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Gouache Painting Inside On A Rainy Day

Flowers, paints, and sketchbook on a desk in front of a window.


One of the goals I’ve had for a while was to embrace plein air painting. But the realities of painting on the beach include a constant 15 mph breeze fighting with your easel, futile attempts to use watercolor paint and paper amidst salt water spray, mist, rain, or the attack of ladybugs tickling you playfully as they ignore all bug spray. So, I am finding myself turning to alternatives to painting outside.

One of the alternatives is working inside from a bouquet of flowers. I learned this from Jackie Saunders, an excellent watercolorist who offered a spring class on painting loose florals from live plants based on the techniques of Charles Reid. We purchased our own flower “models” from the florist or grocery store for the class (some lucky people were able to grab cuttings from their garden.) We then spent the better part of a Sunday afternoon painting from the flowers we brought into class as she lovingly encouraged us to continue painting.

I found myself adopting this approach this past weekend when I found myself battling not only all of the items listed above but thunderstorms, tornado and flash flooding alerts, and periods of torrential downpours. Clearly, not the best day to be outside trying to paint on paper with paints that dissolve in water.

I set up the bouquet that I found in the house beside the window to get natural light. There was a table in front of it that I used to set up as my painting desk. Instead of using watercolor paints, I tried gouache paints that I have in a pan set. They are similar to watercolor paint, but opaquer with a coarser grind to the pigment. You can’t blend them using the same wet on wet techniques that watercolor allows. You can’t layer them in the same way that you can’t watercolor because they will turn to mud quickly. Other than that, painting with gouache is similar to watercolor or fluid acrylics.

It was liberating to be able to paint in front of a window while it poured outside. I felt that I was sneaking and getting away with something when that happened. The sun would come out from time to time changing how the flowers looked which presented to me some of the challenges of painting outside (while staying dry). Being able to have access to water to change it often and not having to carry your gear far was also helpful.

I was not able to recreate the loose florals that Jackie Saunders and Charles Reid advocate. But, I am not either of them, so I don’t expect my art to look exactly like theirs especially when I am not using the same medium.

I will explore gouache further and start to see how I can mix in some gouache paint to improve my paintings. And, I will continue to paint from flowers inside especially during rainy days.

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