Learning Monet & Impressionist Painting: One Hour Monet Bridge

monet-bridge-with-words

Since accepting a part-time job as a painting instructor, my recent painting frenzy has ramped up!

Previously, I only painted what I liked. Now I have to fit into my employers’ style, definitely Impressionist.

She asked me to paint an image of Monet’s Bridge for a class.

Years ago, when I took a formal painting class, I discovered this is a common method to learn: a Master Copy. However, when I took my painting class, we spent several classes on our paintings, and in fact, I never finished.

Because I’m teaching a two-hour class, I limited myself to an hour for this painting, which is probably too long because I can imagine students needing some help with this one!

As much as I’d love to take some real art classes, for now, I’m settling for teaching myself. Here’s what I learned online.

Factors Leading to the Impressionist Movement

  • Invention of the flat brush: As opposed to the round brushes, which had been the only kind available previously) allowed them to make the “tache” stroke. Tache strokes look almost squarish or rectangular, with rounded corners.
  • Tubes of paint: Previously, artists have to mix their own pigments. Ready-maded tubes of paint allowed artists to leave the studio and work “plein air” (outside).
  • Trains: Not only could artists leave the studio, they could travel to various locations

Hints to Get the Look

Impressionists blended paint on the canvas. They used a limited number of premixed colors.

For example, there is no turquoise on the bridge. It is a mix of white and phthalo blue.

bridge-only

Color Palette: I saw a couple of lists of colors that Monet typically used, and we know that his choices of color changed in time because of degrading eyesight.

  • Fun fact: Paints labeled “hue” are traditional colors blended with safer ingredients.
  • For this painting: I used phthalo blue, alizarin crimson, which were colors Monet commonly used. Hooker Green is mentioned as a shade of green he used, but I didn’t have it, so I used another green. Same with yellow ochre, so I used the yellow I had.
  • Monet avoided pure black later in his career. I read that he sometimes used a blend of black and alizarin crimson. While using black was once common practice, after the Impressionists, many painters have taken up Monet’s influence and rarely use pure black.

A flat brush and the tache stroke give the signature look of the Impressionist paint stroke.

Underpaintings, a wash of color over the canvas before adding the main images, is another key technique. He commonly used yellow ochre for underpainting, so I used yellow here.

monet-start

Notice I’m adding colors on top of my yellow underpainting.

At this point, I thought there is no way this could possibly work!

Note that I’ve started to fill in the shadows of the bridge in water with the phthalo blue and alizarin crimson, and the same colors in the upper triangle in the sky.

For the greens, I cheated a bit by mixing the pure green on my palette with yellow, blue or white.

monet

The underpainting is basically covered, although there may be some tiny spots where it shows through. With an underpainting, there are no specks of white canvas showing, and my understanding is that yellow intensifies the colors placed on top.

Filling in the rest of the background, it starts to resemble the original painting!

The lily pads and bridge were last.

As I mentioned, there was no turquoise in the bridge, it was a very dark blue mixed with white directly on the canvas.

Lily pads were smudges of white with a bit of yellow and pink. I cheated by mixing the crimson and the white on my palette before adding to the painting.

A few dabs of yellow in the top left corner and some minty green speckles in the top right finished the painting.

monet-bridge-copy

And here was the finished product! I’ll be teaching this painting in January!

http://www.vinoandvangogh.net/

Helpful links:

Met’s Photo of the Original Work

http://www.impressionism.org/pleine.htm

http://www.intermonet.com/colors/

Paint Like Monet Video (shows how to make tache strokes)

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