Anyone who has tried to paint copies knows that it is an active form of learning, accomplishing much more than looking alone can produce. I am not usually a fan of “How-To-Paint” books, but “Paint Like Monet” by James Heard looked like fun. Nine gouache copies are presented here.
The book has a simple approach to help the viewer see the underlying structure of each painting. I wanted to copy the way Monet organized elements, chose subjects and points of view, rather than interpret the paintings to make original art. I practiced color mixing and paint handling to approximate the appearance of the reproductions, which vary greatly from the originals. Understanding key relationships within the originals was a revelation with each one, even though they are shrunk to a tiny size and mechanically reproduced on the printed page.
Monet’s paint layering and transitions are not possible to match with gouache. In addition to the small size and flattened color, gouache has dissimilar qualities from oil by being chalky and opaque and drying quickly. I used a limited palette of Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow, Ultramarine, Cerulean, White and Black rather than Monet’s full palette. This was a delightful week of painting, vicariously seeing through the eyes of a great French painter.
“Paint Like Monet”, by James Heard, Cassell Illustrated, 2006. All images: gouache on Holbein multi-drawing book, 6.5″x9″ (16.51×22.86cm)
ABOVE: Claude Monet, Poppies at Argenteuil (1873), Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Claude Monet, The Magpie (1868-69), Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Claude Monet, The Beach at Trouville (1870), National Gallery, London
Claude Monet, The Regatta at Argenteuil (1872), Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Claude Monet, Storm Off the Belle-Isle Coast (1886), Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Claude Monet, Waterloo Bridge (1903), National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Claude Monet, The Houses of Parliament: Effect of Sunlight in the Fog (1904), Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Claude Monet, The Palazzo da Mula (1908), National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Claude Monet, Water lilies (c.1918-25), Musée d’Orsay, Paris