Gouache Cacti and Nude Paintings

 It has been SO long since my last art post (at least one that actually involved the making of art).  Sadly, that also means it has been about that long since I last made any art, and that's just a little depressing for someone who considers herself an artist.  BUT, there will be no wallowing here, because I have been on an art roll this past week!  In fact, Chris and I have both been getting very excited about new art projects... there is something in the air, and it is full of creativity and awesome art-making inspiration.

As anyone who has checked out the "Julia's Art" page on the blog will know, my first art love was oil painting, mostly of nude figures.  But, since graduating college, I haven't had the space, time, or patience for much oil painting, so I've been messing around with some other mediums instead.  Still, I missed painting, but after one rather unproductive oil painting session last week, I decided to make a change, and see how I felt about gouache paint.  Gouache is basically like watercolors except more opaque; it dries really fast with a matte finish, and the paint always stays active (so I can just leave paint on my palette and rewet it and keep painting whenever I want).  Basically, it's super easy to clean up and set up, and I can get all the soft pretty color blending I love.  I'm pretty much in love with it, and I have two new gouache projects going on right now to share:

I started with these fun little cacti inspired doodles, using a few of Chris's failed Polaroid prints as my canvas.  In person the black background is glossy, and the paint is matte, so there is an interesting play of texture there.  I've been loving all the crazy cacti out here, and I had fun playing with the colors and shapes and just generally experimenting with the new paint.

I had never used gouache before, so there was a bit of a learning curve, and throw in working on a glossy surface and it got complicated.

So I had fun for a few days playing with those little guys, and I might still go back to them and make more, but now I've changed gears just a bit:

Back to my very favorite thing to paint.  It feels good to be home.  Seriously, I don't know what it is, but there is something about painting skin that just feels right to me, and I really like how the colors and brushstrokes came out with the gouache paint.

For these lovelies, I needed some source material.  Usually I would paint from photos I had taken or a mirror, though for my senior project in college I also used slightly deconstructed images from pornography magazines.  In this case, I went on a very amusing search through the internet that ended on some tumblr blogs devoted to pictures of curvy nude women; I combed through all the overly sexual ones and found a great selection of beautiful simple poses to use as my inspiration.  In general I prefer painting somewhat soft and fleshy people, and that is definitely holding true with these.

I have always kindof hated dealing with the backgrounds of my paintings, and I've come up with all sorts of methods for dealing with them.  Right now I'm enjoying the illustration-style simplicity of the centered subject on a plain background.  I have a weird guilt about empty backgrounds, so I have been pondering whether I should lay in light washes of color, or maybe a simple pattern... but I don't really want to.  I have a few photos I'll be working from with the women in different positions where they are lying down or leaning on things (which will be omitted from my painting), so it will be interesting to see how those work.  I think it could be cool.  OR maybe there's a way to bring my cacti and my nudes together?!

I always found watercolors to be just too watery, but gouache has that perfect balance where it's a little wet and soft, but I can also add white highlights over dark if necessary (though many of the white spaces are just plain paper peeking through), and I just get this delicate light coming through that I love.    The white watercolor paper works perfectly as a background for these ladies, while the black worked better for the cacti, where I was going for a whole different effect, but in both I let some of the paper color show through.

Since the gouache is always active, these will need to be framed behind glass to keep them safe.  Chris and I have been considering opening up a second Etsy shop for our art, so I've been pondering how best to frame these little paintings.  I'll probably sell all the originals framed, and then I could sell prints of the nudes, which could just be plain or matted.  I'm having a hard time making framing decisions, though... I'm thinking definitely a white mat for both, but then should I do white frames, black frames, light wood frames (like this)?  I'm sad the IKEA Ribba frame doesn't come in light wood anymore.  Maybe white on white for the nudes?  I don't know.  Any ideas or opinions on that front?

So what do you think of my new art?  If you make art, do you have a subject you always go back to?  I've also been working on some new crafty ornament inventions (well, fancier versions of my old ornaments at least...), but they won't be ready for their photo shoot till next week.  I LOVE making things!  It's refreshing.  Are you a maker?


  1. ooooh I can never get enough of cacti and I just love your paintings! the colours are just great!

  2. Wow, you can tell that something got sparked in you through those paintings. It's hard to explain for me since I've been out of the art scene for a very long time, but they seem alive. Very engaging. Beautiful work!
    And the cacti are super cool too! Such great colors and shapes. And the use of the old Polaroids is a great idea.
    Good for you for getting back into it!!! The world needs more art!


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