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)


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)

Artist Research: Feng Zhu

Feng Zhu is an industry veteran and mind-blowingly incredible concept artist. He works almost entirely in photoshop, designing art for many different fields – film, triple-A games, TV commercials, and toy design. His clients include:

Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Sony, Activision, Industrial Light+Magic, NCSoft, Warner Brothers, Lucasfilm, Bay Films, Epic Games, and many other top studios. In Hollywood, he has worked closely with well established directors including George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Michael Bay and Luc Besson.

cited from his website.

In Singapore, Spring 2009, Feng Zhu founded the Feng Zhu School of Design – a specialised education field that is rarely found in Asia. He opened its doors to train professionals and students alike, that wanted to find their way into the entertainment design industry.

To this day, Feng Zhu works for highly renowned clients all around the world, creating original content and designs. He also has a youtube channel with many free tutorials on it, which I may refer to in order to help me create my final pieces.


My favourite pieces of Zhu’s work are his landscapes. They’re always illustrious and sweeping and full of depth and colour and detail that makes them so wonderful to look at. Some details are so minute they can’t be seen unless they’re zoomed in on, all making for an extremely visually interesting piece. I would love to incorporate this sense of depth and interest into my own work.


I am very fond of the sketchiness of these two pieces – how the colour and basic forms are enough to derive a sense of depth and tone and the overall feeling of the piece. I will begin the painting of my own work in this way, as I believe it looks extremely effective.


These two pieces are very similar, but also exceedingly different in their own right. They are each based upon the same brief, which shows me how important colours and lighting are when setting a scene. The colours and shading of the painting on the right make it much more appealing to me than the painting on the left.


The sheer amount of detail shown in this painting is absolutely incredible to me. The clash of the cool tones against the bright warm tones makes the piece very visually interesting, and draws the viewers eye right to the middle of the page.


Again, the use of the warm tones against the cool tones totally draws my eye to the warm tones in the piece. There is an incredible amount of depth and detail shown here, and it is drawn in such a way that your eyes are lead around the image. The purple and blue tones in this image are absolutely beautiful.

I would love to include Feng Zhu’s use of colour, depth, perspective, and detail into my own work, as I believe those are some of the key components of his work that I admire so much. I hope to emulate some of his techniques as I am going to be using Photoshop just as he does; using the preset brushes and such to create a stunning landscape.

Sources Used:

Fengzhudesign.com. (2011). Feng Zhu Design. [online] Available at: http://fengzhudesign.com/about.html (Accessed 26 Jun. 2017)

Friedman, G. (2012). The Work of Master Concept Artist Feng Zhu. [Blog] envatotuts+. Available at: https://design.tutsplus.com/articles/the-work-of-master-concept-artist-feng-zhu–psd-17368 (Accessed 22 Mar. 2017)

Artist Research: Mary Grandpré, and the Inspration for my FMP

Mary Grandpré has been drawing since the age of 5 years old. She was born in South Dakota in 1954, and is an illustrator best known for her Harry Potter book covers.

Her book covers are arguably some of the most iconic pieces of artwork surrounding the Harry Potter universe, having been featured on the cover of the first edition prints of each book and beyond. Some of her covers, especially the first edition first print ones, are highly sought after and considered to be treasured collector’s items. Potter books have not been printed with her covers on the front for several years, making them all the more valuable.

Her involvement with artwork for the series began when the art director for Scholastic Publishing reached out to her, inviting her to submit illustrations for a British Fantasy series. She sent in three different sketches in response – one of which was selected for the cover. Rowling was so happy with Grandpré’s work that the artist stayed on to illustrate every single book cover for each new release. The work pictures above was featured on the cover of TIME magazine.

When Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone was first announced to be released, my Mom pre-ordered the book online to use as a bedtime storybook for myself and my brother. They both quickly fell in love with the story, and pre-ordered every single book as they were released to read to us.

One of the reasons Mary Grandpré is such a huge inspiration for my project is because my parents pre-ordered hardback copies of the books with her illustrated covers for the first four books (the three books beyond that had different covers because we moved to England). I grew up with these covers, and as I got older and continued to go back to the books and re-read them over and over again, I would always find myself admiring the artwork before and after reading. Even from a young age, I took note of the skillful shading, the different tones, hues, and forms, and how each and every thing on the cover was inspired by things in the book.

From the example above, we can see the trees of the Forbidden Forest, Fluffy the Three Headed Dog, the key to open the door puzzle at the end of the book, the unicorn Voldemort drank the blood of, an owl bringing Harry his Hogwarts acceptance letter, Dumbledore sweeping through the grounds, the Hogwarts castle, a Bludger from a Quidditch game, and of course Harry on his broom, racing to catch the golden snitch.

In a rather benign but interesting addition to this, curtains can be seen on each end of the book cover. This is to symbolise the curtains opening at the beginning of a play. The only other book we can see this on is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, symbolising the curtains closing at the end of a play.

I think that pulling prevalent imagery and places from the books make for a well-rounded summary of each edition. The covers fit the brief – they make sense in accordance to the story, and they are visually interesting enough to reel in and appeal to people who have never read the book before.
I would like to try and weave that element of appealing to both side of the fence in my work – it won’t be an easy feat by any means as people have very different tastes, but I definitely think it will be worth it. I find something very satisfying about being able to pinpoint all of the references in Grandpré’s covers, and I know that I loved them all the same even when. I would like to emulate this feeling if at all possible in my work.

I would also emulate the interesting angles of her work, which bring an interesting and visually appealing sense of depth to each piece. I tend to work by creating pieces face-on, but it would be interesting to dabble with angles

Additionally, I would love to dabble with placing the name of the book somewhere in the design – I think that it really makes the book cover and the title inclusive, and makes everything flow very nicely. I’m especially enamored with the Philosophers Stone cover, where the title is worked into the brickwork of the arch. However, I am also fond of the cursive script in the two penultimate books.

Finally, I would love to draw inspiration from her colour palettes. She seems to favour either a warm undertone or a cool undertone depending on the feeling, context, and emotion of the cover, and then use one particular colour to draw off of and use multiple times in multiple places. This adds a sense of coalescence to each cover – something I struggle to create, as I tend to dip into many different tones and hues, which can tend to muddle and confuse a piece.

Sources used:

Bookgeeking (2015). HP Covers around the world | A World of Books. [online] Available at: <https://bookgeeking.wordpress.com/category/love-your-cover/hp-covers-around-the-world/> (Accessed 18 Mar. 2017).

Grandpré, M (2017). Welcome Mary GrandPre. [online] Available at: <http://www.marygrandpre.com/> (Accessed 17 Mar. 2017)

Mcad.edu (2017). Mary GrandPré | Minneapolis College of Art and Design. [online] Available at: <https://mcad.edu/alumni/mary-grandpre> (Accessed 17 Mar. 2017)

Parker, C (2008). Mary Grandpré | Lines and Colors. [online] Available at:
<http://linesandcolors.com/2008/06/01/mary-grandpre/> (Accessed 18 Mar. 2017)

Yosphan, G (2017). Harry Potter Illustrations by Mary Grandpre. [online] Pinterest. Available at:
<https://www.pinterest.com/ganonyp/harry-potter-illustrations-by-mary-grandpre/> (Accessed 18 Mar. 2017)

Primary Research

To help me get some inspiration for this project, I took a trip to Waterstones to check out fiction-based book covers. I took pictures of covers that I thought were visually appealing for one reason or another (mostly due to a particular art style or colour scheme), and covers that wrapped entirely around the book in the fashion I want to do mine.

The Chrysalids – Illustrated by Brian Cronin

One of the books that caught my eye was The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, illustrated by Brian Cronin.

This book appealed to me because of its interesting use of a limited colour palette, using only shades of green, pink, white and black in the illustration. It also has an exceptionally pretty typeface for the title of the book and its author. In my opinion, the limited use of colour and simple nature of the design as a whole is very effective. It does not reveal much about the book itself (… minus the six toes on each foot featured on the girl), making it rather mysterious and enticing.
I quite like the wrap of this book – the front cover is bold, while the spine and back cover take on one of the more prevalent greens seen on the front. Usually I would be less than impressed by a cover like this, but the slight trim of the leaves on the back cover is a very nice touch, and ties it together well. If I decide to make a non-wrap-around book cover, I may draw inspiration from this.

As I usually tend to lean towards more intricate, colourful work, it would be interesting to see what I could do with limited resources to replicate a cover like this. It would definitely be a stretch of my abilities, however, it leaves me worried that I may not be able to get my ideas and points across in the most effective way. But perhaps, if that matches the theme of the book, it would be fitting.

Snuff – Illustrated by Paul Kidby

Another book that caught my eye in Waterstones was Snuff by Terry Pratchett. I’m pretty familiar with Pratchett’s works as my Dad is an avid fan of his, and read me a few of his works when I was younger.

One of my favourite things about Pratchett’s books are his covers. I’ve always found them intriguing to look at due to their tasteful colour palettes and bold typefaces. The drawings are absolutely whimsical, and technically flawless when it comes down to proportions and shading. I would love to emulate at least his bold use of colour in my project – perhaps in the Diagon Alley cover?

He also uses adventurous angles in his work – they are very visually appealing, and draw the viewer in. In this piece, the viewer appears to be looking down on the scene from an angle upward and sideways angle, as opposed to a simple angle (e.g. head on). I tend to be very reserved when drawing from unfamiliar angles, so perhaps I should take a leaf from Kidby’s book and experiment with more visually interesting angles and perspectives.

Hogfather – Illustrated by Joe McLaren

Another Pratchett book here – Hogfather, illustrated by an entirely different artist to Snuff. It is also worth noting that this is a cloth hardback cover, giving the art more texture.

I think the visual metaphor of the skull is very effective within this cover. It exudes the feeling of danger, not only within the imagery but within the maroon, bloodish red surrounding the skull. I think the colour scheme matching to the overarching theme of the cover is very clever, as it sets the tone before the reader even opens the book. I would like to use this within my work, as it seems to work very effectively.

This book used the same image on each cover of the book – the front, the back, and the spine. I don’t particularly enjoy this, as it seems rather boring to me. The only thing that’s different is that the image is flipped on the back cover. However, I do like how the typography has been placed on the covers – the title of the book fits nicely into the curvature of the skull, and the blurb hovers precariously above the hanging bombs. While it is simple, the composition of the cover is very effective.

Welcome to Night Vale – Illustrated by Rob Wilson

This book is striking to me due to its very simple geometric designs, gradients, and bold type. The cover wraps around the entirety of the book which, in my opinion, looks rather striking and adds to the aesthetic of the cover. The colour pallet is very simple – black, white, purple, a bit of pink and a burned orange. However, the simple pallet definitely works very effectively and looks absolutely stunning.

The design itself is very intriguing. The illustration does not give away a lot about the book, however, it is very eye-catching and totally drew me in. There is also a strange satisfaction within this cover – all of the crisp, clean-cut lines and gradients are very visually appealing. It appears to be a very polished, well put together book cover.

I would definitely love to incorporate the sense of satisfaction into my work; working with geometric shapes and gradients. I would also love to have some striking typography on my work – the sans-serif font used for the title of the book is absolutely gorgeous!

Additional Noteworthy Covers:

the long way to a small angry planet – Photographed by Christoffer Meyer
Finn Fancy Necromancy – Illustrated by Amazing15
Horror Stories – Illustrated by La Boca
Rush Oh! – Illustrated by Leo Nickolls

Sources Used:

Fink, J. and Cranor, J. (2015). Welcome to Night Vale. 1st ed. Orbit.

Pratchett, T. (1996). Hogfather. 1st ed. Reed.

Pratchett, T. (2012). Snuff. 1st ed. Leicester: Charnwood.

Wyndham, J. and Harrison, M. (1955). The Chrysalids. 1st ed. Toronto: Penguin Books.

The Sad Ghost Club

The Sad Ghost Club (SGC) is the self-proclaimed club for anyone who’s ever felt sad or lost. It’s the club for those who don’t feel like they’re part of any other club.

They are a small two-piece project from the South West of England that create beautiful merchandise to help spread positive awareness about mental illness. Alongside this, they host talks and workshops surrounded emotional well-being and mental health. They are huge advocates for self help and spreading good vibes, which is really inspiring to me even outside of this project. I have been following their progress for several years now, and draw great inspiration from them in my project.

Guide to Self Care A6 Zine

Some of their most stand-out works are their zines and comics about mental health, and portraying it in a non-condescending, reassuring fashion. They are very cute and approachable – their use of bold colour, imperfect linework, and endearing characters are all huge contributors in this. They also come at a very reasonable price (for example, the one shown above is £5) for everything which is lovingly jam-packed into them.

You Matter Postcard Pack

Many of the paintings are done by hand using gauche and watercolour. The colour palettes are tasteful and aesthetically pleasing, commonly containing cool tones and pastel shades with splashes of brighter colours too. The typography is also very sweet and homey as it is obviously hand-written and carefully considered – I really enjoy how this ties into the theme of each piece.

Pocket Print Club Tee

Their merchandise is not just limited to paper however; they create wonderful clothing too! This particular shirt is an original screen printed design. Even without colour, the illustrations are gorgeous and eye-catching with bold usage of negative space and intricate details.

I admire everything this brand stands for, and the execution of each new piece they produce. In my project I would like to emulate the sense of normalising and destigmatising mental illness in a friendly, not-in-your-face way as the SGC do so successfully.