Berthe Morisot was successful in her own lifetime, both prior to joining the Impressionist movement and afterwards. She painted scenes from her everyday life as a fairly wealthy woman, giving us snap shots of the culture at that time. She liked to use very thick paint. This gave her paintings a slightly three-dimensional aspect and was uncommon at that time.
The Original Project
The suggested project in the book, Discovering Great Artists by Kohl and Solga, has you put different texture material (coffee grounds, sawdust, sand…) in each color of paint. However, I can’t find any evidence in all the biographies on Morisot that I’ve read, that Morisot did this kind of experimenting. (Someone please correct me if I’m wrong!) So, to me, it doesn’t really fit to do this with Morisot. Plus, while it can be fun to experiment with different textures of paint, you really need more than 20-25 minutes to really test each one out.
Our Morisot Project
We’re going to experiment with super thick paint, like Morisot. I experimented with a few of the texture materials suggested in the Discovering Great Artist book and wasn’t very happy with the results. (at least the saw dust smelled good!) After googling ways to thicken paint, I’ve decided to go with a cornstarch recipe. The original recipe was too thin so I experimented some more and ended up with one that was way too thick (flashback to last Christmas when I was experimenting with Plaster of Paris for cycle 1…) Eventually I ended up with a good recipe. The chemistry of how cornstarch and water changes when cooked is really interesting. I should read more about it.
Flour paste works well too and tends to hold the 3D look better when dried. Did you know Rembrandt used flour to thicken his paints? The only real problem with flour is that it tends to lighten the color of the paints to pastels. If you don’t have any cornstarch on hand, it will be a good alternative.
Thickened paint behaves differently than regular paint and it took me awhile to get used to it. Actually, I’m still not used to it. I’ve seen awesome videos of people laying paint on with a knife and I envisioned myself doing something similar. Instead I just felt clumsy! (I need to try it again soon.) So, I like the idea of telling the students to “glob it on” because that’s really what I felt like I was doing!
Since it’s a new medium for most students, I’d suggest instructing the less experienced to just experiment with patterns and such. Of course, more experienced students could sketch a scene from their everyday like, like a true Impressionist!
Here’s the Full Lesson Plan
I wrote this whole lesson plan out for my tutors and for you! It includes everything you need. This 12 page lesson plan includes the following:
- A condensed background on the artist,
- 7 Printable pictures of Morisot’s work and a photograph of her,
- A super zoomed in picture of one of her paintings to show the texture of her paint,
- A carefully crafted sentence about Morisot (ideal for memorization),
- Vocabulary words and definitions
- Materials list, including my favorite recipes for both flour and cornstarch thickening pastes,
- Simple instructions that any artistically-challenged teacher can understand and use,
- Suggestions for scaling the project to different ages,
- References to the pertinent Classical Conversations Acts and Facts cards.
Purchase to full Glob it on like Morisot lesson plan here!
This blog post is part of a seven part series about the amazing artists we study in cycle 2 of Classical Conversations. Here are links to the whole series:
- Saving Christmas with Amazing Artist Lesson Plans
- Drawing Facial Expressions Like Rembrandt
- Drawing Botanicals like Linnaeus
- Painting Landscapes Like Gainsborough
- Plein-Air Painting like Monet
- Capturing Action Like Degas
- Glob it on like Morisot