painting

An Intern's Perspective on Art Consulting

Bynn Shen, Spring Intern 2019

Bynn Shen, Spring Intern 2019

This spring, DeGroot Fine Art had the opportunity to hire an intern through a program with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. We really enjoy getting to know young, emerging arts professionals. Not only do we get to share our knowledge of the field, but often our interns contribute meaningful work to our business. On the last day of her internship, Bynn Shen reflects on her experiences this semester.


Lessons from My Internship

I’m a mostly self-taught artist with an extensive background in painting and drawing. My current approach to art-making is much more traditional than some of my peers, as I create realistic renderings of the world. Coming from a traditional Chinese family, over the years I have developed a technical skill set and emphasized it throughout my artwork. I’ve always been drawn to color and the way certain colors interact with others­–so in everything I do, I’m always working with a lot of saturated and pastel colors and straying away from dark colors like black. While a student at SAIC, I’ve been focusing on Visual Communication Design while taking some painting and drawing classes here and there. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from my time at DeGroot Fine Art:

Connect with the Art Community

A big part of being an art consultant in Chicago is being aware of what is happening in the community by going to artists’ studios and visiting galleries to see work in person as well as looking online to see new artists and work. The studio visits were important to establish connections with the artists to become more aware of possible options for clients.

Prioritize the Safety of Artwork

I was able to learn about caring and packaging artwork, making sure the artwork was as safe as possible and ready to hand over to the client. There were different care options for different surfaces such as not using Windex on plexiglass and only using a microfiber cloth to buff out fingerprints on museum glass.

Bring All of Your Skills to the Job

Because DeGroot Fine Art is a growing company, there is a demand for building its identity by maintaining the website and writing blog posts and contributing to the aesthetics page, but also designing some social media graphics. I’m not as experienced in graphic design as I am in fine art, but from the classes I’ve taken at SAIC and projects I’ve worked on, I was able to use the knowledge for some of the designs I did here. When designing the social media graphics and brand identity for DeGroot Fine Art, I focused on making a cohesive body of work where everything looked unified and clean. In any type of art, it’s important to think thoroughly about every element of the piece and making sure it has a purpose.

Interning here exposed me even more to Chicago’s art community, as well as the corporate world. There were a few times when I heard artists mentioned and was surprised to learn about their connection to my school. From my experience here, I will definitely be able to refer back to some of the Chicago artists I learned and researched about as well as caring for artwork like my own. There are definitely many logistics that come with caring for art and preserving its life, so it was really great to learn from experienced art consultants.

Interning at an art consultancy firm was definitely informative, especially for a working artist. Seeing how art is used within corporate companies and interior spaces was informative. In the future, I could definitely see myself working in the art world, potentially working at an art consultancy firm like DeGroot Fine Art while also continuing my own artistic practice.

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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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