How I Paint with Gouache in my Brown Paper Sketchbook

A friend asked me to do a step-by-step on my sketchbook painting technique.

The point was made that one rarely sees the underlying drawing or the build up of paint in an artist’s work–just the finished product. I have posted step-by-steps of my niece’s murals and cottage cards, so here goes another.

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I drew the pony with a 3H pencil. It is hard and light and good for the underlying sketch.

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Using gouache as if it were watercolor, mainly burnt sienna and cobalt blue, I added the 1st set of darks.

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I use a smallish palette of colors, mainly primaries. I love gouache because it works well both transparently and opaquely.

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Using cobalt blue and yellow ochre I filled in a background.

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The pony’s spots seemed kind of flat, so I washed some orange over them and added darkest darks using  a small liner brush with indigo and burnt sienna.

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The Painted Door


This summer my dear friend Barb took me on a field trip to The Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

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In the summer of 1900 a boardinghouse for artists began operation in the quiet shoreline town of Old Lyme, Connecticut. For the next two decades Miss Florence Griswold’s house on Lyme Street was home to one of the most famous art colonies in America and critical to the development of American Impressionism. — Hildegard Cummings, independent art historian and curator

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The story of Miss Florence and this house is fascinating, but what intrigued me most were the painted doors. Her summer guests were an elite group of American Tonalist and Impressionist painters including Childe Hassam and others.

Miss Florence allowed her favorite artists to paint on her interior doors.

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I’m a door painter from way back. I started in the 1970s, painting rural trompe l’oeil on close to a dozen barn doors at Doolittle Farm in Shoreham, Vermont.

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Painting these gave a me a local reputation and I did several more barns before leaving the state in 1980.

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Like William Henry Howe, who painted this Normandy Bull on Florence Griswold’s door, I made portraits of animals, children, and random chickens.

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This busy scene on a barn in Shoreham needs only the kitchen sink to make it complete.

And this one is a faux door–painted to match the real one next to it.

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The nice thing about doors is that every house has some. You always have a canvas if you want to try this at home!

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Life with Dogs (Short Side Trip to the southwest)


I am traveling in Colorado and Utah this week, hiking in some of the great western National Parks.

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Today I climbed down to the Cliff Palace, a cluster of dwellings of at least 150 rooms built below the rim of the mesa in a rock alcove. These structures were built of hand-shaped sandstone blocks, cemented together with mud. They were built between 1200 and 1270 AD in Mesa Verde, CO. The last time I was here was 24 years ago, in the spring of 1990. I was 5 months pregnant with my 2nd child.
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As usual,  Pumpkin acted as my alter ego, grinding corn with a stone on a Metate with her baby strapped to a cradleboard nearby.
The scenery and architecture of the south west bowled me over and when I got home I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I revised the setting for the book I was working on: A Garden Alphabet by Isabel Wilner. The gardener, who looks an awful lot like Pumpkin lives in an adobe house with a kitchen hung with strings of drying chilis called ristras.
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And after a hard day in their desert garden, the gardener and her friend the frog relax in the shade.

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Life with Dogs, and One Child- Part 4: dé·tente

Eventually  we all settled into detente.

Finding a photo from these years with both Pumpkin and Brennan in it is a challenge. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t images.

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I painted several that illustrated the tensions between toddler and dog.

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And just as Pumpkin finally began to adjust to one child around the house, I became pregnant with another.

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This new person was strong and liked to do his tumbling act whenever I needed a steady hand.

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By the summer of 1990, we were in the  last weeks and Pumpkin and I were feeling heavy and tired.

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Meanwhile, over in Bookland, I was illustrating Isabel Wilner’s A Garden Alphabet. Pumpkin is the gardener and her best buddy is a frog.

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That rude frog laughed right along with Brennan when I broke the rope hammock in my 9th month.

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Knowing what was coming, I made the hard decision to leave Pumpkin at “Camp Stoneledge,” aka my mom’s house, in Vermont. She was 13 now, and touchier around Brennan than ever.

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But with Border Collies Ben (left) and Flora (right) as housemates she thrived and lived another 2 years.