BOOK REVIEW: “Rediscovering Gouache” by Aljoscha Blau

Rediscovering Gouache Book Cover

Just looking at the cover of Rediscovering Gouache by Aljoscha Blau tells you this isn’t your usual How To book. There be Dragons here! Well, not really, but there are monsters. And mice. And monkeys! And lots of solid tool, technique and creative information.

The secondary title is ‘A New Approach to a Versatile Technique for Contemporary Artists and Illustrators’. That sounds a little more conventional, doesn’t it?

Rediscovering Gouache – Look and Subjects

Rediscovering Gouache Inside Page

And that sums up the book nicely. It is a veritable stew of information — explaining the gouache medium, tools, color theory, and techniques. A bit of history. A comparison of brands. The impact on the environment. Then it turns around and shows you how to use all this to create lively, whimsical art. And, surprisingly it covers all of it in 183 pages.

Rediscovering Gouache Example Spread

The information is broken down in easy-to-digest sections. Instructions are brief, but clear.

Tips abound, and illustration styles vary, but all have Blau’s unique touch.

The author doesn’t touch on the subject, but one thing I noticed throughout, no matter the style in question, was the superb use of negative or white space in the illustration. This is obviously a hallmark of the author’s personal style.

An artistic newbie should read the chapters from start to finish. For more advanced artists, it’s easy to skip around and still make sense. Seasoned artists might find much of the information old hat, but it’s written in a way that’s fresh, and the illustrations are enjoyable.

So much of the discussion covered what I already knew, but but touched on a few things I didn’t. It was well-written and I felt the reading was well worth my time.

Rediscovering Gouache – Layer by Layer Exercises

There are six Layer for Layer exercises that come with 4 to 8 step-by-step illustrations. There are also written instructions and illustrations that you could easily follow and turn into exercises.

I think the these exercises may be frustrating for some. I mentioned that instructions were brief.

For instance, the colors and brushes used are not listed. Some are mentioned during the instruction steps, but most often you are left to decide what to use.

While this can be frustrating, especially to beginners, it also challenges you to experiment with the information given earlier in the book. Those who accept the challenge will end up with better understanding of what they’ve read, and will discover more about their own personal style.

My Layer by Layer Results

I did two exercises from the book. The focus on both was on layering and glazing with gouache, working from dark to light.

The style for this imaginary fish was whimsical.

The style for this face was more realistic, but the steps were basically the same, hammering the point that the technique was useful for more than one kind of painting.

I also took advantage of the brief instructions to add my own touch in choosing colors and changing the look of the face.  The exercise had the subject squinting, and I didn’t include that. I added some hair. I think my face can do with a little more work, but decided to wait and see how it grows on me.  That’s the nice thing about both this book and gouache as a medium.  I could go back and totally redo the painting, or I could do retouches where needed.


Rediscovering Gouache is beautifully illustrated with a variety of styles. The writing is sharp, clear, and brief.

Despite the title, and use of gouache as the main medium, there is solid information about tools, color theory, and techniques, most of which would apply for any painting medium.

The exercises in the book have very brief instructions and might be frustrating for some, but there is enough information within the book, that you can figure out what to do.

Rediscovering Gouache – Table of Contents

  1. What is Gouache? The basics for pros and amateurs
    • The other watercolor.
      • Balancing act of composition: Pigments, gum arabic & co
    • Sibling and cousins.
      • Gouache vs. other paints:
      • Watercolour, acrylic,
      • tempera, oil and pastel
      • Comparison chart
      • Gouache/Acrylic/Tempera/Oil/Pastel/Watercolour
    • Here, there and everywhere
      • Gouache in art history
      • The gouache essentials at a glance.
  2. The Nitty-Gritty. Materials
    • Top or flop.
      • What makes good paints good?
    • Label, talk to me!
      • Learning to interpret information
    • A worthwhile purchase.
      • Overview of the chief gouache brands
    • Invention from China.
      • Choosing paper
    • The Royal No. 7 and consorts.
      • Comparing various brushes
    • Not without my sponge!
      • Other utensils
    • Painting helps.
      • Other painting tools and what they’re good for
  3. The First Step is Always the … Easiest. First steps
    •  It’s all about the tension.
      • Stretching watercolour papers
    • The power of triads.
      • An excursion in colour theory
    • The home studio,
      • Setting up your workplace
      • Your first set of gouache paints
    • Minor intermezzo,
      • Analouge vs. digital
    • What does this yellow sound like?
      • Sketching colour sounds
    • A little planning goes a long way,
      • Thinking about work steps in advance
  4. Nothing is Impossible. Gouache techniques
    • Almost like watercolour, but not quite.
      • Glazing and washes
    • Pulling moods from the depths.
      • Opaque or transparent painting, from dark to light
    • Drawing clear borders.
      • Stencilling techniques
      • Guide to stenciling
    • Dry spell.
      • The beauty of dry brushing
    • Sticking to the lines.
      • Drawing with gouache
    • Two steps forward, one step back.
      • Reworking technique
  5. Portrait of a Banana Tree. Apply and Develop
    • Let’s get ready!
      • Making sketches
    • The best of the beast.
      • Animals and pictures of animals
      • Layer for Layer: Animals
    • The greens.
      • Plants and flowers
      • Layer for Layer: Flowers
    • The eyes have it.
      • Pictures of people
      • Layer for Layer: The face
    • Bundle up!
      • Clothing and textiles
    • Nature morte, the world of things.
      • Objects of glass, stone, metal and wood
      • Layer for Layer: Glass
    • A question of perspective.
      • Landscapes with gouache
    • The ABCs.
      • Lettering and calligraphy
    • And now …
      • Epiloque & Thanks.
      • Imprint.

Published in English by Hoaki Books, S.L. in 2021, the book is also available in German.

Links of Interest

REVIEW: DANIEL SMITH Extra Fine Gouache Primary Mixing Set REVIEW: DANIEL SMITH Extra Fine Gouache Primary Mixing Set



This book was a gift that I was given for Christmas.  Neither the author or publishers of the book asked for a review. I enjoyed the book and felt others would be interested. I received no considerations, though this post may contain affiliate links which help support Doodlewash. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Recommended3 recommendationsPublished in Art Supply Reviews
  1. JA Wilson 2 months ago

    Interesting , I love the art examples

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 2 months ago

      Thank you! It’s been interesting switching from gouache techniques to granulating color techniques. Polar opposites!

  2. Michelle Kogan 2 months ago

    Very thorough review, thanks!

  3. Mugdha 2 months ago

    Hello Ms. Sandra,

    Painting with gouache is yet quite an unimaginable distant dream, but I still read the review because YOU have written it and as expected, I’ve learned tons about this medium. Thank you!


    • Author
      Sandra Strait 2 months ago

      Thank you so much for the lovely compliment, Mugdha! I hope you get the chance to paint with gouache soon. It’s a fantastic medium.

  4. Brenda Sommerville 2 months ago

    Sandra all I can say is WOW. Thank you 🙂

  5. Mary Roff 2 months ago

    Wonderful review, Sandra! Love your painting samples!!!

  6. Victoria A Banaszak 2 months ago

    This looks like fun and the samples are great! Thank you.

  7. Vivian Turner 2 months ago

    How timely to see your review, given I just rec’d my gouache order this week. I have been using watercolors for about 3 yrs and want to venture out. I appreciate your assessment!

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 2 months ago

      Thank you, Vivian! Gouache is a fantastic medium. I think if I were starting over again, I might switch to gouache as my primary medium.

  8. Lisa Jones 2 months ago

    Appreciate this review Sandra, I’ve been wanting to try gouache for a while! Must take the plunge!

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 2 months ago

      Thank you, Lisa! I really enjoy gouache. I think if I were starting over again, I’d make it my primary medium.

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