Sketchy times

Now I’ve got my new best friend gouache on the case, plus some fabulous pastels that are so cheap I didn’t buy them for about a year as I thought they’d be rubbish and they are completely brilliant, my sketchbook is adorned with the likes of this:

Astract landscape sketch in gouache & pastel by Vicki Hutchins
gouache and pastel studies

I’ve been wanting to use the brooding grey and yellow colour combination for ages – you know those skies you get over a yellow field?  That.  But I accidentally picked up a pink pastel…..and I love it.


Late to the gouache party

Fragment of Spring, an abstract landscape by Vicki Hutchins

Because I’ve read all of the internet in learning to make art, I pronounce gouache like an American:   “gwash”.  Which sounds perfectly fine in my head.

In the UK, we apparently say “goo-ash”.  As in “goulash”, that fine Hungarian meal.  I’m not sure I’ll ever get the hang of the UK pronunciation, but what I have got the hang of is the paint itself!

When I was first starting to paint, I used evil watercolour.  And it did not go well.  It’s only now, a couple of years later, that I realise why:  I like the sensory act of painting:  loading a brush with juicy paint and brushing it on a surface.  My approach to painting is mostly painterly.  I like brushstrokes showing up in the work.

Now I know more, I appreciate the unique qualities of watercolour – that often it does its best work when it’s dropped in a wet wash and left to swirl and settle on it’s own.  Being a faffer, it’s terribly hard for me to leave it alone!

So because I wasn’t getting the results I wanted with watercolour, I became convinced gouache was the answer.  Again, my general inexperience caused problems:  I used gouache like watercolour and had the same problems.  So I put both mediums away and discovered the joys of acrylic and then oils.

Fast forward to now and I am at peace with watercolour – I love using it to journal in my sketchbook, loose and splashy:

Cothlestone, Quantock Hills by Vicki Hutchins


Then, suddenly I am seeing artists on Instagram using gouache like it’s acrylic – no wet washes and waiting impatient for things to dry, just thick paint, used opaquely in a painterly style.  Well. I just had to go and spend quite a lot on a tiny travel paint tin and fill it with gouache!

Fragment of Spring, by Vicki Hutchins
I love these layerzzzz

Sunset on the Somerset Levels

Somerset Levels sketch in gouache & pastel by Vicki Hutchins

I had one of those perfect days recently, where you’ve only been out for the day but feel like you’ve had a holiday.

On the journey home across the Somerset Levels, there was the most amazing sunset.  I did my best to capture it in my sketchbook from the back of the car, scenery whizzing by.

What I couldn’t capture were the flocks of egrets majestically and slowly flapping their huge wings across the sky.  There were geese, swans, buzzards, sparrow hawks.  Even deer.  They must have had soggy feet.

The Levels are a haven for wildlife, and are an integral part of the Somerset countryside.  They do flood, as they have done for hundreds of years.  This flat huge expanse is hemmed in by the Mendip Hills to the north, and the Blackdowns and Quantocks to the south. The mist of early morning and dusk lingers longer here.   It’s a place of myth, legend, and times past.  It is beautiful.

The next morning, the memory of that place still imbibed me, so in pyjamas (when all the best painting happens), I quickly got down a sketch in gouache and pastel (see above).

Somerset Levels sketch - detail
Close up – love the texture of pastel and layers of gouache, yummy!

I do love this sketch, however it’s rather high key, whereas in reality, it was actual much darker, particularly the land.  It’s not often I paint the same painting more than once, but on this occasion I did a quick oil sketch on a piece of board I had that I though would be a good format.  It’s different, but I like it.

Somerset Levels oil sketchl by Vicki Hutchins

It’s cooler than I intended, but captures the light more accurately I think.

I don’t think I’m going to work this up into a final piece though.  Sometimes I like to make art just to journal my daily life.  I never was any good at keeping a diary, but I love keeping a visual reminder so that,although for the most part, and like most people, my life is ordinary – there are these little vistas of the extraordinary.