Did you know that the Impressionist painters had to make their own paint? Not mix paint. No, they actually had to make their own paint. They couldn’t just buy it in tubes from a store!
How Impressionists Made Paint
See those pots of colors? Inside are ground-up pigments made of all different kinds of materials found in nature to make paint.
Canvases too had to be made by each artist! They couldn’t buy a canvas from an art store. Instead, they bought fabric, used wood to create a frame, nailed the canvas to a wooden frame, and then prepared the canvas with a substance called gesso. It’s made of gypsum and can be painted onto the canvas to “prime” it.
My girls and I enjoyed learning about how the Impressionists created their art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston surrounded by their paintings.
Rouen Cathédrale Façade and Tour d’Albane (Morning Effect), 1894. Oil on canvas. Claude Monet
What’s interesting about this painting is that the light on the church is completely made up! Monet is not painting what he saw, instead of combining light on the church at different times of the day over a period of months.
Make Your Own Paint Project with Kids
Using the DIY Impressionists as inspiration, our art project is to paint like the Impressionists using paint we mix ourselves. We are going to make our own sidewalk chalk paint. Next, we will use one of their paintings as inspiration to create our own masterpiece. You can use this paint outside on the sidewalk if you are enjoying nice weather. We are in the dead of winter so we will paint on small postcard size pieces of paper.
Warning: This paint is temporary. When it dries, it flakes off. If you want to save your image, be sure to take a photo of it when it is still wet. When it dries, the painting crumbles and flakes off.
DIY Sidewalk chalk paint for Kids
1:1 ratio of cornstarch to water. Do you know what a ratio is? Quick math lesson! A ratio is a proportion. Use any measuring spoon. What this means is that you use 1 of cornstarch to 1 of water. So…
1 tablespoons of cornstarch to 1 tablespoon of water
1 teaspoons of cornstarch to1 teaspoons of water
We ended up using 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water and about 3 drops of food coloring per color.
What can we use to COLOR our homemade sidewalk chalk paint? In modern times, we’d use food coloring, but back in Monet’s time, they would use:
- Red Earth
- Yellow Earth
- Carbon Black from the fire
or extracts from plants or berries
or semi-precious gems
- Lapis Lazuli
Using our sidewalk chalk paint colored with food coloring (or chalk pastel or sidewalk chalk), let’s paint on paper or outside on the sidewalk in the style of Impressionists.
Here are some famous paintings from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston as inspiration. You can paint whatever you want! Make it up or copy one of these paintings or combine the two. Anything goes!
Houses at Auvers, 1890, Vincent Van Gogh.
Water Lilies, 1907, Claude Monet.
Children on the Seashore, Guernsey about 1883, Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
Impressionist Art Project for Kids Making Your Own Paint
This is what we painted using our sidewalk chalk paint in the style of an Impressionist.
PickyKidPix tried to emulate the texture in Van Gogh’s paintings. I think that worked really well!
Grasshopper and Sensei painted this lovely piece inspired by Monet’s Water Lilies.
My painting was inspired by Signac’s The Pink Cloud.
Impressionist Books for Kids
If you want to read books about Impressionist artists, here are a few lovely picture books.
This wonderful picture book is practically like a visit to Claude Monet’s garden and does a great job explaining what Impressionism is in a fun and accessible way for kids.
This charming time travel picture kit gives Katie and the reader a lesson in Impressionist Art when Katie is transported into a Claude Monet painting.
Kids can color, punch out and display 22 Impressionist works from the Musee d’Orsay and turn them into their own art masterpieces.
Thank you to Critters and Crayons for this great book recommendation!
Babar’s Museum of Art by Laurent de Brunhoff
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.