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.

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