Expressive Marks with Gouache: Forest Studies

Forests are one of my favorite subjects to paint, and they provide quite a challenge. No matter how often I paint these scenes, I struggle and learn so much!

My strategy for improving my forest paintings goes something like this: go out, observe the forest in different weather/lighting situations. Take mental notes about what colors the shadows are, because photos lie. Take TONS of reference photos and videos. Paint on location if possible. At home, do a bunch of studies, trying out different layering techniques, lighting, and color combinations. Repeat forever.

Forest gouache study

Every year, as autumn approaches I find myself wandering the leafy trails more than ever. Using expressive marks is more entertaining so a lot of my studies have that “loose” quality.

Small forest gouache studies

When I’m in the forest gathering reference, I rely on my senses to absorb as much information as possible, and then later, the reference photos help to stimulate my memory so I can practice painting my favorite moments.

Forest gouache study

One thing I’ve been practicing more is trying to use less brush strokes. I ask myself, what are the least amount of brush strokes I need to get my point across? It’s a fun challenge! Of course, this ultimately leads to a looser more expressive style, and allows me to focus on accurate color mixing/placement. If you have less brush strokes, you need to put the color in the right spot!

If you’d like to watch how I painted this, as well as answer some questions about gouache, take a look at the video I posted today:

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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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