#LecoleVanCleefArpels: The Art Of Gouache


Supported by Van Cleef & Arpels, L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels makes its way back to Hong Kong (its third instalment) and I was invited to attend one of the many classes held during its duration. It’s my second time in HK for L’Ecole, which by the way, is an actual school of jewellery arts that’s based in Paris, France.

So why does L’Ecole feel the need to come all the way to Hong Kong and hold courses? Well, it’s all about appreciating the savoir-faire that goes into the creation of high jewellery, where regular Joes like you and me can sign up for short crash courses and become ‘enlightened amateurs’, as their official site describes.

From courses as diverse as the early stages that go from design to mockup, to the more advanced art of Japanese lacquer, my allotted course was all about gouache, which is not to be mistaken for ganache (which is a glaze made from chocolate or cream). Instead, gouache is all about the intricate art of painting high jewellery on paper before it is presented to the jewellery craftsmen. A fine art that requires years of intense training, we learnt how painstaking it is to apply every brush and stroke with the finest of paintbrushes, to create that almost 3D effect by using the paint to create the shine, and the shadows. All by hand.


So what else did I learn about this art today? In order to achieve that lifelike realness, pieces are painted with the light starting from the top left of the piece before it ends on the bottom right, with all the necessary shading done following this imaginary ‘trail of light’. Grey paper is always used, because it is more stable and unlikely to discolour over many years. Diamonds could be painted white or blue-grey depending on the jewellery house because each house will have their own assigned hue. All drawings are painted on a scale of 1:1, so the gemologist and the jewellery crafters know the exact dimensions of the pieces just by looking at the paper.


In 3 hours I haven’t become the accomplished artist that I hope to be, and I realised I would probably never have the patience to become stellar at gouache, but I left the class today with a newfound respect and understanding for the need to preserve such crafts for future generations, which is exactly what L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels hopes to achieve by holding such courses for the general public.

Images: Van Cleef & Arpels

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