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Updated: Mar 20, 2021

After deciding to become a full-time artist in 2003, I often visited Galleri Varden in Moss, one of the most prestigious galleries in the city where I lived. Big names in the Norwegian art scene exhibited there—Frans Widerberg and Odd Nerdrum—as well as those who had recently passed on—Victor Sparre, Kai Fjell, and Ferdinand Finne—artists who had influenced Norwegian art for decades.

Left: Ferdinand Finne, 1935, age 25; right: Finne's World of Leaves

Left: Ferdinand Finne, 1935, age 25; right: Finne's World of Leaves

I was drawn to the painters who expressed emotion through colors the way Gauguin, Van Gogh and Kandinsky had done before them. One picture in Varden's permanent exhibit section grabbed me in particular: Ferdinand Finne's "Blant Blader" (Among Leaves), showing a red parrot perched above a baby parrot. Low on funds, I asked the gallery owner if he would consider a payment plan. He agreed, and I started making monthly payments. I didn’t want to bring it home until I had paid in full. Six months later, I proudly hung it on our living room wall, feeling it symbolized my love of nature, color, and my life as an artist. Little did I know then the effect this picture would continue to have on me. For seven long years, I worked hard in my studio, and in 2010, Galleri Varden agreed to show a solo exhibit of my own. What a special moment! Three years later, in 2013, two Norwegian artists from the Oslo area called and asked to visit me in my studio: Bjørg Thorhallsdottir and Svanhild Rhodin. They especially liked my gouache paintings on paper. Bjørg, a prominent printmaker, asked if I had ever considered making etchings of some of my motifs. I said it seemed terribly difficult and expensive. "Yes, it is costly," she said, "but you cannot survive as an artist without offering prints. If you can save some funds, I will call my print studio in Barcelona. This is meant to be—think positive thoughts. It will work out." Another year passed by. I often thought about her words, but I didn’t have the confidence. When Bjørg contacted me and said that her printmaker, Ignasi Aguirre Ruiz, was coming to Oslo for an exhibit of his own, I didn’t hesitate to drive there to meet him. After the opening, we sat down and talked. I showed him photos of some of my work and asked if he thought I could make etchings. "Yes," he said in broken English. "Your colors are great, like Chagall!" Encouraged, I decided to make it a priority to learn from this master, who had done work for Dali, Miro, and Tapies. In October 2014, right after closing my second exhibit at Galleri Varden, I packed my bags and headed for Barcelona. Arriving at the print studio close to the Rambla, I was so nervous my legs shook. Could I really do this? I pushed the button next to the door bearing the name of the studio and heard someone say, "Hola." I gave my name and the door opened. Walking up the stairs to the second floor of the old building, I finally stopped by a large door. By it hung a framed etching. I immediately recognized the artist: Ferdinand Finne. Had he been here? Before long, I learned that Ferdinand had worked in the same studio for 30 years and produced over 300 etchings together with Ignasi.

Master printmaker Ignasi Aguirre Ruiz holding Ferdinand Finne's etching Among Leaves, 2014

Master printmaker Ignasi Aguirre Ruiz holding Ferdinand Finne's etching Among Leaves, 2014

The master printmaker brought out a huge folder of proofs, slamming them on a large table. One of the first in the pile was an etching of the painting hanging in my living room. It all seemed surreal. Not only was I standing in the same studio where it had been created, but I would also learn printmaking from the man he had worked with. Soon I sat and etched at the same desk used by Ferdinand.

I returned to Barcelona in 2015, and for my third trip in 2016, I decided to make a multicolor etching in honor of Ferdinand, also symbolizing my own artistic journey. The motif was clear. It would be of a single parrot, titled “Ferdinand.” ​In the three years I had worked with Ignacio, he hadn’t asked me to sign any of my etchings he kept. But this time, he did. It was a special moment for both of us.

Parrot etching, © David Sandum

Matisse said, “Creativity takes courage.” I am glad I dared to follow Bjørg's advice. Had I not stepped on that plane to Barcelona, I would never have met Ignasi, started with printmaking, or had the special experience with Ferdinand.

Events can occur in our lives we don’t understand at first, but later have real meaning—if we stay open and pay attention.

I have three copies of the Ferdinand etching for sale. Signed and numbered in an edition of 30. Price: 3500 NOK (425 USD) + shipping

Parrot etching, ©David Sandum

Updated: Mar 20, 2021

Etching by David Sandum

Thanks so much to all of you who checked out my first blog and posted a comment.

We held a random drawing for one of my hand-numbered etchings, and Hannah Kozak was selected.

Congratulations, Hannah!

Stay tuned for my next contest!

Updated: Mar 20, 2021

© David Sandum. Left: "Summer Evening," 2004. Right: "Spring Turn into Summer," 2016

© David Sandum. Left: "Summer Evening," 2004. Right: "Spring Turn into Summer," 2016

Most people have never heard of gouache as a painting medium. I first learned about it in 2004 while reading a book about Chagall. Color has always been important to me, and I was amazed at the strong effects of gouache compared to the softer aquarelle/watercolor mediums.

I'd been looking for a fast way to paint on paper, so I immediately bought some gouache tubes at the art store and began experimenting. Since then, I have worked with them almost daily and have developed the technique.

Above, you can see my first gouache painting (left) and one of my latest (right). Yes, things have evolved in 12 years!

​Here are some tips to help you get started:

1. Carefully choose the surface. You can use gouache on either canvas or watercolor paper. If you use canvas, a smoother canvas type such as cotton canvas works best. If you use paper, don't use drawing paper or thin, cheap watercolor paper. It curls up, making it difficult to work with. My two favorite types of paper are the two below: the first (on the left) is inexpensive, but it has a good weight and is easy to work on. The second (on the right) is more expensive.

Ideal paper for gouache

Ideal paper for gouache

3. Paint fast. Gouache is a close relative to tempera and binds to the surface very quickly, drying completely in 10–15 minutes. So don’t put too much paint on the palette at once. Alternatively, you can draw the outlines with soft pencil ahead of time. Do not use dark pencil, because it can create a mess on the paper.

​4. Mix gouaches like acrylics. One advantage of gouaches over watercolors is the flexibility to mix them like acrylic and oils. Also white can be used. This allows you to build up your piece in layers, but be careful not to do too many, because you risk damaging the paper.

5. Expect some fading. Because gouache is water soluble, expect about 20% color fading after it dries, unless you add very little water and use top-quality pigments. My favorite brands: Holbein and Winsor & Newton professional series.

My favorite gouache brands. (David Sandum studio.)

My favorite gouache brands. (David Sandum studio.)

6. Keep everything clean. Make sure to keep your water and brushes clean, or the paint will turn muddy. Use heavy paper towels, not only to keep things clean, but also to lessen or soften color if needed before it dries. 7. Make corrections. Because gouache is water soluble, you can use a damp brush to lift off areas you don't like, similar to how you would work with watercolors. 8. Be spontaneous. Have fun! Painting with gouache is best quick and impulsive, or planned, sketched, and filled out. I paint fast, without any idea of what will evolve. I also usually work on three to five at once. I do the base of one, then move on to the next. I hope these tips help you work with the medium. I'd love to hear about your experience. Please leave a comment.

(Since I've moved this blog to a new site, I cut and pasted past comments here)


Jay Marvinlink 9/18/2016 05:55:13 pm

Love your work. I own several of your gouache and your book. You've got a lot of talent. Look forward to your blog. Good news on your wife!

Reply David Sandum 9/19/2016 05:34:06 pm

Thanks Jay. I love your work too. Great to share insights and experiences here. Thanks for tagging along :)

Reply Valerie Kamikubolink 9/18/2016 06:02:19 pm

You have always been such an inspiration, David!

Reply David Sandum 9/19/2016 05:34:56 pm

Thanks Valerie. You are such a good friend and talented artist. Great to have you along here.

Reply Carolyn Pappaslink 9/18/2016 06:28:55 pm

Interestingly, I bought some gouache for the first time recently but haven't had time to try them out properly since starting school. I will definitely pull them out when I get a chance.

Reply David Sandum 9/19/2016 05:37:18 pm

You will do great with gouache Carolyn. You are used to watercolors, so this will be a fun experiment for you. Just use a lot of water if you want that effect. Please keep me posted on how it goes here. One of the funniest things about gouache is how people pronounce it! Haha Have heard some funny ones.

Reply Krista Lauritzen 9/19/2016 02:55:02 am

Thanks for posting this information, David. Very interesting! I also loved to see your early work and how you've evolved! Wonderful news about your wife!!

Reply David Sandum 9/19/2016 05:39:39 pm

Thanks Krista. You've been on my team from the start. I have such fond memories from 2003 when I taught public speaking at American College in Moss. I loved those teenagers so much. I hope to get my MA done someday so I can return. Hope you got your own room at the hotel! (saw your FB post).

Reply Krista 9/24/2016 12:55:27 am

Ha, ha! Yes, luckily I didn't have to share.

David Sandum 9/24/2016 03:32:44 pm