The Art of Memory: Crafting a Sentimental Landscape in Oil – Marianne Vander Dussen

The Art of Memory: Crafting a Sentimental Landscape in Oil

Today, I'm excited to share the journey of creating a painting that's super close to the heart: it's all about bringing a client's beloved childhood memory to life. Her grandparents' cottage had undergone many changes throughout the years, and throughout the process of creating this oil painting, we worked together to make custom adjustments to honour those memories. The full YouTube tutorial is below, but let's take a look at the various steps involved in the process.


1. The Underpainting: Starting with Shadows

We begin with the foundational layer of the painting, utilizing burnt umber to sketch out the shadows and darker values. This initial step is crucial, not just for the physical structure it provides but for the way it breathes life into the composition. Adding a hint of liquin ensures that this layer dries quickly, setting the stage for subsequent layers.

2. Blocking In the First Layer

Following this, it's time to block in the painting. This involves laying down large chunks of colour to flesh out the composition. Early elimination of the blank canvas helps in making more informed colour choices as the painting progresses, and helps you read and understand your colours and values in relation to each other. Otherwise, you could spend precious time trying to make a section of the painting perfect, only to realize after all the other colours are added that an adjustment is necessary.

3. Sinking in: What to do with oil paint that has become dull and flat

As I was working on this painting, the greens and earth tones became dull and flat as they dried, a process known in oil painting as "sinking in." Their colours will be restored when you varnish, but if you need to restore their lustre and shine before the varnishing stage (like I did so I could actually see my colours properly), you can employ a technique called oiling out.

To oil out your painting: mix a combination of either Gamsol to Safflower oil (3 to 1 ratio), or Gamsol and Galkyd (1 to 1 ratio). Brush it over the painting and immediately wipe it away with a lint free cloth. This will restore the shine to a painting gone dull, and provide better adhesion for the second layer.

4. The Second Layer

The second layer is where the real magic happens, where that boring first layer of earth tones and shadows is brought to life with vibrant colour and detail. This is where you bring in the saturated colours, and even though it takes time and trust to get to this stage, this is ultimately where the fun is. Even though it's tempting to skip the first layer to try and get here, having multiple layers of colour going from dark to light builds beautiful depth that can't be imitated. 

All resulting in the final painting...

The completion of this painting marked the end of a true joint collaboration between myself and the recipient of the work. This process highlights the power of paint; it captures and preserves our most precious memories, turning them into tangible treasures. 

I hope this blog gives you the courage to pursue painting your own memories...let me know what you think in the comments! 

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