Impressionist Imaginings

When I did my literature degree we did a little bit on Art History, and one of the movements we studied was Impressionism. I loved looking at the pictures by Cezanne, Monet, Renoir, Degas and the rest of these very talented people. I’ve touched on the Impressionists in some of my books, for example Lorelei in The Girl in the Photograph modelled for some of them, Miles in Jessie’s Little Bookshop by the Sea visited a Degas exhibition, and Kit in A Secret Rose mentions Monet as well.

During this weird old year I’ve dug out my art stuff, as you may remember me saying in an earlier post, and I’ve been doing a couple of online courses as well as becoming a member of Ivy Newport’s Studioworks, where every month we get a journal with lessons in and discussions about famous artists. One journal had Berthe Morisot in, who was one of the female Impressionists and did quite a lot of small ‘mixed media’ pieces, as we’d call them now – she would use, for example, oil paints, watercolours and pastels on one canvas. I’ve never used oil paints, and I think they seem a bit scary, but I do love watercolours and had, until I tried them together with a medium I was more comfortable with, a fear of pastels. They were, I thought, mucky, dusty and a bit clarty. But one of the lessons we did with Ivy was painting a watercolour lady, and enhancing it with pastels. I’ve since done a couple of pieces like that and really like it as a technique.

One of my favourite pieces is this one – it’s Evelyn Nesbit, who you may know influenced the character of Lily Valentine in Lily’s Secret. I also did a Degas inspired ballerina – my first foray into pastels and charcoal for several years before I started layering it with watercolour.

I’m also doing a watercolour course with Gateshead Council Learning Skills, and we’ve had to do it online but our teacher is great and my classmates are all very talented and enthusiastic. This week we did ‘rain’ (last week was ‘portraits’, and I did this lady who I love).

For ‘rain’,  I decided to ‘copy’ an Impressionist picture – and my goodness. All I’ll say is I shall leave the proper Impressionist paintings to the proper Impressionists. If it’s proved anything to me, it’s proved I’m not a great ‘rain’ artist….this is what I was aiming for.

It’s a detail from Gustave Caillebotte’s Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877.) I’m not even going to post what I ‘achieved’. Suffice it to say, my teacher thought it was a beach scene. It was meant to be a Paris street but hey ho!

Anyway, in Elsie’s book, Book 4 of the Cornish Secrets series which is due out this summer, Elsie lives in a fabulous Edwardian art-inspired world, and I can well imagine her rubbing shoulders with the best, and the Impressionists would be right up there with the  people she’d be involved with; I’m quite certain of it! Whoever she chooses to spend time with, it’ll be exciting for me to revisit Elsie and her charmingly scandalous world when I start the edits. I will keep you posted!

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