Thursday, May 5, 2011

Materials and Technique

To reproduce the style of traditional Indian and Persian miniatures, I use gouache paints, sometimes with the addition of watercolour paints. Gouache is similar to watercolour but much more opaque. It dries quickly and has a matte finish. The brilliance and matte finish of gouache makes it suitable for Indian miniature painting.
I use the best quality gouache paints possible on thick, acid-free watercolour paper with a smooth surface. The Winsor and Newton gouache range is good. Their website has tips on gouache technique. Here's a link:
Some artists report that M. Graham and Schminke artist’s gouache are the very best to paint with, and are not too much more expensive than W&N. You might have to mail order these brands. I have yet to try these, but probably will soon, and I'll try to review them in a post.
Gouache paints vary in opacity and drying time. I have had problems with certain white cheap gouache paints remaining sticky for a long period. Because most gouache colours dry very quickly, you can get caught off guard and ruin a painting by transferring the tacky paint on your hand.
Gouache and watercolour are thinned with water, which tends to cause the paper support to buckle. Painting in fine detail on a bumpy surface is not ideal so I generally stretch the watercolour paper by wetting it and taping or pinning it to a board. As the paper dries, it becomes taut, and buckling is greatly reduced. The thicker the paper, the less this is a problem. Historically, paper for miniatures was sealed, presumably with some kind of gum arabic mixed with white, and this would have prevented water from the paints distorting the paper. Buckled paintings can be flattened under heavy books, once they have dried, although a severely buckled piece of paper can get creased in an attempt to flatten out the bumps. If a totally stable surface is desired, a stiff support such as illustration board is an option.


frottina said...

Hi, about the paper, I studied miniature painting with Ajay Sharma in Jaipur. He glues together 3 pages of old accounting books. He makes a white base by grinding a stone (chalk or limestone?). He mixes the finely ground stone with water and purifies the milky liquid, by a process that takes many hours. Then he adds gum arabic to the white and water as needed (the mixture has to be right otherwise the white rubs off) and paints two coats on the paper. He then he burnishes the paper by laying it face down on a marble slab and rubbing the back with an large egg shaped agate stone.

jeronimus said...

Thanks for that advice Frottina. This was the method used by the mughal painters, and their paintings have lasted for centuries. The main thing is to keep the pigments form coming into direct contact with the support (cardboard). The gum arabic would create a seal on the support which would prevent the acids in the cardboard, or the corrosive chemicals in the pigments, from gradually destroying the painting.
The chalk provides a white surface but also a bit of absorbency, so the paint can adhere properly.
It would still be preferable to also chose acid free cardboard (and acid free glue, if laminating the card).
Sounds a bit laborious to prepare, but it would be a wonderful surface to work on.