Monet Bridge: A Step-by-Step Painting Demo

01
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Inspiration from Monet's Garden at Giverny

Claude Monet's Garden At Giverny
The Inspiration: a reference photo of Monet's garden at Giverny. Image: © 2006 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

There are a lot of artists that I like, but the Impressionists are it for me. I love them all, and my two favorites are Monet and Van Gogh. I consider myself more or less of an eclectic artist, I paint mainly abstract (see my abstract demo), but enjoy painting florals, landscapes, and other things as well. I have painted a reproduction of Monet’s The Artist Garden and Van Gogh’s Café, which I enjoyed tremendously and found extremely challenging.

When I came across the reference photos that Marion had taken on her visit to Monet’s Gardens at Giverny, I was mesmerized. Here was the opportunity to paint from a reference photo instead of an actual copy of one of Monet’s paintings. I chose Monet’s Bridge, I had always loved his painting of it so I thought I’d try to do my own version of it. Then I decided I didn’t really want to copy it, I wanted to make it my own.

I have always painted in water soluble oils, recently I started painting with acrylics, so I thought this to be a good challenge along with the painting. In this step-by-step demonstration you can follow the development of my painting from start to finish. Let's get started...

02
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Studying the Reference Photo and Monet's Original Painting

How to Paint Your Own Monet Painting
Getting started with the background and a limited palette. © Karen Day-Vath 2006

I'm painting on a 14x18" canvas using a 2" wash brush. I look at my reference photo and then at Monet’s original. The beauty of it astounds me. His colors flow together like poetry. I am working with a limited color palette since acrylics are new to me. I am using Winsor Newton Galeria paint and only have the basic colors, plus an extra blue, green and red.

I study Monet’s painting and notice the dark background, so that is where I start. I dip my palette knife in some burnt umber and crimson red, do a little mixing and then start laying in the background color.

I mix some cerulean blue and white together for a little bit of sky. I am not sure if I want a sky, but if not I can just go over it. I then take some Winsor blue with a little of the cadmium yellow deep hue and mix together for a blue green for the greenery and water.

I also put in something that resembles a bridge, knowing it will be gone over later, in order for me to get the feel I needed of having the bridge in there. It doesn’t look like much right now, but it will come along, I hope.

So far I am pleased with the acrylics, they dry quickly and I am able to layer over other layers without waiting. My paints are staying moist in my 'homemade' palette. (Thanks to Acrylics Michelle on the Painting Forum for the tip on how to make this from an aluminum pasta pan with a plastic top, layered with wax paper and then two thin wet sponges with another layer of wax paper over those.) When I need a break, I cover the pan with the top and go.

03
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Making the Painting My Own, Not a Copy

How to Paint Your Own Monet Painting
My aim is to make my own painting, not a copy of a photo or Monet's original painting. © Karen Day-Vath 2006

I continue to go over my colors. My palette consists of burnt umber, a bit of cadmium red, Winsor blue, cadmium yellow, sap green, and white. I layer over the background with a bit more burnt umber mixed with a touch of the red. I find it’s a bit too dark, so I add a touch of yellow and it starts to look a bit like burnt sienna.

I then take my Winsor blue and start layering over the pond portion. As I go along, I add a bit of yellow to give it more of a blue green effect. I am studying Marion’s reference photo and at the same time looking at Monet’s version. I really don’t know how I want this to look yet, and I feel it may be too dark.

I add in some sap green, white and some burnt umber with yellow in the background for where I think I might want some trees. I want this to be more of my own painting, and do not want to totally copy Marion’s photo or Monet’s painting. I keep looking at it and feel as though I am stumped, what to do next? What type of trees do I want?

I am not sure, and today there is not much time for painting, so I decide to let the rest go and come back to it another time, when I feel a bit more energized other than to continue on when I just can’t seem to get that creativity moving.

04
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Struggling with Acrylics

How to Paint Your Own Monet Painting
© Karen Day-Vath 2006

I come back to my painting with a fresh outlook and start to add in some trees and branches. I am using burnt umber once again along with the red and cad yellow. I work some leaves with the sap green and also with permanent green light with white here and there.

I try adding in some Winsor blue with the greens and find I am having a hard time blending. I use some glazing medium and it starts to move a bit better. I am still not used to the acrylics and their fast drying time.

Having worked with oils, I am more used to a longer drying period and much easier blending. I find myself getting a bit frustrated with the acrylics. I am looking at the reference photo and trying to get the colors to look somewhat like the photo. It’s not really working.

I continue to keep going over the background with the burnt umber, red and yellow trying to get somewhat the type of look that Monet’s original had, but that’s not working well either. So I go on to the pond and add some cerulean blue to lighten it in some places and continue to use the Winsor blue here and there for shadows.

I am still wondering how this is going to end up. There are times when I start a painting and I know what I want to do, but it just doesn’t come. This seems to be one of those times.

05
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Impressionists Are Not Easy to Copy

How to Paint Your Own Monet Painting
The Impressionists make it look easy!. © Karen Day-Vath 2006

I plod on and continue to work a bit on the trees, background and pond not knowing what I really want to do until it hits me. The background is too dark, and the trees just don’t look like I would like them to.

I take a bit of yellow ochre and try to blend that in with the burnt umber to see what type of effect I would get. The ochre is a bit better than the yellow, not too light and not too dark. I go over the background to see if I can highlight some areas. It’s a little better but not much. Time to let it go for another day.

I realize that as much as I love the Impressionists, their work is not easy to copy or even to try on one’s own. I consider myself more of an abstract artist, but I do like the challenge of other types of painting on occasion. I am beginning to find this painting one that challenges both my painting style and my knowledge of acrylics which I am still trying to master.

06
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Seeing More Clearly

How to Paint Your Own Monet Painting
The painting is now coming along. © Karen Day-Vath 2006

I'm beginning see things a bit more clearly now. I continue with the trees and then begin to add more greenery to the background. I decide I don't want a sky, I want some type of a cul de sac, a very private little area, somewhat like Monet’s original but not quite.

I continue to use sap green, mixed with a bit of Winsor blue and yellow, a little white here and there. I am trying to get the look of silver birches and am trying to follow the reference photo. I also decide I want a weeping willow in here somewhere, but in front of the bridge or behind? I’ll make that decision later, right now I’ll just try to get the willow in.

I use sap green along with permanent green light, cadmium yellow, burnt umber, and white. I try some different brushes; weeping willows are not easy to do and I haven’t the slightest clue where to start. I find a thin brush that works and continue to layer in colors. Oh dear, what an ugly tree! I will continue to go over it until I come up with something that looks somewhat decent, I hope. I am beginning to wonder what I got myself into...

I try putting in water plants here and there, to see if that is where I want them. I repaint the bridge, with sap green mixed with a bit of Winsor blue so I know where it will be positioned. I go over the pond again with Winsor blue mixed with yellow and take out the highlights. I try to lighten the background with some cadmium yellow mixed with yellow ochre. It still doesn’t look like much but it's coming along.

07
of 08
Adding Lily Pads

How to Paint Your Own Monet Painting
I added lily pads because I wanted them in my Monet painting. © Karen Day-Vath 2006

It’s taken me a little while, but I now kind of like what I've done. The colors need to be lightened and the willow needs some working, but I am beginning to feel optimistic about the painting.

I start to go over the background trees and as I do this I decide I may want a different look. I use the Winsor blue mixed with a bit of sap green and cadmium yellow for the background tree on the left, and also add a bit of those colors to the tree on the right.

Nope, don’t like that too much, so I play with my greens, whites and the yellow a bit to see what happens. I lighten the background more with some cadium yellow and white along with the burnt umber and put in some foliage and ground cover with the yellow.

Now I get to the weeping willow. I try giving it branches, not very good; I try rounding it off some, seems a bit better.

I don’t like the yellow look it has so back to the sap green, a bit of burnt umber for shadows and a little white. I keep going over it until I have the look I want.

I add some water plants in front of the willow and on the lower right-hand side and have decided I want the willow in front of the bridge. I now go down to the pond and start glazing in some white along with the Winsor blue. I decide to add a bit of sap green to the water.

Although Marion’s photo didn’t show any lily pads I have decided I want them in my painting. I still need to give the pond some shape, but will do that tomorrow, for today my painting session is over.

08
of 08
My Monet: The Final Painting

How to Paint Your Own Monet Painting
My Monet: The Final Painting. © Karen Day-Vath 2006

I feel as though I'm really getting somewhere, but it’s not quite there yet. My job now is to do my final layers. I start with the background trees and foliage. I define one tree with a bit more with the Winsor blue and yellow; the other with white and permanent green light. I use a dabbing effect with my brush, I don't want them to look too realistic.

I move the bridge a bit higher; I know I'll have to go over it again once everything else is in place, so I do it lightly. I define the willow a bit, with green and white for highlights. It’s not doing what I would like it, so I go over it until I think I have it. It's not as good as I would like, but I'll leave it alone before I really ruin it.

Next is the pond, which I go over with a white glaze and a touch of cerulean blue. I want it to be bright as if the sun were shining down on it. Oops, almost forgot the reflections in the water; I pull down the greenery from the tree and grasses into the water, then continue glazing.

I now put in grasses in the front using sap green, permanent light green, white, and burnt umber. I use sap green for the lily pads, then cadmium red mixed with white for the lily. I add highlights to the trees and pond.

There may be a bit more I could do, but I'm going to leave it. I like the way it looks now and if I keep on there's a chance I'll lose the look I tried so hard to achieve. A bit of reference photo, a bit of Monet’s original, mixed with my interpretation of the two, and I am finished.

About the Artist Karen Day-Vath (see website) is a self-taught artist who works in acrylics and oils. She's also a long-standing member of the About.com Painting Forum.