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Exploring and Understanding Gouache

When it comes to paint mediums, many people are aware of watercolor, tempera, acrylic and oil, but one medium that is often overlooked is gouache (pronounced “gwash”). Gouache is seemingly a mix between watercolor and tempera paint. It can be used like watercolors–thinning the pigment down with water and layering the colors–as well as thick and heavy like tempera paint straight from the tube. As an artist myself, I found working in watercolor difficult at first. I was unable to figure out a fitting paint to water ratio without the paint being too thick and too thin. That being said, there are many strong watercolor and gouache pieces which take advantage of the ability to layer colors. Watercolor dries with a satin finish while gouache dries matte, so if that aesthetic is desired, gouache is an excellent option.

Comparing gouache and watercolor through wet on dry and wet on wet techniques, washes, and testing the opacity of the two mediums by layering paint on top of a line of graphite.

Comparing gouache and watercolor through wet on dry and wet on wet techniques, washes, and testing the opacity of the two mediums by layering paint on top of a line of graphite.

History

Gouache has been used in paintings since ancient Egypt. Egyptians used binding agents of honey or tragacanth glue with the pigments. Following that, the medium appeared on illuminated manuscripts in the Middle Ages. Although gouache was prevalent throughout the history of art, few acknowledged it or recognized its value. In 18th century France, the term gouache was developed and applied to the opaque water-based medium. Gouache was used by artists in combining different mediums to create a more unique surface in pastel paintings, as well as being used as a base layer in oil paintings. By this time, gouache began to include modern-day ingredients of gum arabic as the binding agent with an opaque white pigment, such as chalk. During the 20th century, the medium was manufactured in tubes, allowing artists to easily access it and use it outside of the studio.

How Artists Use Gouache

Landscape and nature painter Albrecht Dürer utilized both watercolor and gouache in his paintings. Because these two mediums are similar, they can work together to improve one another. In Wing of a Blue Roller, c. 1500 or 1512, Durer rendered a hyper-realistic view of a bird’s wing by using the buildable properties of gouache and watercolor. In instances like this, an artist might first put down a watercolor base to draw and plan out the values, then build the composition up with layers of gouache, creating structure, color, and details. Watercolor and gouache work very well together and can be layered to create depth and realistic effects.

Gouache vs Watercolor

Gouache and watercolor share many similarities, but one of the key differences is that gouache is much more opaque and mud-like than watercolor. In fact, the word “gouache” is derived from the Italian term guazzo meaning “mud.” For the most part, watercolor and gouache behave in the same way, but with watercolor, there is no real way to apply thick paint without it still appearing transparent. Because watercolor is watered down pigment, it has a tendency to bleed into other colors blurring the edges whereas gouache allows for clean and crisp edges. Even if the gouache was watered down, the paint would still remain opaque. Watercolor dries relatively matte but if more paint was layered on, it develops a satin sheen, while gouache dries matte no matter what.

Casey Matthews

Casey Matthews

Gouache in Contemporary Art

Today, it is not as common to see paintings only using gouache as most artists use it along with other mediums. Casey Matthews is a Florida-based painter who marries many different types of mediums and household objects to create pieces. His work includes many subtleties in color and line variation.

Spanish painter Annabel Andrews uses acrylic and gouache by laying down thick layers of paint which builds texture. Her work is very geometric with solid filled shapes sometimes accompanied by lines or other elements to help tie the piece together. The shapes are painted in a quick manner, not overly concerned about uneven edges or misalignment with other shapes.

Framing works with gouache

Because gouache is almost always done on paper, it is important to limit the amount of sun exposure to the piece. With too much sun exposure, the colors may start to fade and become less saturated than when initially put down. A good way to ensure your gouache painting is fully protected is to frame with UV filtering plexiglass and avoid direct sunlight. To learn more about plexiglass for archival use, read our blog post here.

Rebecca Shore

Rebecca Shore

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Handling Artwork During Construction

Whenever you are renovating or undertaking construction projects in a home or office, it is important to have a plan for protecting your artwork. We assist clients with managing artwork relocation at any scale and there are a number of considerations to keep in mind when planning changes to your space.

When to Remove Art

Making structural changes to your space? Make sure to remove artwork before starting construction.

Making structural changes to your space? Make sure to remove artwork before starting construction.

In any environment, renovations can be messy and pose risks to artwork. Any scale of renovation will create dust, a common culprit in artwork damage. Drywall dust contains abrasive particles, including fiberglass, which creates scratches or blurring on the surface of plexiglass, a common material used in archival framing. Because these dust particles often spread a large distance during construction, our rule of thumb is to remove all the artwork on the renovated floor when possible. Best practice is to take the artwork off the wall before construction begins.

We work with a team of professional art handlers to review the construction area and remove all artwork that could be affected. When removing artwork we carefully document each piece of art, noting its size, condition, and any inventory or asset number associated with it. This helps us strategically plan how best to reinstall the artwork once the space is fully renovated.

We carefully wrap all of the artwork and relocate it elsewhere onsite, or transport the artwork to a secure art storage facility.

Reinstalling Artwork

Supervising an art installation

Supervising an art installation

Executing a construction project to completion is complicated, and as the process ends numerous questions arise. We are often asked when artwork should be brought back to the space. To help clients navigate these final stages, there are a few key considerations when deciding a timeline for reinstallation. First, you should ensure that all electrical work is completed before art returns to a space. Lights must be installed and operable, and no wiring should be loose. If the ceiling is open, or if wires aren’t fully integrated into the wall, the space is not yet safe for artwork.

Next, all walls must be fully completed, sealed, and painted before reinstalling artwork. This ensures that the source of dust is eliminated and that the artwork is safe from scratches or paint drips. Best practice is to remove artwork for any amount of painting, even touch-ups.

The final phase before a space is ready for artwork is installing or reinstalling furniture and large appliances. In both commercial and residential spaces, moving furniture can easily scratch, bump, or knock over artwork in its path. Mistakes happen, even with the most diligent of movers. Artwork should be the last thing that moves into a space before people occupy it. It’s the final touch of color, texture, and personality that completes a newly-renovated or constructed space. By waiting to install artwork last, you are protecting your investment and the aesthetic of the new space.

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Fiber Art – Past and Present

Victoria Manganiello

Victoria Manganiello

Humans have been making textiles for thousands of years. Clothing, fabrics, baskets, and carpets are often practical as well as decorative and expressive. Because of their use as functional objects, textiles have long been seen as a "craft" rather than a type of fine art, but things are changing.

In the 19th century, British and American members of the Arts & Crafts movement started to challenge that distinction. The Arts & Crafts movement was a reaction to Industrial Revolution and mass production, advocating for a return to handmade objects and the employment of artists in creating household objects. Famously, British designer William Morris created furniture, wallpaper, tapestries, and fabrics that blurred the lines between art and craft. "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful," Morris once said.

A century later, textiles were used to transform the boundary between art and craft again–this time by feminist artists in the 1970s. Understanding that textiles and fibers were historically the domain of women, feminist artists reclaimed textiles in the 70s and pushed them into the realm of fine art. Now, we call this category "fiber art."

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Fiber Art Techniques

Weaving

Weaving involves an artist using a loom to intertwine threads. By threading different colors, artists can create patterns or images in the weaving. Contemporary artists are also increasingly exploring different types and thicknesses of thread to create dynamic, almost sculptural weavings. Some artists use lap-sized looms for small pieces, while others use looms the size of a room to create large-scale wall hangings. Chicago artist kg uses weaving and found objects to create pieces that play with dimensionality.

Knitting and Crocheting

These are two similar techniques, both using a hand-held tool to create stitches or knots. Knitting uses two needles, while crocheting uses a single hook, to form patterns. Often used to make things like scarves, blankets, and sweaters, knitting and crocheting are increasingly appearing in art. Artists use these techniques to interact with objects in novel ways. Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos creates sculptures by crocheting around animal figurines. 

Joana Vasconcelos

Joana Vasconcelos

Yarn Bombing

This is a new form of street art that has emerged in recent years. Artists "yarn bomb" by knitting or crocheting around an object in a public space, much the way a street artist might use stencils or stickers to interact with spaces. Polish artist Olek yarn bombed an entire house Finland in 2016. 

Sewing

Sewing is the act of connecting fabric or objects with a needle and thread. Sewing can be used to create garments, often exploring the boundaries between craft, fashion, and fine art. This technique is also used with a variety of materials to create sculptural pieces. Chicago-based artist Nick Cave is famous for his fiber work, called "Soundsuits" which are both wearable by dancers or static sculptures in galleries.

Embroidery and Quilting

Embroidery is another type of sewing, which create images and patterns on the surface of fabrics. Quilting involves sewing different fabrics and fillings together to create patterns. Pia Camil creates large scale pieces from different fabrics, as well "wearable paintings" in the form of ponchos. Learn more about Camil and other pioneering fiber artists on Artsy.

Collecting Fiber Art

There are many reasons to collect fiber art. Acquiring fiber art pieces for your collection can allow you to engage with new mediums. Fiber art can add texture to a space, complementing furniture and color in a unique way. Many pieces of fiber art are "2.5D" or somewhere between two and three-dimensional works. If you are looking for a piece that can hang flat on a wall, but still has three-dimensional elements and utilizes space in engaging ways, fiber art wall hangings are a great option to consider. Fiber pieces can also have excellent acoustic properties, dampening sound in large, echo-prone spaces. Fiber art pieces of all types can add depth and texture to your collection and space.

Pia Camil

Pia Camil

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How to Light Artwork

RICHARD HULL

RICHARD HULL

Lighting plays a significant role in artwork display. It can be subtle and often the best art lighting is designed to be unnoticeable. We’re often called upon to consult on the lighting for spaces under construction, but mindful lighting can also be implemented in existing spaces.

When you hang artwork, if it seems dull or not as impactful as you hoped, additional lighting is likely needed. If artwork is hung near a natural light source, this need may only become clear at night. Lighting can help bring out textures from brush strokes in paintings and can make colors glow.

Types of Art Lighting

The style of lighting can have a big impact not only on the artwork, but on the aesthetic of the space. Here are a few popular options for light fixtures and benefits of each design.

Example of Spotlighting

Example of Spotlighting

Picture lights

The most traditional option, picture lights mount directly above a piece of artwork. This is a great option if you want to spotlight the artwork, and if you don’t intend to change the artwork layout. These permanent fixtures come in numerous sizes and finishes. Depending on the style, these help enhance a traditional or vintage aesthetic.

Track Lighting

This adjustable lighting option is the most customizable type of fixture. A great option for dynamic compositions such as gallery walls, track lighting allows you to add, remove, and rearrange spotlights in order to achieve the desired amount of lighting. If the layout of your artwork is in flux or is regularly refreshed, track lighting can provide flexibility to highlight a wide range of artwork.

Wall Washes

The most subtle options for lighting, wall wash fixtures are typically set into the ceiling, and coat a wall with light. This minimal option is versatile and makes any artwork on the wall glow, regardless of scale.

Conservation Concerns

When selecting lighting for artwork, preserving the work is an important consideration. Art can be susceptible to overly bright and overly hot fixtures. Opting for LED over halogen is a safe way to prevent heat damage. Most LEDs also emit little to no UV rays, which can fade pigments over time. It’s best to select bulbs that mimic natural light to avoid casting blue or yellow tones over the artwork.

If you’re installing light fixtures, it’s important to ensure the artwork is removed and protected during the construction. Any amount of dust can damage the surface of artwork, especially dust from plaster of drywall. These materials are abrasive and its particles can ruin the surface of plexiglas and other delicate materials.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to best approach art lighting, we recommend consulting this article from Architectural Digest.

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Meet Our New Team Member: Brontë Mansfield

Brontë Mansfield.jpeg

At the start of the New Year, Brontë joined the DeGroot Fine Art team as a Project Assistant, focusing on marketing for new projects. Here’s how Brontë came to the art world and our company:

In 2010, Chinese conceptual artist Ai Weiwei unveiled a new installation at Tate Modern in London. The installation, Kui Hua Zi, spread 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds over the floor of a single gallery. Each seed–every one of the hundred million–was shaped, fired, and painted by hand. It took over a thousand workers in a Chinese town more than two years to produce all of the seeds.

And there I was, 17 years old and standing in front of all of those seeds, the first time I set foot in an art museum. If I had scooped up a hundred of the porcelain seeds in my hands, I would have held more seeds than there were people in my hometown in rural Wisconsin. Another handful and that would probably be more than all of the people I had met in my life.

After years of cornfields and football, I did not know what to do with myself in a bustling foreign city. But then I found subways, coffee shops, bookstores, and–mostly importantly–all of the free art museums in the city. Even at seventeen, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life around art.

I returned to the states to go to college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a freshman, I was hired as an assistant to the Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the Chazen Museum of Art. One of my first days at the museum, I was tasked with helping reframe a six-foot-long ink drawing by another famed Chinese artist, Xu Bing. I am proud to say that I didn't buckle under the high pressure and have been professionally handling art ever since.

During my time at University of Wisconsin-Madison, I specialized in Victorian art history and literature, writing my thesis on nineteenth-century paintings of mermaids and Darwinian theories of evolution–but also wrote for the school newspaper and worked as an editor at the campus magazine. In 2014, I was awarded a Beinecke Scholarship to study at the graduate school of my choice. I decided to leave academia and pursue journalism, to help share stories of art and culture to as many people as I could.

In 2017, I received my Masters in New Arts Journalism from School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). During graduate school, I worked in the school's Marketing & Communications department and was also asked to assistant teach a class on contemporary art history. Even though the art I knew best was made before the Titanic sank, I threw myself into the world of modern and contemporary art–and even started working as a studio manager for a Chicago-based artist.

During graduate school, I focused on audio production and storytelling. In addition to my work as a freelance audio producer, I have worked as a production & recording assistant for the Art Institute of Chicago and recently joined the faculty at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, teaching podcasting and video essays.

I am thrilled to be able to merge my background in both fine art and journalism in my new role as Project Assistant at DeGroot Fine Art. I look forward to sharing more stories from the world of art consulting with our clients and anyone interested in collecting, preserving, and supporting fine art.

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