Learning from Monet

September 27, 2018
By Richard Robinson
Learning from Monet logo

"Sunrise, Grand Canyon" 24x30" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson

Hi guys, been slogging away on this one for 2 weeks now - not my usual method. I prefer to get a painting done in one session if possible but I really wanted to push myself on this one. I got done with the first blockin of all the major colours and felt that there was a huge problem with the colours - they just weren't relating to each other in a harmonious way. There were these big orange shapes in the foreground fighting with this insipid blue background. It felt like rap music when what I wanted was a symphony.

I realized I was going to have to scrape the whole thing off and start again or try painting over top of it. I compromised and scraped all the shadows off and began painting over all the lights. Yuck, it still looked like the cat's breakfast, so I turned in despair to Monet whose paintings I've just seen in America. He really did create symphonies of colour on each canvas.


"The Grand Canal" 28.9 x 36.4" Oil on Canvas

What I saw was that he was threading every colour in the painting throughout the entire canvas to some degree which creates a natural harmony and echoes the way we actually see colour. Look at anything long enough and you will see all the colours of the rainbow in it. So I started doing this in my own painting, threading greens, mauves and blue grays into the orange rocks and trying to create an overall sense of light throughout the scene. I found that overpainting with wet thick paint only obliterated the colour underneath, so I saw the wisdom of using Monet's drier paint approach, lightly brushed to allow the underlayers to show through. My darks built up very quickly and began to challenge the lights so I took to scraping these areas off and then reworking a little.

The temptation is to paint every little crack and rock but scraping back allowed me to stay in a much freer state of mind rather than becoming precious with the painting. After two weeks I am well ready to leave this one alone and move onto something else. I could keep dabbling with it indefinitely but I prefer to move on. I can't honestly say it's my favorite painting of mine but I enjoyed the different process and the chance to understand a little more of Monet's methodology. It's such a shame most of that old apprentice system has gone, but at least we have their paintings to learn from, so I encourage you to use them as much as you like to improve your own painting.

Wikipedia is a great place to find high quality photos of master paintings on the internet. Just go there and search for something like Monet, or Sorolla, or impressionist, or your favorite artist. Such a great resource. Enjoy.


The first block-in.

"Sunrise, Grand Canyon" 24x30" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson


My resource photo


My 10x8" plein air painting.