How I got my joy of painting back and learning gouache with Lena Rivo

About a couple of years ago I was looking for an easy and practical medium that I could use when travelling in our camper, so I decided to try out gouache as it resembled acrylic and oils in its opaqueness, which I was mostly into at the time. Now, you might think watercolour would have been the most obvious choice as a travelling medium, but I was still a bit wary of watercolour, imagining it to have a huge learning curve for me and something I would find hard to tackle. Additionally, I come from a predominantly designer background so I thought gouache would suit me better.

I immediately fell in love with the creamy quality of gouache and its opaque and silky finish when painted. Naturally, I began searching out and following other artists on instagram who were creating in gouache and this is how I came across Lena Rivo’s art. Lena’s art has a timeless quality, very reminiscent of the impressionists’ paintings. It is utterly beautiful. Like poetry made visible. The way she captures light and shadow is breathtaking. This is an element that I would love to be able to render in my artwork as I too live in a very sunny and hot country where the light is of a particular quality and very strong in the summer. (Lena lives in Portugal where the light has a similarly striking quality).

a sampling of Gouache Artwork by Lena Rivo

In Lena’s artwork I can definitely see why one of her favourite painters is Joaquin Sorolla, a master at painting light and colourful shadows. I recommend you look him up. When I researched him I treated myself to a gorgeous book of his most famous artwork, ‘Sorolla, The Masterworks’. A delight to peruse and study!

As soon as I saw that Lena had an online course I enrolled in it without second thought, well almost, because the cost, I will admit, was slightly beyond my budget. However, I was also of the mindset that I finally needed to invest in myself if I was to progress and grow as an artist. So I treated myself to ‘Color Mastery with Gouache’!

This is a two year course, meaning that you have two years within which to complete it (unfortunately you don’t have lifetime access). But even though that may seem like a negative it actually forces you to buckle up and get on with it. Having said that I didn’t speed through it! The course is so thorough and detailed you really need to pace yourself and do the work! Lena has managed to cram in so much information that you will need to take your time going through the lessons, assimilating, practicing and applying what she teaches.

Apart from being a gifted artist Lena is also a gifted and very patient teacher. Very present, she provides loads of feedback to all her students individually. There is ample opportunity to show her your work, get her prompt and direct feedback, remarks and suggestions at what you need to work on.

A sampling of my gouache work done on the course

About two thirds of the way through I did become impatient with myself and almost gave up! I am a little impatient and want to learn and master a new skill as soon as yesterday! But that’s unfortunately not the way it works when it comes to learning a skill like painting. You have to put in the work and practice, practice, practice. I learnt that the hard way! That was one of the most valuable lessons I learnt on this course. I had to learn to be patient with myself. To allow myself to mess up and try again. And again, if necessary. And most importantly, to enjoy myself and the process.

I am happy and proud to say that I have worked through all the set lessons, leaving just the final two bonus practice lessons to do.

One of the wonderful things with this course, and something that I can see now that I am nearing completion and working in other media, is that the theory taught is applicable to other media too. So it’s kind of a 3-in-1 deal!

Some of my work in gouache done beyond the course

The past couple of years, especially the past year and a half since the first lockdown, I have been in a mode of searching, experimenting, reassessment and self-improvement. For those of you who know me a while now, you will be more familiar with my relief artwork using the pyrograph on gesso board. But I have felt the need to up level my skills and try things that are unfamiliar to me. To mix things up and experiment with something new. Something outside of my comfort zone.

At first I thought it was a matter of being stuck and uninspired. I felt I had lost my joy of creating art. But I still returned to my drawing desk or easel wanting to create something. But I didn’t know what, or how. I just knew that everything else felt off. My soul was searching for something new. Something else.

So I followed this curiosity, and am very glad and grateful I did! I still have a lot to learn in all media I use and experiment with but the important thing at the moment is that things are finally clicking and that I’m having fun again!

It’s true what they say…that the joy is in the process, not in the destination! Once I’ve completed a sketch or painting I can feel the joy and satisfaction for several minutes, ok, maybe even a few hours. But then I’m off again, travelling into the colourful unknown yet again, navigating tubes of wonderful colours, shapes and patterns to play with. YAY!!

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