Cassis, Cap Lombard – Detail Study from a Painting by Paul Signac

After putzing around with attempts to emulate some of Monet’s Impressionistic paintings of Etretat, I muddled around and found the works of Paul Signac, a Neo-Impressionist and Pointillist. These two schools espoused dabbing, using complimentary colors and such to create a sense of light and movement. They are rather delightful to my eye – I am a magpie at heart – and the vibrant colors and energy of these painters fascinates me.

Here, I decided to see what I could do with a detail of Paul Signac’s painting, which you can see below. His rocks, or whatever they are, and their reflections in the sea caught my attention. My reflections are not very good. As a first attempt to try pointillism, I just started with making dots on the unpainted paper. In reality, the best way to start would have been to laid down solid areas of underlying color, and then build upon that with the dots.

If you look at Signac’s painting, you will see the use of orange and blue in the shadows – reflected light in the shadows. What I also found fascinating is his use of different shades of blue – ultramarine, cobalt, and cerulean in particular. Together with varying shades of orange, yellow, and ochre, he created the stone reflections. I found this very hard to do, but think I get the idea!

More to come. The purpose of copying or interpreting Signac’s work (and Monet’s) is to get a better sense of color. With pointillism, the colors are applied individually. Doing this myself, I begin to appreciate the purity of color when juxtaposed with another.

Monet & Etretat, iii

No matter what I did, I could not like this effort, nor did I much like Monet’s painting, either. All painters have those days – I wonder if Monet was as displeased with his version as I am?! I decided to do a detail of Monet’s composition, the part showing how small the people are in comparison to the chalk cliffs of Etretat.

One thing that I have really noticed is the vast differences found among the same images on the net – some are lighter, bluer, duller, ickier, prettier.

I think I am done with Monet for a bit . . .

Monet & Etretat, ii

Here I think Monet and Van Gogh sort of collaborated! My visions are definitely more colorful than the 1886 Manneporte of Etretat by Monet!

However much I would like to be as good as Monet or Van Gogh, the point of this exercise was not to copy but to look closely. I wanted to look closely at how parts of the painting were rendered, such as the water and the stone and the sky. Here, there was less blending by Monet and more of an expression of texture and light by brush strokes, both horizontal and vertical, as well as a blending in the sky of horizon lines.

I could do this one again and perhaps try for a touch lighter color as well as more analytic approach to the rendering. One thing, though, is Monet used oils, and I am using gouache, and while similar, they are also very different in what one can do. Or, at least what I seem to be able to do at this point.

Monet & Etretat, I

For some reason the works of Claude Monet have been rolling around my head, in particular his studies of the cliffs at Etretat. I found that he has done many studies of this place – it must have been a favorite of his. The above gouache was inspired by his version from 1885, Study from Etretat, the Manneporte, Reflections on Water.

By Claude Monet – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

It was really interesting to use Monet’s study as a study of my own. His painting is in oil, mine in gouache. The beauty of gouache is that it can respond in ways similar to oils, such as brushwork and color mushing. Initially, I just blobbed the colors in, but as I came closer to completion, I saw the little things which make this study more than just a simple study. Little things such as the dry brush on the cliffs, the dabs of color making up reflections and waves, the scumbling to create a sense of a sunny fog, became more apparent as I moved closer to completion of my own painting.

I’ve always loved the way Monet handled light; perhaps my studies of his works will help me with my own depth issues and contrast problems. I think this painting worked out fairly well. Even better, it was a lot of fun!

Monterey Pines

Monterey Pines are some truly elegant trees. If you have never seen one, but you like trees, you will enjoy these. They have a totally non-pine-tree shape, and grow in odd directions, often pushed by the wind you experience on the Monterey Peninsula. These are trees I photographed along our walk while visiting Monterey and Pacific Grove last week.