Dena Peterson

Dena Peterson: Loving Van Gogh


Video Length: 2 Hours 41 Minutes
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Sometimes the world has a way of laying something in your lap. Something you were not aware of, something that turns out to be really special. Something totally unexpected.

Back in February I saw a trailer for a movie called Loving Vincent, a remarkable film about Vincent Van Gogh’s life and death. It’s special because it’s animated using actual paintings in Van Gogh’s style.

I was enamored with the movie and could not wait till it came out … after all, I love Van Gogh, and I love the idea of the first ever fully hand-painted feature-length movie.

And it was not just painted by animators or with animation tools: Each frame is an oil painting done by an artist. There were over 100 artists brought into Poland to do the 65,000 paintings.

Soon after seeing the trailer for Loving Vincent, I saw Dena Peterson, one of the artists who worked on the movie, speak at the Plein Air Convention.

Dena was not only a great communicator, she had the audience really engaged. It’s such a unique story. She showed the process of animating with paintings, something that had never been done this way before. Each “cell” was a full oil painting; that’s why the film took years to produce.

Then she started showing paintings…

Were these lost Van Goghs?

Nope. Dena painted them for the movie. But they sure had the Van Gogh feel.

After her standing ovation, there was a crowd of people gathered around her asking questions. She was like a rock star with her groupies. Though that happens with many PACE speakers, this was even more than usual!

Can you guess the number one question everyone had?

Sure you can. 

“How did you learn to paint like Van Gogh?”

Dena was careful to say that Van Gogh had his own style, and though the Loving Vincent artists learned to emulate it, no one could ever be Van Gogh.

But she learned lots of tricks…

Like how Van Gogh managed to keep his colors so bright and unpolluted.

Or how Van Gogh managed to paint so thickly without the colors becoming muddy.

She tried to answer all their questions, but finally said, “I’d have to show you. It took us a long time to figure him out. People have tried before, but once we got it down, we shared it among all the artists in doing the movie, and magic happened.”

What she said next, though, was unexpected…

“I never painted like Van Gogh. I have my own style, and it’s completely different. But as a result of doing 600 paintings in his style, I made some important discoveries that made my own work stronger.”

At that moment, it came to me: We needed to do a video with Dena. So I picked up the phone, called the boss lady, and said, “I think we need to do something with this woman, and here’s why.” I got a thumbs up, and we approached her.

Before long, Dena appeared at the Liliedahl studios and started filming our latest video, Loving Van Gogh: How to Paint Like Vincent Van Gogh.

Though I get excited about all the videos we produce, this one was so different, so unique, that I couldn’t wait to see her show Van Gogh’s techniques … all the things she had discovered working on the movie Loving Vincent.


So in Dena’ art instruction video Loving Van Gogh: How to Paint Like Vincent Van Gogh, you’ll discover…

  • What Van Gogh taught her about composition
  • What she learned about Van Gogh’s technique from studying his letters
  • How to keep thick paint moving without making it runny or hard to manage
  • How Van Gogh used reed pen drawings to plan the brushwork and movement in his paintings
  • Direct painting and broken brushwork
  • How to use line to emphasize pattern and shapes
  • Some history of Van Gogh and his path to becoming the father of Expressionism and modern art
  • How to get out of a rut in your work through more expressionistic painting
  • Van Gogh’s philosophy of painting, as well as her own
  • How Van Gogh became a “third-level painter” and what that means
  • How to use complementary colors and “simultaneous contrast” to add visual excitement, as Van Gogh learned to do from the Impressionists and Pointillists
  • The difference between local tone paintings and light and shadow paintings
  • How to use directional brushwork to show form
  • How to use more paint and less medium to create impasto brushwork
  • How to let go of the need to copy a scene and instead respond to it emotionally
  • The palette of colors used to create color harmony


Plus one important thing she learned that impacted her work, and her soul as an artist, after emulating Van Gogh for several months.


Not only will you see Dena Peterson’s interpretation of Van Gogh and what she learned from him, including the process of making a Van Gogh-like painting from start to finish … you’ll also receive:

  • Video of the presentation she did on stage at the Plein Air Convention
  • An interview with Dena Peterson
  • A show of Dena’s work
  • Plus some of the paintings she did for the movie


Customer Reviews

Based on 5 reviews
Lila S. Gibson
Not liking Van Gogh.

When I first saw his work, prob in my 40's, i thought how did he get that master painter title, he was awful. It looked like a first grader painted those pictures. After watching Dena's tape, i came away with a new understanding of him and his work. I wish I could have seen Loveing Vincent but never got the opportunity. So now have a greater knowledge of him and his time of life. I hate that he was not understood and famous. Sad.

Katherine Calkins
Love it!

I enjoyed the dvd and it helped me understand the huge amount of work that went into making the movie Loving Vincent. Perhaps one day I will be able to paint like Van Gogh. :-)

Painting like Van Gogh?

This is a very interesting dvd of one artist's experience learning how to paint like Van Gogh (along with other artists) to produce the paintings that made up a movie. I enjoyed it and plan to watch again to pick up more information on VG's painting style. If you like his paintings, you will also enjoy this dvd.

Mike McQuinn
Not as easy as I expected.

I enjoyed the video, but at my skill level, I need a lot more practice.

Germaine Deluca
Dena Peterson

Bought the video. It's excellent.