Painting with Liquitex Acrylic Gouache on Hahnemühle Anniversary Edition Aquarelle

Producing visuals doesn’t always have to be digital. A lot of art and indeed, some graphics design, is still done the old-fashioned way – with paint on either canvas or paper. We tend to forget that modern art materials can just be as innovative as digital apps, tablets and computing platforms. And if you’re good enough to have your work on display in Tate Modern or another prestigious gallery, you’re bound to earn a lot more than what you can ever make from creating digital art.

Recently, after a long pause, I took up painting again and decided that I no longer was going to mess about with turpentine, easels and canvas preparation. Acrylic paint seemed like the medium that would befit me the best. I don’t particularly like heavily structured paintings and I had already decided to go for paper media, so I started with GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics and some French brand of watercolour paper.

The paint was great, the paper less so. Then I tried Bockingford 300gsm but the “cold-pressed” on the wrapping meant that what I got was structured. After having tried painting something decent with that combination and never getting anywhere, I was ready to give it up. And then I saw a new acrylic painting medium being promoted in my online art store.

Liquitex had released its Acrylic Gouache, an acrylic paint that dries up to a completely matte layer and feels like true gouache. A huge benefit is the matte finish, which is ideal if you want to scan or photograph your art for online selling or archiving.

At the same time, I discovered that Hahnemühle has a 425gsm watercolour paper – Anniversary Aquarelle paper – in its portfolio that is very white and very nice and forgiving to work with. Oddly enough, I know Hahnemühle from the time that I was heavily into reviewing HP graphical and photo inkjet printers. This German paper mill had — and still has — a large range of very fine digital papers that are very good for printing art photographs. All the art papers I ever reviewed for use with HP’s photo printers came from Hahnemühle and I still have photos from 20 years back that look exactly as brilliant as they did back then. That is also due to HP’s excellent printing inks, of course, but if the paper isn’t any good, your image will fade after a couple of years.

Liquitex’s Acrylic Gouache paints much the same as I remember from 30 years ago when I also tried my luck with gouache as a medium. The only difference that Liquitex’s product puts above the old thing is that their version lets you overpaint colours without disturbing the underlying ones — when the underlying ones are completely dry, of course. That allows you to have the best of both worlds: you can create beautiful colour transitions as long as the paint is wet, but when it’s dry, you can paint an opaque colour over another one without the first one showing through at all.

Another benefit is that you can layer at your heart’s content and apply them with much paint as it won’t crack when it’s dry. And finally, I can also make it a lot thinner using up to 20% of water and treat it more like it’s watercolour. Of course, that dilutes the pigments, but it’s so saturated it can be diluted quite a fair deal before it loses brilliance. It’s even slightly more saturated than GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics, in my opinion.

Hahnemühle’s Anniversary Aquarelle paper is a boon when you want to apply much water, although Liquitex Acrylic Gouache never runs out as GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics does. The paper sucks up a lot of water but needs some time to absorb it fully without ever curling or wrinkling. The absorption time offers you just the flexibility that you need to create colour gradients with Liquitex’s paint. Covering the surface with plenty of water using a spalter gives a good uniformly wet surface so the paint takes a bit longer to dry – time you can use to paint wet-in-wet – up to a degree.

With GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics that works out even better, because that paint behaves more like watercolour. If you apply a little bit to Hahnemühle’s Anniversary Aquarelle paper made wet it will slowly feather out in all directions. If you know how to limit the feathering, the effects can be gorgeous.

I’m now going to experiment with Hahnemühle’s Leonardo hot-pressed paper and with Waterford hot-pressed high white. Because, although Hahnemühle Anniversary Aquarelle paper isn’t too structured – it’s quite nice, even to me – it’s still cold-pressed and that’s always rougher than smooth.