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  • Writer's pictureJason Morgan

Pastel Drawings - Using Gouache paint and why I do it

It will seem VERY strange to most artists, especially pastel pencils artists, to learn that I frequently use gouache paint in my pastel drawings.

But there is a method to my (seemingly) madness. You see, here is the problem I needed to overcome 7 years ago when I started pastel drawing (after 25 years of oil painting). Suppose I am drawing a Leopard, with all its numerous spots. I can draw the spots in when I do my line art / outline drawing, but as soon as I put in the undertone of the fur with pastel , then I would likely lose the position of the spots. A way to overcome this could be to do what almost every other artist does, work on the spots at the same time as drawing in the areas between the spots. But I found that quite tedious to do. When painting in oils I could be really free when doing the underlayer and that made the blocking in fast and also fun. I wanted to do the same with pastels - but how? I had the idea (many probably though of it before me, but i never saw it done) of putting in the spots with paint. I knew my favourite paper, Pastelmat, could take paint as it has a very robust surface. So I started to test out some acrylics, etc - all I really needed was black for the spots, nothing else.

Well... long story short. The best paint to use was designers Gouache, it dried perfectly matt so accepted the pastel on its surface just like Pastelmat.

So now I had a way of putting in the black areas without them moving or smudging when I put the pastel on top. I loved how it worked and it changed how I approached most of my pastels completely.

Let me run you through the process

In the image below you can see the reference photo on the left and the start of my drawing on the right. I've transferred my drawing on to the Pastelmat paper and then used Gouache paint, thinned with a little water (not too much or the paint will suck in to the paper surface and spread - experiment for yourself to find just the right amount) and gone over the dark areas. I then let the paint dry naturally, or you can speed that process up with a hair dryer, but not TOO HOT.

When the paint was fully dry I could now go over the top with PanPastels, pastel sticks, Pencils etc as I would on just the paper. I like to use Panpastels for the blocking in stage as they are not completely opaque, so I can quite easily see the position of the spots etc and now the spots wont smudge at all.

After I have created the Jaguar base layer above with Pans, I can then start to refine the drawing even more and put the spots back in

The jaguar drawing was all about capturing that dramatic lighting. Hope you like seeing the finished drawing bottom of the page :)

I have a free video for you showing the technique below - full video on my Patreon art channel Tier 2 and above

I have LOTS of lesson videos on my Patreon art channel, over 1500 members learning right now. Prices from just $4 a month - no contract, start and finish as you wish.

finished drawing


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