How Your Kids Can Make Impressionist Art: Monet Photo Project
Have you noticed how the light at different times of day changes the way we see colors?
Make your kids’ “impressions” of the outdoors come to life with a fun and easy art project.
In this article I’ll show you how to transform nature photos into Impressionistic works of art with a simple photo transfer technique. Head outside with your kids and take some pictures, Monet-style.
Why Make Impressionistic Photo Transfers?
This project includes the essence of what an Impressionist observes so you can create a fun and easy photo project with your kids, Monet-style.
It’s a great way to nurture their creativity, look at the world in a whole new way and bring out their inner artists (and yours, too!).
Impressionistic paintings are beautiful, but time-consuming, especially since outdoor lighting changes quickly. They are usually created by the artist using strong bold colors and short brushstrokes.
This way is much easier! I’ll show you how to turn your outdoor photos into “impressions” that you can transfer onto paper, like this:
The original inspiration for this photo transfer technique can be found here.
Fun Facts About Claude Monet
Claude Monet was born on November 14, 1840.
He is one of the most famous painters in the history of art and a leading painter of the Impressionist movement.
Monet is most known for his series of paintings depicting the same subject matter during different times of day and in different weather. Monet painted many everyday subjects like haystacks, water lilies, buildings and churches.
Monet’s painting Impression, Sunrise was described as “impressionistic.” This term was adopted by other artists of the time who painted with a similar technique.
Here is an excerpt from Monet’s biography on Biography.com:
“Sometimes Monet traveled to find other sources of inspiration. In the early 1890s, he rented a room across from the Rouen Cathedral, in northwestern France, and painted a series of works focused on the structure. Different paintings showed the building in morning light, midday, gray weather and more; this repetition was a result of Monet’s deep fascination with the effects of light.”
This series of paintings is beautifully captured in this video.
Can you imagine standing on the banks of the river and watching the sunrise?
Do you notice the short brushstrokes and small dabs of brightly colored paint Monet used?
How will you use Monet’s style to inspire your artwork?
Take a look at the vast collection of Impressionistic artwork on the art movement: Impressionism page of WikiPaintings.
#1: Get Inspired!
Share the Monet video with your family and talk about the differences among each of his paintings on the same subject. Notice how the colors of the subject changed depending on the time of day and the weather when he painted them.
Can you guess what time of day Monet may have painted these views of the same scene by looking at these paintings?
Ask your kids what they think they’ll observe when you go outside. Explain the difference between seeing things and observing them.
- Will the light be bright?
- Is the sun still up?
- What might you find?
You’ll go outside several times to take pictures, so vary the questions each time.
Are you ready to observe your surroundings and see the outdoors like an Impressionist?
#2: Head Outdoors to Take Photos
Grab your camera and go outside. Observe the light and colors around you.
Talk about the things you notice. If you have more than one child, be sure to take turns sharing your observations. Parents, take a turn too.
- How is the light? Is it bright? Is it soft?
- Do the colors you see appear bold and bright or are they soft and less bright?
- What’s the first thing that catches your attention when you get outside?
Have everyone find something to photograph for this project.
You can all take a picture of the same thing or choose different subjects. If you use the same camera (or camera phone), it’ll be easier to keep track if everyone takes pics of something different.
Explain that you will take several photos throughout the day to capture different “impressions“ of the same subject in different light.
Take several photos of your subject each time, so that you have plenty of choices later.
#3: Head Outside Again and Take More Photos
Wait several hours until the light has changed. This might be a fun time to do another art project, if your kids are up for it.
Then, head outside again and take another photo of your subject. Do this several times throughout the day to record your subject in different lighting.
Ideally, take photos at least three or four different times of day. If you don’t get enough photos the first day, you can always take a few more the next day at a different time.
Notice how the lighting changes the colors throughout the day. Spend this time with your kids observing the beauty that’s right outside your door!
Grab a pen and paper and note each time you go out. That way, you can track the time you take each photo.
#4: Make a Digital Photo Collage
Once you’re satisfied that you have enough photos, make a photo collage.
Download your photos so they are easily accessible on your computer. Then decide which ones you want to use.
One of the easiest ways to quickly edit or collage photos is to use PicMonkey.com. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to use PicMonkey to create your photo collage.
Once you save the reversed image, you can move on to the next step.
#5: Print Your Collage
Print your collage on a transparency sheet using your inkjet printer.
The transparency sheet will NOT absorb the ink* and the sheet will be very WET when it’s finished printing.
*Please note this is reason you need copier transparency sheets and not inkjet transparency sheets.
Check your printer settings. I found that it works best to use the Normal setting for plain paper. You may need to try different settings for your printer to find the best results.
Since the inkjet printer shoots tiny droplets of ink onto the transparency sheet, this will mimic the small dabs of paint like an impressionist. Sound good?
Now, print your photo!
Note: Adult supervision is REQUIRED to handle the transparency print to avoid smears and smudges.
Carefully retrieve the transparency from the printer. Handle the print very carefully as the wet ink can smudge easily.
#6: Transfer Your Print to Paper
Carefully place your transparency with the wet ink side down onto your white paper.
Carefully hold or tape the transparency sheet down to the sheet of paper. Use your hand to smooth the transparency sheet on the paper to begin the ink transfer. Do not move or wiggle the transparency sheet.
Take the back of a spoon and gently rub the transparency to transfer as much ink as possible. Move the spoon over the image in several different directions with smooth firm pressure to help the ink transfer evenly.
When you think it’s done, carefully lift one corner of your transparency to see if the ink has transferred enough. Remember, the ink will not transfer completely. The goal is that you have an “impression” of your photo on the paper, not a perfect photo transfer.
When you have transferred as much ink as possible, lift your transparency sheet from the paper.
Voilà! You’ve captured your “impressions” on paper!
Take a moment to observe the print and discuss what you see.
See how the tiny droplets of ink have transferred to the paper? These tiny droplets up close might look blurry and messy. However, when you step away and look from a little distance, you can see your subject emerge from your impressions!
What do you notice?
Can you see how different the colors are in each photo of the same subject?
What time of day do you see the brightest colors?
What time of day are the colors less bright?
Which photo does your child like the best? Why?
Which one do you like the best?
All artists should sign and date their prints. That way, everyone will remember the wonderful time you created this one-of-a-kind piece of art!
Some Final Thoughts…
Bringing photos to life in a Monet-inspired style is an excellent way to make an impression! Hopefully you’ll view nature in a different way. You may even want to try this project again, perhaps in a different season.
Time with your kids enjoying nature and appreciating the beauty around you is always time well-spent. When you make the extra effort to capture that beauty with a piece of art, you create a reminder of a memory that will last a lifetime.
What do you think? Did you enjoy this mini art history lesson on Impressionism? Will you look at things differently next time you go outside? I’d love to hear your thoughts and see the artwork from your Monet photo project. Please share it below.
Crystal Foth is a mom and artist based in Los Angeles, CA. She manages 19 Southern California art studios and spends her free time enjoying creative adventures with her daughter. Other posts by Crystal Foth »