Taking a Class in Watercolor Impressionism

Have you ever taken a class to further your skills and found a whole new way to approach the subject? Having painted in watercolor for several years now, I decided to take a class in painting Impressionist Watercolors and am finding myself challenged to see objects and scenes differently. (For example, when traveling in the car, I find myself looking at the road, trying to figure out what color I would paint the parts in the sun and in the shadow and I have to remind myself to pay attention if I’m the one driving!)

Impressionism is about seeing and representing light, light as it falls on objects and the shadows where light is reflected into spaces. Think of Monet and his paintings of haystacks (a series of twenty-five canvases, depicting the stacks at different times of day, different times of year, and different weather conditions). He wanted to put down on canvas the true colors that he was seeing, in both the lights and the shadows.

It’s interesting to note that the Impressionists appeared in history not many years after the development of the collapsible metal tube. With tubes, paint became portable and artists could now take their pigments outside in addition to grinding, formulating, and using them in the studio.


Our class started out with very basic exercises, including a color wheel and a value scale. This color wheel uses the primary color pigments of cadmium yellow, cadmium red, and cobalt blue, found in the largest circles. The secondary colors (green, purple, and orange) in the mid-sized circles are mixtures of the primary colors. The circles between the secondary colors are tertiary colors, also mixed from the primaries. Other pigments on my palette are represented by small squares of the pigments, outside the main circle if they are brighter than the mixtures and inside the circle if they are duller.

3 thoughts on “Taking a Class in Watercolor Impressionism

    • The brightest pigments come directly out of the tube. There is no way I can mix an orange as bright, as unadulterated, as the little square outside the circle. Even the orange that I mixed from a warm red and a warm yellow (as in the little circle at 10:00 above) isn’t as bright. The little squares inside the main circle are pigments directly out of the tubes also, but these were formulated to be “burnt” colors, earthy, useful for mixing up darks when mixed with the blues and greens.

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