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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Two men on a train (gouache on black)

Two men on a train.
Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache
on 240gsm (WHSmith) black card.
© Peter Gander
Ever since I saw English artist & children’s TV presenter Tony Hart paint a picture of a ‘street lamp at night’, purely in chalk on black paper when I was younger, I’ve loved to experiment with similar mediums on black. I have tried Winsor & Newton ink (see previous posts) but today I tried their Designers Gouache. I’m not an experienced user of gouache and producing a tonal study in just one colour is the perfect way to accustomise oneself to a new medium. Using a reference photo I took on a work journey, I stuck the print-out on my studio wall and painted this from a distance, by eye. My advice is never trace photos, as you kill any individuality you may have lent to the drawing or painting doing that (there’s no skill in tracing!). If you at least use your reference photos at arm’s length, you will be using the same drawing and measuring-by-eye skills that you would be using in painting from a life model. It’s not as interesting perhaps, but a fair compromise. Gouache, unlike the ink, works better here as the levels of opacity are easier to control and dial up and down. You have to work back-to-front in terms of how the layers build (opposite to watercolour), laying down the darkets (most diluted and thus less opaque) tones down first, followed by heavier, (more opaque, lighter) tones to finish off.  His trousers for instance, are a more diluted blend of gouache, thus more recessive when laid on the black card. The final touch was the white highlight on the commuter’s forehead in a strong, drier solution of white. I left some areas of the substrate (black card) show through as an outline in places, such as the top of the guy’s arm. This lends a lovely graphic quality to the piece. I’m very pleased with this look, so I will be doing more gouache on black paintings later. Winsor & Newton Designers (sic) Gouache on 240gsm (WHSmith) black card.


  1. Wow! certainly you should use gouache more. this is quite fantastic Peter.

  2. Thanks Debu, I will do some more gouache on black very soon!

  3. Hmmm! More please!