Daily Bread

There is meditation in making bread. The coming together of simple elements, transformed by hands and patience into something sublime. In this season of slowing down and coming indoors, it’s time to appreciate the subtle aroma of yeast; it’s time for kneading dough into a smooth, glossy form; it’s time for breaking bread. Coming indoors also seemed like a good time for me to try something new and stretch my skills. You can read more about that below, or just indulge me in a new subject and way of painting this week.

Tips and Techniques– Instead of using transparent watercolors, I painted this piece with opaque watercolors known as gouache. Like traditional watercolors, gouache is mixed with water, but it differs substantially because it can be worked loose and wet or thick and heavy, more like acrylics or oils. Getting the right consistency takes practice.

Another difference is that gouache is painted dark to light, which bent my usual way of thinking and working. So did using white and black—colors I typically avoid– to tone colors lighter or darker. Still, gouache seems more solid and painterly to me; and that’s what I wanted here. There is a lot of subtle shading to this piece, which made it both challenging and satisfying. Where does white shift to pale gray to deep shadow to create folds in the towel? How does light create form and change the color of dough from tan to golden to tanish-gray? How does a tiny thread of white convey light on the rim of the bowl? Good challenges indeed for my week.

39 Comments on “Daily Bread

  1. I love this painting! It brings peace to mind. The bowl, maybe my favorite part, seems to glisten just as the porcelain ones in the cupboard.

  2. Just wonderful. I have yet to figure out gouache myself but it’s so interesting. Thanks for sharing all your wonderful paintings.

    • Thanks Shari. There are certain subjects that I simply don’t tackle with watercolor that I think I would enjoy doing with gouache. So I’ll continue to use it and see how it feels.

  3. Another masterpiece, both the painting and the bread. I’m with Shari-I want more!

  4. My experience with gouache is very, very limited. Your beautiful painting encourages me to try again. Mixed with your words of careful preparation the painting is even more complete. The text and image belong together to fully appreciate them both. Thank you for sharing. I look forward to more!

  5. There is nothing you cannot master, Jean …. and beautifully! It’s hard to believe gouache is new to you. It must’ve been confusing working dark to light, and your transitions from bright white to deep shadow are incredible. Did you use your usual sketchbook paper or something more durable and with less texture? Did you bake that deliciously formed loaf of bread? Absolutely create more …… paintings with gouache and bread! Bravo.

    • Hi Barb– I used Arches hot pressed 140lb paper and I liked it. I’d like to experiment with other papers, too. The only other gouache painting I did was on a small clayboard panel. That worked okay, too, but I needed a larger size for this. My husband gets the credit for making this loaf and baking the bread. Nice collaboration, eh?

  6. Well, this is just so lovely. So many any things to love about this painting but what I love best is that you’ve maintained your unique watercolor style.

  7. This is a wonderful painterly piece. I’m inspired to break into my gouache stash again!

  8. Absolutely stunning! Love the subject and the execution is perfection. You are so very inspiring!

    • LOL!!!! Jean, my apologies for switching the names! I read your post and got interrupted by my cat who decided to sit on my neck and bite on my phone for attention. After many, many pets, i resumed my morning email (from bed!) and read a post from Suhita! I posted my comment and scrolled up to see the other comments because this style is so bizarre coming from Suhita that i was actually shocked, hahaha! Then i realized (in horror!) I had switched the wires! Now peace is restored – this piece screams “Jean”, lol! Phew…. I was so confused for a few minutes, sorry for the misname! It is a miracle that I was able to type this reply while my cat groomed my face, lol!!! Have a great sunday! I too will try some guache today, which my brain actually understands better than watercolors, in all honesty!

  9. Thank you, Jean. It is a lovely piece. I never knew gouache could produce such a nice piece. Your work is very inspiring.

    • I’ve been looking at other painter’s use of gouache lately and thinking it seems well suited to certain types of subjects. I won’t give up my transparent watercolors, but I’d like to do more with gouache and see if I can push what I’m doing.

  10. Thanks for the helpful hints on how to use Gouache. Your paint is like a photograph….it’s very nice

  11. Everyone else has already said it beautifully. I love this! And sometime I’d love to see you paint the same exact subject in transparent watercolor. But again, this is glorious!

    • Hi Melissa- I actually started out with a small thumbnail in watercolor and then a 5×7 watercolor that I didn’t finish because it had some design issues. I may do it again in watercolor now that I’ve worked those out…we’ll see. Or I just may move on. I’d like to try painting bread.

      • Thanks for your reply Jean. And yes, sometimes it’s best to just move on along…..

  12. The sense of daylight here is beautiful, Jean. And the loaf seems to embody that fulfillment and pleasure one gets from breadmaking. There are many details that contribute to the atmosphere and for me, even the way the blue marks on the bowl are handled says something about happy domesticity. What a terrifically successful skill-stretcher! 😉

    • Thanks Linda. One of the reasons I wanted to try gouache is to get at painting light. My journal pages tend to be more about the subject, but this type of painting seems more about the light. I’m glad you noticed that part of this piece. Thanks!

      • Interesting…I think a lot about the difference between photographs that are more about the subject and those that are more about the feeling, which is, of course, produced by light.

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