What’s old is new again. Or in other words I bought a whole bunch of new tubes of gouache. I just checked and it was back in 2020 that I wrote about getting back into gouache again.(Gouache Blog). I took a day and re-wet all the tubes and cubbies I had that were filled with gouache. I thought I would get going again and paint some pieces but I only ended up starting one thing and then abandoning it.

Gouache is an opaque watercolor and if it dries out it can be re-wet and used again. But I had a problem with the gouache that I kept in little plastic containers (cubbies). Sometimes the gouache in the cubbies would dry into little chips on the side of the container. Some of those tiny chips would no longer dissolve in water. So my smooth gouache paint wasn’t smooth anymore. When I attempted to make a new gouache painting in 2020 this frustrated me and I gave up on it.

In the end I decided that I needed some new tubes of gouache. The problem was that paint is expensive and gouache never seemed to make it to the top of my art supply list. I always had to get other things first. This month (October 2022) I finally pulled the trigger on some new tubes of gouache.

I ended up getting twenty two new tubes of paint and that cost me about $150. Gouache goes for around $7 to $14 a tube but I think I got only one $14 tube. I also bought a base set of ten tubes that was a little cheaper than if I bought the tubes individually.

I got a tube each of Black, White, Flame Red, Primary Red, Spectrum Red, Orange Lake Deep, Orange Lake Light, Cadmium Free Orange (this was the $14 tube), Permanent Yellow Deep, Primary Yellow, Lemon Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Permanent Green Deep, Permanent Green Middle, Permanent Green Light, Primary Blue, Intense Blue, Prussian Blue, Ultramarine, Winsor Violet, Brilliant Purple, and Brilliant Violet.

Whenever buying a basic set of any kind of color paint or markers I try to start with three shades of each color. Red, yellow, blue, green, orange, and purple. I tend to buy extra blues to cover the blue-indigo-violet part of the spectrum. I have to add in browns eventually too. But I still have all my gouache paints in the cubbies and not all of them have paint chips in them so some are still good. I’ll find out which over time.

After I ordered the paint I searched for a couple of old pallets since I didn’t want to put the paint in cubbies. Most watercolor pallets are plastic and have half globe depressions in them to hold the paint. I bought a couple of such pallets back in the early 1990s except they were ceramic. I eventually found them in the back of a cabinet but they weren’t clean. They had old gouache still in the wells. I remembered that the last time I used them they were really hard to clean so, at that time, I just left them.

This time I was determined to clean them so, at first, I soaked them in water for a while. Since gouache dissolves in water I thought this would do it. It got some of it out but not all. So then I soaked them in soap and water. This did a better job but still they weren’t clean. Plus the ceramic was white and the paint had stained it quite a bit. I decided to soak the pallets in bleach to try and get the stains out. This whole process took two or three days of soaking but in the end the pallets were looking good. There was still a little staining but that was okay.

Another thing I did as I was ordering the tubes of gouache was to see what watercolor paper I had. My favorite paper is 300lb paper but that stuff has gotten expensive. I used to get it in the 1990s and early 2000s for about $15 a 22×30 inch sheet but now that same sheet of paper costs $30. I have a few sheets left over but I hesitate to use them until I’m back up to speed with my gouache painting.

Turns out I do have a bunch of other types of watercolor paper lying around. Mostly it’s 140lb paper but a lot of it is already stained with color from when I was making watercolor backgrounds that I scanned in for digital work. I can now draw and paint on that color stained paper. Since gouache is opaque it’ll cover the background color where I need it too. That paper will come in handy.

When the gouache I ordered finally arrived the first thing I did was make swatches of it. I took a piece of 8×10 inch 90lb watercolor paper, drew some boxes on it, and then filled each box with a color. That way I know exactly what the paint in each tube looks like.

At the same time as the Winsor Newton gouache tubes I also ordered a set of “Graphite Watercolors.” Those are six watercolors that are graphite grey with hints of color in them. I ordered these to use with the gouache tubes so I swatched them too.

Among the pieces of watercolor paper I found while looking around my studio were some pieces that I started and never finished. One was a drawing that I had already transferred to 140lb watercolor paper. It was about 8×10 inches so I decided to start with that one. First I grabbed my color ink to outline the drawing and then I used the graphite watercolor to paint in the background. After that I broke out the gouache.

It was only then that I noticed that I neglected to buy any kind of skin tones with my new gouache set so I turned to my set of pan gouaches and used a skin tone from there. Despite having bought these new tubes of gouache that old pan set is still a favorite. I used a set just like it when I was first learning gouache and it was good then and is still good now.

It took me a lot longer than I thought it should have to finish the painting but I took it slow. It’s been a decade since I used gouache and it felt like it. In the end I like how it come out but I’m still not a hundred percent sure what I’m doing with the gouache. I guess we’ll have to see. But unlike in 2020 at least I did something.