This big tree

This big tree is what I see when I look out from a small window in my front entrance. Like my wheelbarrow, which I can see from another window, it always looks best with a little snow on it. And with a fresh coat of snow on the ground this morning, I decided it might be a challenge to try to paint it using gouache instead of watercolour.

Today’s challenge was about combining the familiar with the unfamiliar. I’ve painted this view countless times, but never in gouache. My big dilemma was how to deal with the snow. Should I leave the white of the paper like I do in watercolour, or use white paint? My solution in the end combined a bit of both of these techniques. For the large snow area in the foreground, I left the white of the paper, just like I do in watercolour. But for the flecks of snow on the tree and the accumulation of white stuff on the neighbour’s car and stairs, I used white pigment. And since this scene is fairly colourless (at least compared to what I was painting around Sanibel Island) I used a limited gouache palette of white, black, ochre, burnt sienna and cobalt blue.

20 Comments on “This big tree”

  1. Donna says:

    I sense there is sun shining here? Love the blue in the snow. Only done a little gouache and the color seemed so flat. Never combined the two however. Another challenge to look forward to. Thank you.


    • Hi Donna. Yes, there was a little bit of sun shining through on that morning. And yes, gouache is quite flat. I like the dull finish, but not everyone does. It takes getting used to, because it dries darker than when it’s wet, unlike watercolour which dries lighter.


  2. Gordon Lyman says:

    I like it. The shadows on the house caught my attention right away. It is subtle to me in its beauty.


  3. Bernadette says:

    Ive never used gouache except to add white highlights to a watercolor. Is is similar to acrylic or totally different? Your work is exceptional in all media. It is so helpful to see your daily posts that encourage me to get up and paint! I do believe that keeping on task, perusing ones best helps us grow in that area. Thanks so much for helping us all.


    • Bernadette, I can’t really answer your question because I’ve hardly used acrylics. I have a feeling that the finish for gouache is much duller, and acrylic is a bit shinier. Like acrylic, it can be used very opaquely or it can be diluted to create a runny wash.


  4. Emily Neel says:

    Really like how the atmospheric perpective just melts into the “far away”. Beautiful painting. Sigh!


  5. Uma Maheswar Nakka says:

    Good Morning Dear Shari,

    Very beautiful scene to look at.
    I don’t know much about the other color except what are there in VIBGYOR.
    But I think you have chosen, Olive green with Grey shade for that tree.

    To tell you very frankly, I love that sunshine displayed on the house roof.
    And that car parked, gives really a natural look to the scene.

    I loved it, loved it and loved it.
    That is all.

    With Blessings,


  6. Ghislaine Gargaro says:

    Shari, thank you. This is a new version of the painting I got from you. I wake up every morning in Southern California looking at that tree. It brings me home to my beautiful QC.


  7. Judy Sopher says:

    I use both gouache and transparent watercolor. Sometimes together but not usually. So I really appreciate your approach in this painting. Really well done. And I also appreciate your describing how you used the white of the paper. Thanks. I always learn from you.


  8. It all works, beautifully! Great composition.


  9. Nice painting, I really like your use of dull colours.


  10. joantav says:

    The gouache seems to give snow scenes a 3-D feel. Great shadows and winter color.


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