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!
See those small vials of powers? That’s what they used to mix colors to make paint! Their paint didn’t come in tubes!
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.
Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork
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.
Katie Meets the Impressionists by James Mayhew
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.
Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musee d’Orsay Coloring Book
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
Click on image of book to examine at Amazon or here to see at Barnes and Noble. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Follow PragmaticMom’s board Art with Kids on Pinterest.
To examine any of the items listed, please click on image of item. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
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.
24 thoughts on “Art Project for Kids: Making Paint Like Impressionists”
Hi Mia! you are my first 2013 CC blog 🙂 I’ve just ‘liked’ your page on FB and bought my own pigment for the first time this last year (real pro stuff from a mill in the Netherlands), still don’t know quite what to do with it. But this is a great post….I so take paint for granted…my tubes and pans of watercolor and acrylic. It makes me appreciate the 21st C. 🙂 will share your post on my blog.
Thanks so much Kirsten for everything: your kind comment, liking my Facebook, and sharing my post. It was fun to make paint though ours was a temporary kind of paint that flakes off when it dries. But now I am yearning for a better recipe and higher quality pigments just to try again. It would be fun to make your paint that is artist quality! Thanks for coming by and I am excited to check out your blog!
I really love this post! I’ve made paint this way, but never thought of using it to imitate impressionists – fantastic idea!!! Pinned this to my kid art pinterest board.
I’m also a big fan of “Katie Meets the Impressionists” – such a cute book for kids!
Thanks so much! The sidewalk chalk paint is hard to use … it’s so goopy but it was fun to paint like the Impressionists. We will probably try that again with purchased paint. Thanks for pinning!
Oh how wonderful! I love the idea of exploring how to make paint yourself. I know my son will be fascinated. Great project.
Thanks for joining in with Kids Get Arty.
Wow! How had I not realized that impressionist painters made their own paint. Now I am going to be even more in awe of their work!
I didn’t realize either that they had to make their own paint AND stretch their own canvases and then prepare it before they could actually sit down to paint. It’s a wonder they were able to paint at all! Our paint making was much easier than their process and it was fun to make paint and then try to paint like the Impressionists.
What a fantastic site this is, Mia! I enjoyed exploring and will most definitely be back. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog!
Thanks so much! This comment KidLit blog hop is so much fun! I’m half way through the list and hope to go around 2 times to hit the comment goal! Here’s the link if anyone wants to join in the Comment KidLit Blog Challenge: http://www.leewind.org/2013/01/the-2013-comment-challenge.html
Hi Mia, what a brilliant subject. I love Impressionism! I’ll definitely try this with my kids and thanks for all the fascinating facts too!
Please let me know how your kids like it! And if you send me an image of their work, I’ll add it to this post. Thanks Catherine!
I love the Linnea books! And this paint project looks like lots of fun! I have never made paint before but I have stretched a bunch of canvases. Ones you make are way nicer than ones you can buy!
I loved the Linnea books too! Wow, sounds like stretching and preparing a canvas is a lot of work! I didn’t realize artists like you still do that! It takes days to prepare, with all those layers of gesso? I didn’t realize that they turned out nicer as well! You are motivating me to try!
What fabulous ideas! I’ll share this post with some of my teacher friends.
Thanks so much Jeanette!
This post is just brilliant! I love the options you give for us to make our paint with the kids- and the history lesson! I had no idea- And the concept is gorgeous. If we try this (when we try this), I will be sure to let you know! A cute and funny book about art that we have is Babar’s Museum of Art….the authors/illustrators recreated masterpieces using the Babar elephants. Super cute book-
I’m so glad you liked my art project idea. I will try to find a better, more permanent make-your-own paint recipe as well. The sidewalk chalk paint is fun to make and use but it crumbles to bits when it is dry.
I loved Babar as a child but never had the pleasure of reading Babar’s Museum of Art. Can’t wait to read it. Thank you so much for the book recommendation. I’m adding it to the post!
I love this post, and I love how you used these techniques to create art inspired by the impressionists.
Thanks so much Carolyn. It was fun to do but I want to emphasize that the sidewalk chalk paint is TEMPORARY. The drawings dry and then the paint crumbles off. If you take a picture while it is still wet, that is the only way to preserve your artwork. It was fun to do though!
I know someone who mixes her own egg tempera! She paints traditional Eastern Orthodox icons, with gold leaf and everything.
That sounds fun! She sounds like she paints exactly like the old masters!!
My kids have had a blast at the MFA during school vacation weeks. Such great projects and such nice teachers too!
I try to take my kids at least 2x a year to the MFA on school vacation weeks. They do such a nice job getting kids interested. My mom friend Loren said her son had a great time in Ancient Egypt relating MFA artifacts to Rick Riordan books. I’ll be posting on that topic soon. We are lucky to have such a great museum nearby!