Learning from the Gouache Master

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Alex Rowe and I wrapped three days of intensive shooting on a gouache course where Alex produced a gouache painting for a wrap around book cover for the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Any painting course we produce at Artprof.org is always very labor intensive due the complex nature of the techniques. We joked that Alex was my “art prisoner” because he sat and painted at my house for 3 days, while I checked in on him every 20 minutes or so to reset the cameras and double check that the footage was coming out okay.

In the past, gouache has had a strong association with foundation Design courses at art schools.  If you ask any art student about gouache, their first association is probably super tedious color mixing charts and/or color study paintings that are all about producing flat graphic shapes.

By the time Alex and I finished up his gouache tutorial, I actually developed “sympathy” for gouache as a medium.  I had made all of these assumptions in the past about what I thought gouache was capable of. I realized that when I thought about gouache, all I could think of was how limited and frustrating it was, and I never took the time to think about it’s potential.  Like many other art students, in my eyes, gouache has always had this bad reputation for being really boring and tedious as a medium.

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Alex had a totally different take on gouache, I’ve never met anyone who has such an intense passion for gouache as a medium. We realized through our discussions for the tutorial is that the difference was all in terms of your mindset with gouache. Where I all I could see was gouache’s limitations and problems, Alex saw flexibility and substance.  The difference was that Alex paints with gouache, whereas I always saw it as a sterile paint for laying down flat colors for boring color charts.

One of the reasons I love working on Artprof.org so much is that it’s as much of an educational experience for us, as it is for our viewers. I’ve been familiar with Alex’s astonishing gouache paintings for a while now, and getting this very close intimate look into his process was so exciting. Seeing Alex’s decisions and actions in his process and hearing him explain his rationale for his process was great. In many ways, Art Prof is a way for me to be a student again.

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