Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bison Chocolate Stout and Gouache

Welcome from sunny, cool Georgia.

Last weekend N brought home a repeat favorite, Bison Chocolate Stout. The first place we tried this beer was at a Ted's Montana Grill. I gave my beer order first, and N followed with the same, and then every other person at the table ordered one... except the other girl. Anyhow, it was good enough to pick up at the Beverage Resort a few times since then.

Bison Chocolate Stout is fairly unique. Other stouts often make me think, "Tastes similar to stout X." But this one doesn't remind me of any other beers. It tastes very much like dark chocolate. The cocoa flavor is a bit bitter, just like a Hershey's Dark. But it also has a nice bite and tang. Overall, a unique, chocolately, well-rounded beer. Ratings:

N: 8
M: 8

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I use gouache. A little-known type of paint, gouache (pronounced "gwash") is an ornery, interesting medium. It's essentially opaque watercolor. The cheap gouaches are simply watercolors with chalk added, and the good ones just have more pigment (slightly coarser than watercolors). Many artists haven't heard of it, or if they have, they say, "why on earth are you starting with that??" They know that it's a difficult paint to work with... but it can also do amazing things. I chose it because my favorite wildlife painter Carl Brenders uses it. Google him and you'll see what can be done with gouache. I have prints of his hanging in my home that people always mistake for photographs.

But a good artist can do wonders with any medium, so once I tried my gouache I found out just how good Brenders is. Gouache is unfriendly. Handprint.com (a great watercolor website) says that the word "gouache" is derived from the Italian for "mud," which is very fitting.

Gouache can be used like watercolors, in wash form. It gives neat texture effects because of its coarse pigment. It can also be used thick, with only a little water added or straight from the tube. Either way, the most difficult thing about using it is its tendency to lift. Good for correcting, bad for layering. Layering can work, but if you scrub, it'll lift all the layers of paint below and turn into mud. It also gets streaky.

My example: a recent painting of a cat. This photo shows a work-in-progress.
If you're wondering why the cat has only one eye, it's because I'm honoring my sweet little devil, Kali:
Anyhow, notice the ugly, dead-looking strip to the right of the window frame. That had been layered in several washes, initially the same orange-ish color as the rest of the wall, then in blue for shadow. I scrubbed too much. It looked like crap, so I got it wet and lifted the paint off (blue-ish stripe):
I didn't pay much attention to whether the colors I was mixing were both warm or both cool, which added to the mess. The strip to the far right looks OK. The brownish strip between the two looks like mud. Bleh. Here's a view of how washes can work:
The green is a single color wash and the red is a layered mix. Both look fine.

Then there's the opaque applications. These can look good if the paint consistency is right and you do it in one pass (see purple below, notice difference between red wash and purple opaque):
But if you go over an opaque area again with another opaque application, even if it's totally dry, you'll probably get a mess. I used the same color to go over another purple area again, and it turned streaky, lifted some of the paint, and sort of un-mixed (see blue smudge):
This may also say something about my mixing abilities. Anyhow, gouache has this lovely property that the more paint you put on an already-painted wet area, the lighter it gets. No matter how much you have on your brush, painting into a wet opaque area lifts. Like trying to write over a dry-erase mark on a whiteboard. Frustrating.

Lesson: Play with gouache to learn it. Wait for it to dry to touch it up. Learn from mistakes. Don't get frustrated. After all, artists have done fabulous things with gouache. And once you've mastered it, everything else will be easy. You might also be 300 years old by then, but hey.

1 comment:

Daniel C. Boyer said...

I'm an artist whose primary medium is gouache and was interested to read this post. I actually have found it much easier to use than watercolours, which I've used much more rarely, but I think gouache is easier to use the more quickly you paint. However, what is rather difficult is diluting gouache with Coca-Cola rather than water (this is what I'm working on frequently now; you can see an example at http://www.artbreak.com/work/show/2995), what with all the foaming and difficulty diluting.