of the sky blocked in, add a bit of alizarin crimson and white to your sky mix to create a grey-purple colour. Paint some shadows on the left side of the ground, then add more white for a light grey-purple. Dilute it slightly, and block in the sandy area while avoiding the building, road, and mountain range.
You can imply a sense of perspective and movement during this part by angling your brushstrokes to point towards the vanishing point.
Next, paint the road on the right with the same grey-purple colour you used for the shadows, only add a little more alizarin and cerulean blue to slightly change the colour. Lastly, switch to pure burnt sienna to paint the mountain range and the houses in the background.
Tip: It's okay to leave some gaps between each element! The wash of burnt sienna underneath helps harmonise the painting and keep the warm undertones of the landscape.
Step 4: Building the Building
Add a little cerulean blue to the burnt sienna for the main building. Then, block in its shape, creating a silhouette of the restaurant. You can also paint the tree trunk, telephone poles, and the tree's shadow with this colour.
Tip: A good silhouette leads to a good design and painting. Take your time to get a good silhouette, especially for something in the foreground.
At this stage, you're "finding the painting" by blocking in these basic shapes, so don't worry if you make a mistake – take note of it and fix it later when you come in with the details.
Step 5: Blocking in Large Details
Next, block in the larger details: the restaurant's pink wall, the eaves, the large window, the door, and some shadows. Bring in the brilliant pink because it works well for the walls. Add a bit more white for the lighter areas and less white for the shadowed areas.
Tip: Keep working from back to front. You can layer the things in front with more paint (for example, paint the walls before painting the window and doors). If you don't want the colours to mix, wait a little for the paint to dry first.
Step 6: Introducing a Different Colour
Once you're happy with the main look of your building, it's time to introduce a new colour to your palette: lemon yellow.
While Andrew usually uses cadmium yellow, he wanted a cool yellow for this painting, so he swapped it for lemon yellow.
For this colour, add a touch of yellow to a lot of white paint, and do the sand. You can add a touch of brilliant pink to harmonise it with the other areas that have pink, but the result should be a pastel yellow.
The paint shouldn't be too thick because you still want to see some of the ground's grey-purple and burnt sienna undertones. However, you should do the other pastel yellow details like the restaurant sign and the left-wing of the restaurant with a more saturated mix to make them stand out.
Paint in the two "white" doors on the restaurant, then go back to the brilliant pink and white mixture to enhance the restaurant's right wing walls.
Step 7: Smaller Details
As with most landscape paintings, the goal is to balance and harmonise the colours for a more natural look. To do this here, mix your mid-tones by adding a bit of alizarin crimson to your pastel pink mix and use it for the eaves of the restaurant and the edge of the telephone poles.
If you find the highlights a little too jarring, use burnt sienna to blend the edges out a tiny bit and fill in any details that you missed in the first part.
Use alizarin crimson to paint in the roofs of the background houses, and go back to the burnt sienna to paint extra telephone poles behind the restaurant.
Further harmonise your painting by adding your lemon-yellow mix to the brilliant pink one, creating a salmon colour to paint the taped-up window and the straw-like part of the palm tree.
Continue working on the tree by adding a little more yellow and white to your paint, and paint another layer of dead palm fronds for more depth. For the fronds that are still green, mix the lemon yellow with turquoise green, and use the tip of your brush to "squash" on some leafy shapes.
Tip: When painting trees, think of their leaves as one large shape rather than painting every individual leaf. It will speed up your painting significantly and give you a better idea of a proper tree silhouette.
Use the same earthy green to paint some shrubs on the ground and the trees and bushes in the background.
Step 8: Enhancing the Shadows
Give your painting a little time to dry before moving on because you'll be painting in some shadows next. Use the same dark grey-purple colour as before for the shadow colour. The great thing about gouache is that you can rewet it even when it's dry, so you can always bring back the exact colours you used when you started your painting!
Use this colour to paint the shadows for the telephone poles, some areas in the restaurant, and one long line for the shadow of a power line on the ground. Also, use this colour to enhance your highlights, such as painting a thin line to the sides of the restaurant's doors.
Step 9: Fixing the Sky
Once that's done, it's time to fix the sky. Andrew points out that when it's not nighttime, most skies are lighter towards the horizon. To create this effect, mix the same sky colour as before, only add a bit more white to it before blocking in the lower half of your sky. Be careful, cutting around your details, such as the restaurant sign and the telephone poles.
Dot in some blue areas in the palm tree where the sky shows through the fronds. To prevent the sky from looking too blocky, mix in more cerulean blue and blend out the sky so it's darker near the top. Use your paint thickly, too – this is your chance to cover any streakiness left from the first few layers!
Step 10: Final Details
To finish, use the grey-purple mixture to add power lines connecting each pole. Remember to apply perspective, so angle the cables towards the vanishing point.
Add deeper shadows to the telephone poles, the side of the restaurant sign, and any other areas you want to be darker.
Last but not least, it's time to introduce one final colour to your painting: cadmium red deep. This bright colour is going to help make your painting "pop". Use it quite thickly to paint a few "popping" details – the red windows on the restaurant, the roofs of the background houses, and a tiny bit in the tree trunk and poles. Finally, dot in some "words" on the sign!
Now you're done! Don't forget the "peel reveal,", i.e. taking off the tape around your painting. Sign it if you wish, and voila! Your landscape painting is complete.
You'll notice that this painting is heavily stylised. Andrew prefers to paint the landscape's atmosphere rather than paint photo-realistically. Looking at the photo reference, you'll see that we tweaked many things by shifting, adding, and removing, but the general likeness is still there.
One last great tip Andrew leaves with is to go out and paint, not to make a masterpiece, but to capture the area's feeling and learn from these paintings.
Learn more from Andrew in his Mini Workshop! He offers a lot of fantastic advice, and I hope you get to watch it.
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