painting a galaxy in gouache – two techniques

Hi everyone! I was commissioned to make a galaxy painting and filmed the process! Here’s a quick under-ten-minutes tutorial on how to paint two styles of galaxy skies with stars.

You can also watch on and subscribe to my YouTube channel. There are subtitles available, and the transcript is below if you need to read as well as watch. I’d love to hear what you think, so leave a comment here or on youtube, or email me. Sign up to my email list as well for more at www.aratidevasher.com

Hi everyone! I was commissioned to make a galaxy painting and filmed the process! Here’s a quick under-ten-minutes tutorial on how to paint two styles of galaxy skies with stars.

00:00 Introduction
00:41 Paper Choice
00:51 Prepping Paper
01:13 Sketchbook Layout
01:25 Wet on Wet Technique for a Muted Sky
03:22 Wet on Dry Technique for a Vibrant Sky
05:06 Comparison when Dry
05:40 Removing the Tape
06:46 Stars with a Toothbrush for Oblong Shapes
07:31 Stars with a Paintbrush for Round Shapes
08:40 Completed Paintings

I am not sponsored by any brands; here are the origins of each of the materials used in this video:
– Cass Art Watercolour Paper, 300gsm, Acid Fee Cold Pressed NOT (purchased)
– Winsor & Newton Designer Gouache assorted colours (purchased)
– Daler Rowney Designer Gouache Jet Black (purchased)
– Daler Rowney paint brushes (purchased)
– Unbranded paint palette (purchased)
– old toothbrush (purchased)
– backing boards (made by me using acrylic matt medium, duct tape and foam-core, all items purchased)

Transcript:

Hi everyone! I’m Arati Devasher. Welcome to my studio. Today I’m going to do a little bit of a tutorial. I’ve been commissioned to paint a galaxy painting for a lady who had seen my silk scarves – these ones – and she didn’t want a scarf but she did want a print. So I painted both of these and I’m going to show you the technique I used for the background – two different ones – and the technique that I used for the stars. Plus, I’ll show you an extra technique that I didn’t use but you could also use on either of these galaxy designs. I hope you enjoy it and if you do please click the like button and subscribe to my channel. Now let’s get started.

I’m using a nice, thick watercolour paper from Cass Art. I’ll put the details in the description box below. The first thing to do is to secure it to my painting board, which I use to keep it taut while I paint. I’m using Scotch tape to create an even, narrow border along all four sides so that there’s space for framing if I decide to do so later. It also creates a nice border for the artwork.

I make sure to press down on all the tape, creating a tight seal, so no paint escapes underneath it.

Here is the layout I did in my sketchbook for my commission… I am going to use these colours as the basis for my paintings.

I’m using Winsor & Newton gouache, and will begin the first wet on wet technique for the sky by spraying the paper with a little water, and using a flat brush to spread it evenly over the entire surface. The aim is to have the sheet damp, not soaking wet, in order to allow the gouache to blend smoothly. As you can see, the paper starts to buckle, which is why the tape is necessary as well.

Once the water is evenly distributed, I begin to add black gouache. I’m working in long, even strokes because I want a flat coat for the background. The paper is still damp, so as I’m painting it’s going to stay wet, and blend really nicely, creating a very subtle sky effect. Adding the black as a base will tone down the other colours I use, and also give it a very smooth feel. I take my time and make sure it’s a nice even spread. I’m using a jet black but also watering it down a little for a charcoal grey tone.

After I have a base of grey-black, I begin to add different colours. All the colours I am using are very muted and dark, because that’s what I’m aiming for in this piece. As you can see, I’m adding a deep indigo. But, I’m also adding a little bit of variation. You can see that there are some greens in there, some light blues, and turquoise, but because I’ve done a dark base to begin with, they’re all really toned down. I’m still adding more colour in each little section: there’s a bit of green, some cobalt blue; and just continuously blending it in. As I said, the paper is damp still, and you can tell by the fact that it’s still buckling and wavy. As long as it’s doing that you can be sure it’s wet enough and you don’t need to add any more water. The dampness of the brush and the paint will keep that wetness going, and allow you to continue to paint until you’re done.

Here you can see the details of what I’ve been doing and that my strokes are all short and almost ‘fluffy’ in feel. I also need to be careful not to smudge it while it’s wet.

For the second technique, I’m just going to use a dry sheet of paper. I’m adding colour straight off, because this is going to be a more vibrant sky. I want the colour to stand out, and then I’m going to add black afterwards, so as to highlight the colours rather than subdue them. In the first sky I wanted the colour to be secondary but in this one, I want them to be the primary focus. As you can see, I am working at a slight angle, because I want it to have a feeling of movement. The first sky was more static, like looking up at a night sky, but this will be more like looking out of a spaceship window as you pass by galaxies and nebulae. I’m blending colours again, but I’m using thicker paint and pure colour in many areas. I’m not using a base of black, so I’m blending black into the colour, but the colour will remain pretty clear. As it dries, I am adding more wet gouache on top of the dry paint and it’s not blending anywhere near as much as the first piece, and that’s exactly the difference between wet on wet and wet on dry techniques. Again, I’m adding the greens and the greys and the blues, as well as some lighter turquoise as well. I do add a bit of yellow in this one also, just to enhance the other tones. You won’t actually see the yellow as a colour in itself in the final piece, but only in the effect it has on the other colours, adding a little lightness to them.

It’s all about the brushstrokes in this one, kind of a motion-blur effect, without the blur! It’s a painterly feel for sure, rather than a photographic one.

You can see, in detail, here, how every stroke is visible and sections of the paint are quite dry already.

Here is a comparison of both pieces once they’ve had time to dry. You can see that the buckling has disappeared which indicates all traces of wetness have gone. On this second sky you can see every single brush stroke as opposed to the other. This one has more of a smooth feel, far subtler and more muted, almost like clouds in a dark night.

Here’s how I test whether the paper is dry… a gentle feel of the paper and a quick tap with my fingers…

At this point, I usually take off the tape. Go gently, peeling very slowly, and at a right angle. It’s easy to rip the paper, depending on the type of tape and surface you’re using. You can see how removing the tape shows the nice, clean edge. If this was going to my client as an original, it provides a nice border for their framer to affix tape when mounting. It also ensures that none of the original painting needs to be cropped for framing.

Here you can really see the contrast between both the pieces… one blended and the other more dynamic… one where you can see each brushstroke, and on the other you can’t. And yet, they’re essentially both representing the same sky. Just different aspects of it, one at rest and one in motion. One from the earth, and one from higher up. Isn’t that a beautiful thing?

So, after carefully taking off the tape, I stick it in my scanner and save it to my computer for later use.

Next, I’m going to do the stars. I do prep my desk for this with old sheets of paper, as it can get quite messy. First I’m going to show you a technique using an old toothbrush. This produces oblong stars and is lovely if you want more motion in your artwork. Blend your white (or silver or gold) paint, whichever you
choose, until it drips off the brush just like this.

Then, gently coat your toothbrush in layers, making sure it’s not dripping wetland has an even coating. Brace your thumb against the bristles and pull across them, creating a spray. Here’s how it looks, each star an oblong, rather than a perfect circle like a sky in motion.

I’m going to use this second technique for both my pieces because that’s what my client needs. I use a flat brush, take off any excess paint, so that I get small dots, and I firmly tap the brush handle against my fist, creating a nice, even splatter over the base coat of paint. You can see that it creates lovely, circular dots, nicely spaced out. I’m using very little paint on this brush because I want really tiny dots on this ‘night sky’ version. Doesn’t it look just like a starry night?! Each little dot is distinct and clear.

I’m going over and over on certain sections and using my own judgement as to where I need more stars. This is something you can decide for yourself, and sometimes it’s nice to even just create a Milky Way style spray in one section.

Here is a close up view of the sprayed dots, a nice, clean spread, many quite miniscule,
just as I wanted for this little piece.

For my second piece, I used the same technique, but with far more paint on the brush, which creates bigger dots… it gives it a chunkier look to the stars, and greater variation in the sizes of the stars. It creates more of a feeling of movement than using less paint.

These are the final pieces, which I’m now going to scan in and use to create my commissioned print. It’s going to be A3, and perhaps I’ll get permission to share it on social media. Keep an eye on my instagram @artysubu for that!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Do let me know if you made your own galaxy paintings by commenting. Click like and subscribe, and I’ll see you in my next video.

Thanks for watching! Bye!

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