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  • Writer's pictureCristinaCasillasArt

I live in a famous building

Updated: Apr 27, 2021

Painting the Dancing Houses of Amsterdam.

Dear art lover,

Welcome back to my art journal. I wish you a pleasant journey reading this article and I hope my words take you out of your mind for a little while.

Las week, I finally finished the biggest cityscape painting I have ever made, and for better or for worst, I am insanely proud of it.

If you live in Amsterdam or have visited this city at some point of your life, you may have seen and taken a photo with the dancing houses at the Damrak canal, right in front of Amsterdam Central Station.

Photo of the Dancing Houses of Amsterdam (Damrak) by Cristina Casillas Art.
Photo of the Dancing Houses of Amsterdam (Damrak) by Cristina Casillas Art.

Why did I decide to paint the Dancing Houses of Amsterdam?

I usually paint or draw a city because I have history with it. There is always a love story, disappointment or a remarkable anecdote that is connected with the building or buildings. In this case, I live in one of these "famous" houses in Amsterdam.

When I first move to this building, I had no idea it is the place where thousands of travelers and influencers take pictures to share with the world. The main entrance of the building is, of course, not from this view, but from the other side of the buildings, on a very small but very touristic street (Warmoesstraat).

During the first week of living here, I visited one of my neighbors, whose apartment, unlike mine, overlooks the canal. It wasn't until then that I realized I was living in these famous buildings, where even I, had already taken a photo to also share with the world myself.

Photo of Cristina at the Dancing Houses of Amsterdam (Damrak) by Cristina Casillas Art.
Photo of Cristina at the Dancing Houses of Amsterdam (Damrak) by Cristina Casillas Art.

The painting process lasted 5 months.

Making this big (75x45cm) cityscape painting took me around 5 months, but do not think I spend the 150 days painting non stop. Also, keep in mind I am counting the time I spent making sketches and small paintings to practice.

First, I started making a small watercolor painting just for the heck of it. It was one of the first paintings of my art journey. I was not planning to share it or even sell it, but my partner convinced me to share it with my neighbors.

To my surprise, one of them asked me if the painting was for sale, and the rest is history.

Painting with oil for the first time after many years.

I have painted since I was a kid and my favorite medium has always been oil paint. But, as I have been moving a lot for the last 4 years, I like to keep my belongings as light as possible, hence, making oil paintings doesn't really seem like the most practical way of creating art.

Despite the above, life in Amsterdam began to feel more certain and I decided it was time to paint with oil again.

As I had practice and succeed with the watercolor painting of the Dancing Houses before, I chose the same theme for my first oil painting.

The final result of this cityscape painting looked like an oil sketch because of the freedom of the strokes and the lack of accurate details. I thought: new medium, new painting style, and I am pretty happy with the end result of my oil sketch, although, I must say, this painting has not received as much love as I thought it would.

My latest oil painting of the Dancing Houses of Amsterdam.

Now, the moment you have been waiting for: The biggest cityscape painting I have ever made and I am proudest of.

This big painting took me around 1 month, but I must confess, I left it forgotten for around a week because I got busy with my online shop. I guess being a full time artist is not only about painting.

I painted this cityscape on a wood panel. I cut the panel myself and then I primed it with Gesso. If I am not mistaken, I added around 6 layers of gesso and I sanded the first 2.

Once the last layer of gesso was dry, I added the underpainting. In my attempt to give the painting a vintage vibe, I made the underpainting with a very thin layer of burnt umber and to do this I used a fast drying medium for oil paint.

When the underpainting got dry, I made a quick sketch of the building with very thin black oil paint, again using the fast drying medium. Once the sketch was dry, I started to fill up the buildings in layers.

I really enjoyed the time spent making this painting, but the process was tiring and complex as well. Nevertheless, when I finally finished it, I felt a big satisfaction. It is one of those paintings I just can't stop looking at, but I am bias.

Lastly, I must confess, my favorite part of the whole process, was waking up early one morning and carrying down my painting from my apartment to the view point where I took the picture you will see below.


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