Landscape Relief Carving

The Basics to Landscape Relief Wood Carving

By L.S. Irish

Carved Sample of the Basic Barn
Finishing Details


Click image for a detailed close-up view.

Dry Brushing with Oil Paints


  1. Artist Oil Paints
    • Van Dyke Brown
    • Burnt Sienna
    • Yellow Ocher
    • Cobalt Blue
    • Lamp Black
    • Terra Green
    • Cadmium Yellow Med.
    • Titanium White
  2. Assorted soft brushes
    • 3/8″ flat
    • detail liner brush
  3. Turpentine
  4. Linseed Oil
  5. Lint free cloth
  6. Ceramic glazed tile


  1. Dust your carving well to remove any chips or splinters from the corners of your work.
  2. Mix approximately one tablespoon of turpentine with one teaspoon of linseed oil, add just enough Van Dyke Brown to this mix to make it look like dirty dish water. See the uncarved area surrounding our carving for color tone.
  3. Flood the carving with the Van Dyke mixture being sure to get into all of the crevices of your detail. Apply a second coat immediately. This mixture is meant to saturate the wood with the turpentine/linseed oil mix so that your oil paints will apply smoothly.
  4. Place a small amount of each of your oil colors on a glazed tile. The glazing on the tile allows even loading of the brush with color and can be quickly cleaned with turpentine when your are completed the painting.
  5. Basic dry brushing: The technique of dry brushing is used to apply extremely small amounts of color at a time to a detailed carving. Since there is very little color as the brush bristles are pulled across the surface of the work color adheres only to the high areas allowing your dirty Van Dyke mixture to remain in the deep crevices.Hold the brush at a slight angle to the carving and gently pull the tip over the top of the work. Do not scrub down into the depths of your design.Dampen a 3/8″ or 1/4″ flat brush, either sable or bristle will do fine, with clean turpentine. Blot the brush well on a clean cloth so that there is extremely little turpentine remaining in the brush. Pick up just a very small amount of color on the edge of the bristles then work the color deeply into the brush. You should be able to see the individual brush hairs in the color on the brush. If you can’t you are carrying too much color. Now caress the top surface of your design allowing the color to highlight the ridges of your work.Colors may be dry brushed several times to any one area to build up your color tone. Colors may also be intermixed, adding layers of different colors for both shading and color change. Use some colors in a random ‘hit and miss’ approach for color interest.
  6. Base Color Area Application:
    • Field stone wall: titanium white, yellow ocher, and a mix of cobalt blue, black and white for a stone gray look
    • Board and batten roofs: yellow ocher, burnt sienna, and Van Dyke brown
    • Silo boards: yellow ocher, burnt sienna
    • Silo roof: titanium white and the mixture of blue gray from the walls
    • Tree line: Terra green, yellow ocher, and cadmium yellow medium
    • Sky area: a mixture of cobalt blue and titanium white to a pale blue tone
  7. Adding shadows to your painting will emphasizes the deep areas of your carving. Dry brush Van Dyke brown under the roof eves all along the top of the stone wall. Lightly add a second coat to the barn wall that does not have the window vent. The under structure of the roof is heavily accented with Van Dyke as is the roof line area that it touches. Add shadows under the copula roof. The silo is shadowed on the side that touches the barn and under each of the barrel bands. Again, very gently, hit the same side of the silo roof with Van Dyke brown.
  8. The tree line is shadowed with a mixture of Terra green, cobalt blue and Van Dyke brown. Use this mix to dry brush where the tree line touches the barn and silo and where one area of trees lies behind the other tree line.
  9. Use a thin mix of Van Dyke brown and turpentine to paint in the window vent in the barn, the window vent in the copula and the knot holes in the barn roof.
  10. Highlights will finish the painting. Use titanium white along the face of the wall with the window vent. Add a second coat to the stones around the window vent and along each of the wall corners. Apply at random a little white to the edge of the roofs to emphasize the broken boards. The knot holes are also gently touched with white. Add a brush width of white highlight to each barrel band on your silo on the right side and accent the right side of the silo roof. The tree line tops are randomly accents also.
  11. Sign your initials or name and the date to the design.
  12. Allow the work to dry completely, with oil paints a couple of weeks is appropriate. Your may add a light coat of spray matte sealer to the work if your wish, but a varnish or oil finish is not necessary.

Roofing Ideas
Boards and Bricks
Field Stone and Flag Stone
Barn Example Drawings
Carving Sample One – Rough Out
Carving Sample Two – Detail Work
Carving Sample Three – Finishing Details
Landscape Pattern Package

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