Gouache (rhymes with squash)

gouache: ɡwäSH,ɡo͞oˈäSH/ Why are we talking about gouache?

gouache: ɡwäSH,ɡo͞oˈäSH/

noun: gouache

1 a method of painting using opaque pigments ground in water and thickened with a gluelike substance.

Why are we talking about gouache?

“Gouache, (rhymes with squash), also called opaque watercolor, is paint that is heavier than traditional transparent watercolors. Centuries old, from the Italian “guazzo, meaning “water paint” originally used to illuminate manuscripts over 800 years ago.”

So, today, our Rose Compass artists are using this ancient medium to illuminate our explorations of the Santa Ynez Watershed. We carry our pochade (portable paintbox integrating an easel support from the French) into the landscapes and paint plein-air on tiny watercolor boards. Our formats are purposefully small for convenience of carrying them on foot to our location and with the expectation a painting can be completed in one visit.

But, more often than not, I end up using my small paintings for the day as field studies as I am needing further contemplations of the new wild places we discover. Using my painted notes, I either rework the original painting or use it to create a new one that better defines my experience that day.

My examples today come from a Rose Compass outing to Cachuma Lake on August 16, 2016. It was disturbing to see this reservoir that once had a capacity to provide drinking water for the Santa Ynez region so depleted from the drought reaching historically low water levels called “minimum pool”….7.5% of capacity.

When we arrived that morning it was cool and there was a pretty purple light that shimmered over the scene. A few rays of sun spotlighted little golden mesas…I painted that impression first. Then, the light of day fully exposed the bleak gray banks once covered with water revealing the effects of years of drought. That’s what stuck in my head and that is what ended up on my tiny watercolor board painted in gouache. The medium itself helped define the heaviness of my feeling for the scene. Layer upon layer of color depicting layers of stone and sediment accumulation with the faintest of water suggested at the bottom “dead pool.”

 Looking Across to Cachuma Bay 2016 4" x 6" gouache on Arches Board

Looking Across to Cachuma Bay 2016 4" x 6" gouache on Arches Board

 Mesa on Cachuma Bay 2016 3.5" x 5.75" gouache on Arches Board

Mesa on Cachuma Bay 2016 3.5" x 5.75" gouache on Arches Board

 Dead Pool 2016 4" x 6" gouache on Arches Board

Dead Pool 2016 4" x 6" gouache on Arches Board