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Nature is constantly changing, yet it always retains elements of beauty. For me, it is easy to be inspired by nature because it has many complex characteristics: different shapes, sizes, colors. I love being around nature and whenever I see something, such as the light hitting the trees a certain way, I always take a lot of pictures to try to capture the atmosphere of the moment.  As a result, for my final project I wanted to do something that could communicate this beauty and atmosphere of nature. I decided to focus on the impressionist style of painting and more specifically on the work of Claude Monet.

I chose this style of painting because impressionism focuses on capturing different moments in time and the way light effects certain objects. I chose to focus on Monet because most of his paintings depict nature. Also, I had already written the painting research paper on Monet. I enjoyed learning about impressionism and writing the research paper, which made me want to actually try the technique, instead of just writing about it. The research paper provided me with some helpful background knowledge of this painting style. Also, when I was a child my mom bought me a lot of books about art, including some about impressionism. Even though I had a lot of different books, I always liked looking at the ones containing Monet’s paintings the most. Each painting, even if it was of the same location at different times of the day, made me feel something new. Monet’s choices of color and brush strokes created movement in the painting, which brought the nature and its atmosphere to life. I wanted to see if, by imitating this style, I could have the same effect and capture nature better than with a camera.

The first thing I did for this project was review what kind of materials impressionist painters used. After this, I went to the art store and bought oil paints, canvas paper, three paintbrushes, and a mixing palette. However, in all my excitement about getting these new materials, I completely forgot to buy medium, or something with which to dilute the pain and clean the paintbrushes. As a result, the day I was supposed to start painting, I ended up running from store to store trying to find medium. This was unsuccessful. In the end, I did some research and made my own medium out of linseed oil. However, I could only use this to make the paint smoother and easier to spread across the canvas paper. I could not use it to clean the brushes. This presented a challenge because I could not use too many dark colors since they would affect the lighter colors and be harder to wash off of the brushes. In addition, this was challenging because I could not clean my brushes at all while I was painting. As a result, I had to be extremely careful not to mix too many colors with one brush because I could end up with and ugly brownish color, which I would not be able to wash off. Even though I only had 3 brushes and 24 colors that I could mix, I got past this challenge by using different sides of the same brush and using one brush for light colors and another for darker colors.

The next thing I did was attempt to copy a famous painting by Monet. I thought this would be helpful because I wanted to go outside and paint from nature, like Monet. However, I did not want to go outside and be in the cold weather with absolutely no skills or training. I chose to copy Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies mostly because Monet’s water lily paintings are some of my favorite works of art. They perfectly capture the beauty of water and all of the different reflections within it. Also, this painting had water, trees, and a bridge. I thought this combination of elements would help me develop some skills.

Even though I copied this painting, I chose to do it in my own way. I changed the dominant colors and tried to make the painting appear as if I were painting a sunset. I chose to do this because I love warmer colors. In this painting, I used quick short vertical brush strokes for the water and horizontal brush strokes for the lilies. I also attempted to use a white color to make some areas lighter than others in order to portray the effects of light. I used a lot of colors for the water to make it look like it was reflecting many different objects. Since every side of each of my brushes contained different colors, I simply rotated the brush wile painting in order to vary the colors that I used. One thing I learned from this painting was that my brushes were big and as a result made brush strokes that were too thick. However, I overcame this challenge in my second painting by being careful and sometimes only using the very tip of the brush.

For my second painting, I decided that I was ready to go outside. I could not wait to attempt to actually capture a moment in nature. However, once I went outside, I realized that there weren’t too many things that inspired me. Instead, there were only gray houses and a few bare trees. I did not want to paint something that did not make me feel anything. As a result, I decided to choose an old photograph and make a painting based on it. I chose a picture that I took around October in Pennsylvania when all the leaves were changing colors. I remember walking down the road, the weather was a little chilly, but the sun was still warm and I felt extremely happy because of the fresh air and the beauty of nature and its colors. In this painting I used vertical brush strokes for the grass and then brush strokes going in different directions for the leaves of the trees. Also, I once again turned my brush while painting in order to get a mix of colors. I tried to create and use colors that would project the happy mood that I experienced. I tried to imitate light by creating a shadow on the road, making the treetops a little bit lighter in color, and making the bottom of the clouds darker. Overall I wanted to convey the beauty of the nature and the effects of the sunlight and the happy atmosphere that they combined to create.

The presentation process made me nervous. I was scared of presenting my paintings because I don’t think that I have painted anything since art class in junior high school. However, at the same time it was also exciting because I would get a chance to show and explain my paintings. To do this, I decided to use a power point in order to show what the two paintings are based on. I think that my nervous side took over during the presentation process and I did not say everything I wanted to say. However, I’m still happy that I had the opportunity to present because it showed me that presenting something I painted myself is not as scary as it seems.

I enjoyed working on this project because it allowed me to paint, which is something that I have not done in a long time. I learned that I don’t have to be a professional painter or even a good one to enjoy painting. Even though there were a few challenges along the way, they did not make me want to give up. Instead, I liked the process of overcoming these challenges and using painting as a way of expressing myself. I liked painting in the impressionist style because it allowed me to focus on conveying the beauty of nature and the “impression” that it created on me, instead of on details. This project allowed me to attempt to communicate the beauty of nature and how it makes me feel to others in a new and more personal way.

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