Last Thursday we were lucky enough to have total legend Katharine Hattam demonstrate some of her massive range of techniques with gouache. Like all the artists Chapman and Bailey hosts for our free Thursday demos, Katharine was incredibly generous, sharing techniques that she has developed over years of experimentation within her own practice

Katharine started by showing a few things she learned from Fred Williams, which is something you don’t hear about every day, even at Chapman and Bailey. Gouache as a stand alone medium is more popular in Australia than any where else in the world, and that is because  Fred Williams created some of his most important works with it. She said she remembered him coming back from painting trips, and hosing off works that he wasn’t happy with! Literally with a hose. That’s the thing that Katharine sees as the greatest advantage of gouache over other mediums such a watercolour and acrylic and oils – it reemulsifies for ever, so you can continually re work your painting.

Katharine works very thinly with the gouache, mixing it up in various take away containers  which she keeps the lid on and keeps using for months. Fred Williams used ‘chewing gum’ blobs of thick gouache, and Katharine showed us how to do that. She also showed how gouache works well over pastel and charcoal, and we looked at the different effects you get from spraying varnish and fixative over these as well. Painting directly on to plywood painting panels and letting the paint soak into the wood so you can see the wood grain clearly, and then letting it dry and sanding it back was another technique we got to try.

Overall the emphasis was on trying different things, using different materials in different ways, and seeing what happens, then using what you’ve learnt in future work. Not being afraid of making a mistake, because you can always take it off and have another go.

Julia Gorman 2013

Good news! Katharine will be doing a 2 day workshop at the C&B Studio, FItzroy. Stay tuned for dates!