Gouache Spotlight: Nathan Fowkes

The Gouache Spotlight is a segment where I focus on an artist who creates gouache artwork that I admire. I will share some examples and discuss what I find appealing about it.

Nathan Fowkes: from Imagination to Observation

Perhaps one of the most inspiring artists on my list is Nathan Fowkes. He is well known in the entertainment industry and has done concept art for several inspiring movies.

All images are from Nathan’s website.

Information about Nathan Fowkes
Example work by Nathan Fowkes

I was first introduced to Nathan’s work after Instagram recommended his profile to me after I followed another artist. His work immediately jumped out to me as more than just “good gouache painting.”

First of all, he does more than gouache. He seems like a wizard with digital paint, gouache, oil, acrylic, and probably anything he picks up. But his real genius lies in his use of color.

With minimal detail, he is able to capture the feeling of a particular moment. Whether it’s sunrise, mid-day, dusk, or interiors, he seems to have a heightened awareness of how to convey it with color. I have learned a lot about color placement simply by observing his landscapes.

Gouache by Nathan Fowkes

Last year I took his class on Schoolism called “Landscape Sketching in Watercolor and Gouache.” He has a very down to earth style of teaching, but is extremely thorough and articulate. He explains everything so succinctly, something I really admire.

Gouache by Nathan Fowkes

One bit of his advice that has stayed with me is:

Use a big brush for as long as possible. Only switch to a smaller brush when absolutely necessary. You can only do so much detail with a big brush. By doing this you are forced to consider the bigger picture early on, rather than get stuck on all the small details.

He also emphasises the importance of reflected light. I learned so much about color and light in his class, and the importance of greys.

Imagine if you considered grey to be your main color?

Gouache by Nathan Fowkes

Nathan is generous in his knowledge. He posts so many helpful tips on his blog and twitter. For example, I loved his posts about “what can you accomplish in 20 brushstrokes or less?” Here is his example:

Gouache by Nathan Fowkes

Nathan’s Supplies

Nathan’s plein air kit is very portable and seems conducive to quick sketches. A lot of his work is done with white gouache mixed with watercolor.

Nathan Fowkes supplies
Example from his blog
Nathan’s colors

This is something I have tried myself, but struggled with at first. I think it takes some getting used to. When I use watercolor I ignore the idea of adding opaque highlights. Part of the issue is that I use white paper.

Notice that the majority of his gouache work is on grey or toned paper. This is a great way to paint with gouache (or watercolor combo) because it provides a neutral starting point to build your darks and lights from. It allows you to see the highlights more prominently.

Nathan’s plein air kit

What I love about this is that it invites lots of exploration outside. Having a minimal setup makes it easier to get out the door and paint!

Where to Find Nathan

His website/blog

His class on Schoolism (the one I took which I highly recommend)

His instagram

Do you have anyone to nominate for gouache spotlight? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm an independent artist living in Scotland. Always chasing the light, and painting the beautiful highlands.

5 thoughts on “Gouache Spotlight: Nathan Fowkes

  1. I arrived at Gouache after experiencing dead ends with self learning watercolor. I began dabbling in oil paint in the 90’s. I adored the deep jewel tones and bright lights. I loved the texture of the paint and truth be known…the turpentine high. But an older but wiser and lazier me turned toward water based paints. Water soluble oils were a huge disappointment.
    I found you a few years ago and have loved watching you and hearing you paint in gouache which I seem to love. I have no personal style yet…I am 74! A bit worried I will never fine that “style”. But in the meantime…I just wanted to say that I can see the things that you learned from Nathan Fowlkes.
    It is thrilling to see how you changed and so interesting to see how your painting has evolved;
    Right now I am trying to figure out a pallet that resembles Schmid’s in Gouache. Unfortunately….it is so frustrating finding colors to match oil…..I wish I could be as pleased with my gouache paint as i was originally with my oil paints. Did Nathan paint with watercolor in pure form right out of the tube for his darks in particular? It’s time to fling that paint now. Do you believe that using watercolor paint with white either zinc or Titanium is less expensive than tubes of Gouache? How can the same pigment being used by different companies produce such drastic differences when there are no additives. Is it filler or binders changing the color? Retirement income is not what it used to be. Sigh. I am going to play with watercolor mixing today because I am running out of some of my gouache. I also at looking forward to playing with the opacity/transparency of the color that hopefully will result.
    Thank you so much for your generosity in sharing your enthusiasm for painting it is inspirational. I live in the Northern tip of the lower peninsula of MI. We have beautiful beaches and blue lake MI….but not many sweeping vistas. Wooded areas, wet lands and farm lands are abundant although we have been loosing those beautiful old barns and many of our beautiful woodlands through poor forestry practices and now global warming changes to our seasonal weather patterns.

  2. You nailed it with your comments about these well known gouache artists. I follow them (and have Nathan Fawkes book, ‘How to Paint Landscapes Quickly and Beautifully in Watercolour and Gouache.’) I also follow Lena Rivo and of course James Gurney. I’d love to take an in person workshop from any of these artists, but have to say that I learned all the basics from you, Sarah. I first discovered you doing a paint along when you did the winter forest past mini workshop with Etchr. I’ve never looked back and gouache is now one of my favourite mediums.

  3. I love the works of Nathan fowkes and you’ve explained it very nicely too!! Check out the gouache paintings of Tiffanie mang.. i love the vibration in her works!

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