Gouache on paper. A4 (8.27×11.69in). Not for sale.

A few months ago, I took a gouache (pronounced “gwarsh”) painting class run by Elana Mullaly for Ironlak. Gouache is type of paint that’s somewhere between watercolour and acrylic. It comes in little tubes, much like some watercolours do. It’s opaque, it dries fast, and it reactivates when wet. This makes it a very forgiving medium to paint with because you can easily paint over mistakes and use a damp brush to blend dried colours.

Elana’s class had us each paint the same beetle from a photograph. She had already traced an outline for us in pencil onto watercolour paper so it was really just a matter of colouring in with gouache.

Once the colours were filled in, Elana showed us how to blend the edges with a slightly damp brush.

I found the process very simple and relaxing. Everyone at the class produced a beautiful and impressive-looking artwork.

The hardest part I found was getting the exact shade I wanted by mixing base colours together, so I later made myself a colour mix chart.

Later I tried my hand at a few different beetles. I kept going with beetles because gouache paintings look great with shiny highlights, and beetles can be so shiny. I was also amazed at the many different types of beautiful beetles in the world when I looked them up on Pinterest.

I found this medium so simple and rewarding to use. It’s also a way less messy process than the big acrylic paintings I’ve been making lately. It dries fast so it’s portable. I took my gear over to a friend’s house once we both painted while we chatted. It’s also cheap – the only special equipment you need is the basic gouache set, one small brush and watercolour paper.

Copying from a photograph onto a pencil tracing doesn’t require much creativity so I have been using it as a focused relaxation exercise, much the same way some people use adult colouring-in books. I love getting into that deep focus zone while I work on the details of the painting. I think gouache is a great medium for beginners and experienced artists alike.