February 13th Rob McHaffie Gouache Demonstration 

Rob started off by showing us some works by other artists using gouache, Durer, Christoph Ruckhaeberl and Katherine Hattam among others.

The emphasis is on the enjoyment of the medium, with a few simple structures in place.

“One of the nicest things for me is just to get some really nice 640 GSM paper and a whole lot of gouache, and just draw a face or something.”

He showed us his own set up, a box of about 35 different colours, and about 10 brushes. He uses soft light brushes, not expensive, and which would always include a wide, flat bright, a middle sized round, and a small round for details. For this demo we used Da vinci 1870 #24, and also the lime green-handled 373 and 374 series and the clear-lacquer handled 303 and 304.

As a basic palette Rob worked with Schmincke Horadam gouache: burnt umber, violet, cadmium yellow medium, cadmium red tone, cadmium red deep, helio blue, helio turquoise, lemon yellow, titanium white and ivory black. (He pointed out that since in gouache darker colours dry lighter, if you want a really black black you can use ink instead of gouache)

Rob has a pretty clear and simple way of laying on the paint. First lay down the ground. Get the paint to a ‘nice consistency’ on the palette, then he mixes up the gouache with the brush he’s using, no point using a palette knife for such small amounts. Keep it wet, and ‘glide’ it on.

Another technique is to load up the brush as strong as you can with one colour, make a brush stroke, then wash out the brush and take another colour, this time making it as watery as you can, then start brushing from the other end, letting the colours bleed into each other. This is good as a background for landscape. Rob is very into letting things happen, with colours bleeding into one another, he’s not after a perfect finish. But he does it so well. That’s why it’s great that he’s so nice and charming, he makes it seem easy and not intimidating at all.

Say you’re doing a face, he says, mix up a flesh tone, a bit of pink and a bit of yellow colour in the cheek with a couple of strokes, then add some red just in one stroke, and the colour will blend itself. One of the great things you get from watching Rob paint is a feeling of ease and lack of overworking or nervousness. His approach to his work is very inspiring in his enjoyment of it.

Julia Gorman 2014