Let me get it out there up front. I love the Impressionists and the Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) in nearby Toledo, Ohio (not Spain :-)). If you haven't visited the museum, it's a treasure. We went for the first time a few years ago to visit the Glass Pavilion. It's the museum's huge exhibit of glass works as well as their "hot shop" studio, demonstration and classroom for creating glass and learning about glass.
After watching an amazing glass blowing demo, we crossed the street to return to the main museum. We wandered up the marble staircase and into a gallery. We were surrounded by Impressionist, pre/post impressionist paintings. Quietly circling the room and the next and...Monet, Van Gogh, Pissarro, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Manet, Sisley, Morisot. I was truly in awe. This secret hideaway of the masters I'd so admired - right in front of me (though the museum guard did shadow me and politely ask me to step away from the Monet and the Renoir and...). What a day!
Being I naïve Michigander, I learned that the TMA was privately endowed originally by the Libby (glass) Family in 1901. It is free to the public. What I discovered is that it's collection is amazing and world-renowned. It's main mission is art education.
And so I promised myself to take a class there someday.
That day came this January. On a snowy Sunday afternoon I drove the 50 minutes to begin a 6-week journey to learn to "Paint Like An Impressionist" taught by Paul Brand. The museum provided all the materials (acrylic, canvas, brushes). What was so cool was to learn the history of Impressionists, the key characteristics of their paintings. But most importantly we were invited to study the actual impressionist paintings close up. "Go ahead, get closer. See the taches (small brush marks) Monet makes in his painting Antibes Seen from La Salis". What? Get closer? Won't the guard arrest us? No, we could get as close as we wanted. And I stood there listening as my fellow students and teacher critiqued the Monet. "Why did he add the dark tree in the left corner? Should he have left it out?" What? Question a master? Sure. Then onto Pissarro's Peasants Resting. Again we approached within an eyelash of the woman's leaning elbow. "Is it left floating too much? Would you have painted the background behind the elbow in that color?" The strokes, use of color and light. What an education it was.
Of course we were then left to paint our impressions of a little road in Cades Cove (Smokey Mountain National Park) - one of my favorite places in the world. Then we were challenged to take a black and white photo and create a painting using complementary colors and the impressionist style. I picked a landscape of a country barn. These little paintings took me the entire 6 weeks. I learned to use acrylics a bit. Being a watercolorist, the idea that I could use white, that I could paint over mistakes (well some anyway) was pretty freeing. But most of all I got to walk around in the impressionist shoes for six weeks. After each class, I wandered back up to that gallery and many others to quietly study, admire, be awestruck and humbled by the beauty and love, the gift these artists left for the world.
Go, enjoy, learn, be awestruck!
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