Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Indian ink and gouache resist step-by-step

This scene was sketched while on holiday in Suffolk (UK), sitting on the village green overlooking these wonderful wonky houses and the general store with its very low lintel (hence its name “Duck or Grouse Village Store”).  The sun was shining, we had just finished the ice creams we had treated ourselves to at the village shop - a perfect opportunity for a quick pen and wash sketch before exploring the rest of the village.
Pen and wash sketch -  approx 7” x 4”
A couple of years later, an art club challenge to paint a shop front, had me choosing this subject from my travel journals.  I decided to crop out the far left of the pink building and, with reference to my sketch and a photo, I adjusted the Village Store for a head-on view, but left the cottages as they were. I enlarged and combined both sections on the computer for my final layout (10” x 6”).
Layout sketch - 10” x 6”
I have used this Indian ink and gouache resist technique on a number of occasions over the past few years and find it particularly suitable for depicting old buildings. So that was my choice of medium for this subject.
The layout was traced onto stretched watercolour paper and a variegated base watercolour wash laid down and allowed to dry – this wash enabled me to see more clearly where I was applying the white gouache which followed.. The gouache was carefully painted over this base, leaving proposed dark areas and outlines untouched for the subsequent Indian ink to sink into the paper. For areas I wanted to keep very light I made sure I applied a couple of layers of gouache; thinner applications will result in shaded or grey areas in the final piece.
Starting to apply white gouache over watercolour base (see tiles on lefthand roof)

The gouache needed to be thoroughly dry before using a wide flat brush to wash Indian ink quickly and with a light touch over the whole image – too much scrubbing and overlapping of brush strokes at this stage would disturb the gouache layer too soon. After another period of drying, it was time to put the painting under the tap, still taped to its backing board - with the aid of a stiff brush the gouache dissolved, removing most of the ink over it, but leaving the areas untouched by the gouache clearly defined.
Under the tap and washing off the ink
Another patient wait for the work to dry and assess the outcome. After this drastic process most of the watercolour base had also been washed off so more saturated watercolour washes were added. Normally I would consider the painting finished now, but on this occasion I obviously hadn’t applied the gouache thickly enough in places and this left me with some areas which I considered were far too dark. Rather than abandon the painting after all that effort I opted to try and make the necessary adjustments with some white acrylic and pastel. Fortunately, my alterations blended in well.
It is a rather convoluted process and the reveal after washing off the ink is often a surprise (not always welcome), but I quite like the “woodcut” appearance of the final painting.
Final image "Duck or Grouse Village Store" – 10” x 6” - Mixed Media

More paintings using this technique can be viewed in the Ink Resist Gallery page.


  1. Great technique...gorgeous painting!

  2. Thank you for your comment geminisinger. It's been a little while since I last used this technique - time to have another go, I think.

  3. Sonia, you are awesome! Thank you so much for posting this :-)

  4. Interesting technique- I will have to give it a go.

    1. I look forward to seeing how you get on with this Malcolm.