Gouache Painting (upskill)

For my FMP, I decided to really push the boundaries of my capabilities and try out new mediums I’ve never used before. The first medium I decided to experiment with was gouache. When I use a medium for the first time I don’t tend to research much, I just find out what materials and utensils I need and see what I can create.

The following image is a page filled with my first experiments – they were painted on a dark grey cardstock, as I had heard that gouache allowed you to easily paint over dark surfaces and I wanted to test the theory. Each number corresponds with an explanation below.

1 numbered

  1. This was the first thing I did when I sat down to paint. I knew that gouache was water-based and supposed to hold the properties of both acrylic and watercolour, so I first laid down a stripe of shiny blue paint I had mixed together. I then added some water, mixed it into the paint, and laid down another stripe. I repeated this process 5 times, just to see how the paint acted as it became less viscous. The paint reacted by becoming more opaque, and then when there was more water than paint the paint pooled up and became more opaque again.
  2. Here I laid down a strip of paint that I had mixed up. I cleaned my brush, saturated it with water, and tried to pull the paint along with the water. This created a fading effect.
  3. Here I mixed up two paints and painted them on top of each other, diluting each paint after each layer. The result at the beginning was just lines of paint on top of each other, but as the paints became more opaque the colours mixed together, creating a sort of gradient.
  4. Here I painted two stripes of colour, and attempted to create a gradient by mixing them in the middle with water. This didn’t work very effectively, as it muddled the original stripes of paint too.
  5. Here I attempted to retry making a gradient. This time I painted a box of magenta paint, and while it was still wet I cleaned my brush and loaded it with white paint. I then brushed the while onto the magenta in vertical strokes, painting more strokes the further across the box I went. Painting over the same spot over and over mixes the paint, creating the gradient I was looking for.
  6. When gouache is diluted enough, I found that it was fluid enough to hand letter with. Here I wrote “hello” in a modern calligraphy style, but I found that the paint was diluted too much and appeared to be washed out. I added a highlight to the middle of the letter strokes with a watered-down pearl white acrylic, but that didn’t improve the legibility as I had hoped it would.
  7. I laid down a patch of blue paint here to test how the pearl white acrylic reacted to being watered-down. No matter how much I diluted it, it didn’t seem to change the appearance of the paint.
  8. This was another take on a gradient. I used the same white-magenta colours to create the gradient, starting with a very pale pink. I painted a line of colour before mixing a little more magenta to what i was already on my brush. I painted a line with the new, more saturated colour and continued this process until I reached the pure magenta colour. I think this looks effective as it stands, but blending the lines together with a slightly damp paintbrush could produce some interesting effects.
  9. This dark corner is where I first used a pallet knife. I used the knife to mix together two new colours I created by using small amounts of other colours from the paint tubes. This is arguably one of the most effective ways of paint-mixing in terms of time and in economy – it doesn’t take a very long time to achieve a uniform colour, and it hardly wastes any paint as a brush would.
    I put down a swipe of blue paint, let it dry, and then applied a swipe of red paint over that. Just as it worked with the brushes, the paint was opaque enough to produce two blocks of colour.
  10. All of the swipes of paint surrounding this one were experiments into creating textures and patterns by not mixing paint all the way. I made sure I mixed together colours that were in similar colour families so that the resulting colours weren’t muted or muddied.
    The mixes of colours I used were light blue, dark blue, and white; dark blue, maroon, purple, and pearl white; light blue, light green, dark green, yellow, and white.

[Pictured above: the making of pallet knife swipes in number 10, from my instagram]

My second page of experiments was on a more greige piece of scrap, used card, as I had already tried painting on black. Neither colour of cardstock really affected the paintings.

4 numbered

  1. This was my attempt at a sort of galaxy-looking piece. I roughly mixed black, blue, purple, pink, and pearl white on a pallet knife and applied it to a square that had already been drawn onto the card (it was a scrap piece I decided to reuse). I applied it in horizontal lines, letting the colours spill out of the black and play around and muddle with each other to create an interesting pattern. While I think this looks effective, I would use less black if attempting it again. It overwhelms the piece.
  2. Here I attempted to mix two watered-down blobs of paint by laying them down next to each other, cleaning my brush, and putting water in the middle. I spread the water out and mixed the paint into it, creating a purple colour from the red and blue.
  3. To do this I really, really watered down a pinkish-purple paint and laid down a square of it. I let that dry, and overlapped a corner of it with another square from the same watered down piece of paint. On the overlap, the paint is much more opaque, which may be helpful in creating some of my final pieces.
  4. The three yellow squares here are all derived from the same tube of yellow paint – the furthest to the left has the least amount of white added to it, and the one on the right has the most white added to it. I painted these to see how much the paint lightened after it dried, as it was visible during the drying process to see the wet paint and the light paint side-by-side. It doesn’t matter how saturated, desaturated, light or dark the paint is, it will always lighten somewhat after it’s dry.
  5. The same experiment as above, but with green and blue hues this time.
  6. This line is straight off of a paintbrush I used to half-mix some colours together, creating a slight marbling effect in the paint. While the pallet knife can create sharp definition between strips of colour, the effect is much more muted and soft when done with a paintbrush. However, this does seem to waste quite a bit of paint.
  7. Some more hand lettering, this time with bolder colours that I didn’t water down so much. These turned out a lot more impressive than my first attempt above, as they are more legible and do not blend into the paper.
  8. A very abstract approach to see how gouache would look while using one point perspective. The colours would look very bright on a building, so would have to be muted slightly to look more natural in a scene.
  9. Another gradient here, this time with blue and maroon. I used the same technique here as I did on number 5 on the darker card.
  10. An attempt at creating a pallet knife paint swipe within a circular frame. To do this I roughly mixed some colours on my knife and applied them piece by piece, connecting the small sections to make it look seamless. My first attempt at this was to do it in one fell swoop by putting the knife to the middle of my circle and spinning the cardstock, but this proved to be ineffective and didn’t look good at all.
  11. This was another attempt at number 10, but this time with more colour and within a bigger circle. Here I used colours that do not belong to the same colour family, challenging myself not to let the opposing colours blend with each other and become muddy. I think I did this quite effectively, and the reaction to this rendition from my peers has been nothing but positive.
  12. Here I attempted layering yellows, oranges, and reds to create a fire-like texture. To do this I laid down a base layer of orange, let it dry, and then mixed up a new colour to dab on top of it with a brush. I repeated this 5-10 times with different colours to produce this effect. I don’t know where I could use this within my work, but it does look very effective.
  13. Here I mixed light green, dark blue, and purple on a pallet knife. I made sure to keep the blue in the middle, as blue is used to make both purple and green and would, therefore, look good next to either colour. However, I made sure to keep the green and purple separate so that they didn’t mix and become muddy. I think this looks very visually interesting, especially the broken-up section of paint.
  14. Finally, I laid out a dab of every colour in the rainbow (ROYGBIV) next to each other and mixed them slightly using the pallet knife. I then swiped it onto the cardstock vertically, making sure not to mix the colours too much, but enough to produce a nice blend between each one.

In order to help other people recreate these gouache techniques, I created an Upskill document and shared it with my peers via Google Drive. I have included screenshots of the document below.

Screen Shot 2017-05-11 at 13.37.50Screen Shot 2017-05-11 at 13.37.58


Sources used:

Instagram.com. (2017). emma davidson (@arcaneemma) • Instagram photos and videos. [online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/arcaneemma/ (Accessed 28 Apr. 2017)


Text Analysis: Diagon Alley

Before I even think about sketching out ideas for my landscapes, I need to take a piece of text describing each place and annotate it.

Below is my analysis of Diagon Alley, as described in Chapter 5 of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. A key for the highlights can be found at the bottom of the page. The colours alternate between blue and pink to break up the block of text, making each point easier to read.


So, what are the main points of interest I got from the text?

  • Everything that blatantly described a piece of the scenery was highlighted and underlined in green – all or most of this description should be included in the final piece:
    • The wall to get into Diagon Alley is enchanted – why not other buildings?
    • The street is cobblestone – it twists and turns “out of sight”
    • The sun is shining
    • Should be a packed high street – maybe the art should be without people to let the focus be on the shops?
    • Should be at least 9 shops (including Gringotts) according to the information given – more can be added though. There should be:
      • A couldron shop
      • An apothecary
      • Eeylop’s Owl Emporium
      • A broomstick shop (with Nimbus 2000 in the window)
      • A shop selling robes
      • A shop selling telescopes and “strange silver instruments Harry had never seen before”
      • Shops stacked with windows of bat spleens and eel eyes
      • A shop with tottering piles of spell books, quills, rolls of parchment, potion bottles, globes of the moon
      • Gringotts
    • Gringotts outshines the other buildings in grandeur, size, and pretty much every other aspect
    • The other buildings should be smaller than Gringotts, but perhaps still relatively tall. 2/3 stories each, and possible old/bend/wisened with age
  • The alley is grand, amazing, stunning, enchanting, whimsical
  • It is also very homey, whithered and worn down, but not in a bad way (except for Gringotts, which is pristine and white and not at all worn down)
  • The shops have things outside of them too, which could make the street that much more narrow – perhaps outdoor goods/stands/seating areas?
  • The alley seems as though it would be full of odds and ends, interesting little details would be good to include

What are my initial thoughts on how to compose this piece?

  • The text follows Harry and Hagrid on their walk through Diagon Alley – I would like to show the path they walked from the archway to Gringotts, from the perspective of when they first stepped through the arch
    • As I intend to make it a wide-scale piece, I don’t intend to include the archway itself – just they alley. The arch would take up too much room where other integral details could be! Perhaps it can be suggested on the very edges of the peice
  • I would like to use a variety of interesting mediums in this piece because there are so many layers to it!
  • Maybe it could be created on Photoshop, and layered over with different textures I can create. Almost a Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends vibe?
  • Alternatively it could be a good piece to practise a mixture of collaging and painting, and then refining and adding more detail on Photoshop
  • A good place to start would be to study and practise 1/2/3 point perspective, and chose the most applicable to start mapping out where everything will sit in the scene

A Change of Plan

When I set out to start this project, I thought that it would be nice to illustrate places from books I’ve never read before, so that the pieces I create are in no way, shape, or form accidentally influenced by other pieces of art, films, etc surrounding the book. However, after some thought and discussion with my peers I have decided to narrow down the amount of final pieces I create, and that the books I create them for will only be books that I am familiar with.

What kick-started this idea was when thinking about how many pieces I could create. Pushing myself to create too many will definitely mean the quality of my work will suffer, and the outcomes will not be as polished, refined, and detailed as they could be. With the time given, I think I can create at least 3 solid outcomes which can hold a lot of detail, have a solid level of refinement and reworking, and will leave me enough time to rework areas entirely in case of any problems or mistakes that may arise. By nature I am a very clumsy person, so allowing myself the breathing space to correct mistakes is definitely something I need to do.

The 3 places I am definitely going to attempt to create are Diagon Alley from Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, The Distracted Globe from Ready Player One, and Hobbiton from Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. These are all fictional destinations I am familiar with, and franchises that I know and love. This means that I understand the vibe and ins and outs of each book, so I can set each scene accordingly to not only the given text itself, but of the rest of the book too. This also gives me the opportunity to include little Easter Eggs in the artwork; paying homage to a running joke, theme, object, etc within the books. This is not only something which I find exciting in other peoples’ work, but it is a huge overarching theme of Ready Player One, in which the entire storyline is based around solving puzzles about 80’s pop culture to unlock the Easter Egg hidden within the OASIS.

If I wind up with more time on my hands than I originally expected, I may attempt to create other smaller pieces dedicated to other books. However, for the time being my main goal is to create the 3 pieces of artwork for Harry Potter, Ready Player One, and Lord of the Rings.

One Point Perspective

“A mathematical system for representing three-dimensional objects and space on a two-dimensional surface by means of intersecting lines that are drawn vertically and horizontally and that radiate from one point on a horizon line…”


One point perspective is a drawing technique that makes objects appear to be smaller as they get further away, coming together at a singular vanishing point on the horizon line. It conveys a sense of depth in an image, and brings 3 dimension to a drawing on a 2d surface.
One point perspective is particularly effective when used to draw subjects that are being seen face-on, when looking down something long – such as a road in a city – and when drawing room interiors.

A good place to start learning one point perspective is by drawing cubes. I decided to follow this video, which I found through the studentartguide website.

scan-0001 (1)

As I watched this video, I followed the instructions given to create the cubes, and made notes for me to reference back to. I repeated each square placement twice, once as I followed the video and once after to ensure I understood the process, and what each placement produced in terms of shapes. I also used more rectangular shapes the second time around, just to see how the length and width of the square affected the outcome.


After getting to grips with that, I drew out some simple scenes inspired by 2 of the places I will be drawing: Diagon Alley and Hobbiton. While drawing my initial trial boxes, I thought one point perspective would be effective to use to create Diagon Alley. I still believe this to be true, but I am going to have to find a happy place to put my horizon line so that the road doesn’t seem too long, and be able to warp and bend the buildings and road to give them a more whimsical feel.
I also made a small list of thoughts and conclusions I made at the bottom of the page.

scan-0001 (2)

I intend to come back to this technique at a later point to refine the skill and use it to create Diagon Alley. I definitely need to look into this more in-depth to be able to create the landscape I am envisioning. I began experimenting more with the knowledge I gained from that single video and produced this, proving to me that I really do need to come back to this at a later date.

scan-0001 copy

I really don’t like these two images – they’re too boxy and clean-cut to be a vision of Diagon Alley. Perhaps some study of actual alleyways and some more research into one point perspective will point me in the right direction.

Sources Used:

Circle Line Art School (2016). How To Draw Using 1-Point Perspective. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRrKohWdpeQ (Accessed 12 Apr. 2017)

Dictionary.com (2017). the definition of one-point perspective. [online] Available at: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/one-point-perspective (Accessed 12 Apr. 2017)

Gale, A. (2017). One Point Perspective Drawing: The Ultimate Guide. [online] Student Art Guide. Available at: http://www.studentartguide.com/articles/one-point-perspective-drawing (Accessed 12 Apr. 2017)

Student Art Guide (2014). How to draw a cube in 1 point perspective. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrLBNYA_KNE (Accessed 12 Apr. 2017)