The shores of Lake Michigan in graphite and gouache.

It’s summer camp and I know, I know, you’re itching not just from mosquito bites, but to paint, and to play with color. I get it. But if you will trust me just a little bit longer, we will get there, and when we do, it will be sweet. I promise.

For now, we are going to keep drawing. We all want to jump into color, yet every one of us who has made art for some time will tell you to focus on drawing first. No matter where you want to go with your art, the power of observation and drawing skills will serve you well.

Winter magic in gouache and graphite.

This week, we will introduce white gouache, and our focus will be on value. Value, as in lightness and darkness of a color in relationship to surrounding colors.

My favorite drawing paper.

This will be achieved with pencil, pen and white gouache on toned paper. I like Strathmore Toned Tan sketch paper, but any toned paper will do. Or you can lightly tone your own paper with India ink or a walnut ink. This way, your medium value is already laid down.

You use graphite to draw in what you observe. (If you have not already done Week #1 and Week #2, go back and do them now; each week builds on the week before.) If you’ve completed the first two weeks, you’re ready. Let’s get started!

First, get outside, find something to draw and just do it. The most important thing is to look very closely by squinting down to recognize shapes. Which shapes are darkest? Start there, shading in the value. Now look for the highlights or which shapes our lightest. Once the dark shapes are in, let’s talk about the lightest areas. This is where you can bust out the white gouache with a small brush and some water, experiment with whitewashes for the highlights, but be sparing. Restraint is definitely a virtue when using white.

The Grand Tetons are spectacular in gouache and graphite.

That’s it! You’re coming along, and I know you can do it. (Have questions? Come ask on my Facebook page!) Think relaxation, no judgment. It’s summer camp, after all, so don’t don’t forget the s’mores and your favorite beverage.

Cheers to you campers — you’re doing great!

A little Michigan drawing with graphite in just a touch of gouache.