Claude Monet: I love his colors, and his personal writings. Here are some practical lessons I’ve learned from him:
1. The intoxication of beauty
It is beautiful here [in Etretat, Normandy], my friend; every day I discover even more beautiful things. It is intoxicating me, and I want to paint it all – my head is bursting.. ..I want to fight, scratch it off, start again, because I start to see and understand. It is by observation and reflection that I discover how.
As photographers let us never stop observing and reflecting on all the beauty around us!
2. Keep grinding away!
It is by force of observation and reflection that one finds. So let us grind away and grind away constantly. Are you making any progress? Yes, I am sure of it, but what I am sure of is that you do not work enough and not in the right way. It is not with carefree guys like your Villa and others that you will be able to work. It would be better all alone, and yet, all alone there are plenty of things that one cannot make out.
To make progress, you must keep grinding away (like what video game players do). Don’t lose hope, and put in the hustle!
3. Don’t resemble anyone else but yourself!
In Paris one is too preoccupied by what one sees and what one hears, however strong one is; what I am doing here has, I think, the merit of not resembling anyone, because it is simply the expression of what I myself have experienced.
Ignore what’s happening on the internet or social media. Don’t worry about what others are doing, just stay focused on yourself!
4. Even the best get disillusioned
Even the best can lose hope in themselves:
I am absolutely sickened with and demoralized by this life, I’ve been leading for so long. When you get to my age, there is nothing more to look forward to. Unhappy we are, unhappy we’ll stay. Each day brings its tribulations and each day difficulties arise.. .So I’m giving up the struggle once and for all, abandoning all hope of success.. .I hear my friends are preparing another exhibition this year [the Impressionists, in Paris, 1880] but I’m ruling out the possibility of participating in it, as I just don’t have anything worth showing.
As an artist, don’t lose hope in yourself. Claude Monet didn’t know how famous (he would) become. So for us as well, let us keep making our art and marching on!
5. Capture the surrounding atmosphere
For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life – the air and the light which vary continually. For me, it is only the, surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value.
Don’t just capture your subjects, capture the mood and the air around it! Create an atmosphere in your pictures, to transport the viewer into your images.
6. We are never truly finished
I tell myself that anyone who says he has finished a canvas is terribly arrogant. Finished means complete, perfect, and I toil away without making any progress, searching, fumbling around, without achieving anything much.
Nothing is perfect nor ever will be perfect. Let us overcome this notion from the philosopher Plato that something can be perfect. Nature isn’t “perfect”, she is actually quite cruel and harsh; yet in the chaos is where the beauty comes from.
7. Give yourself time to work on masterpieces!
One should live here for a year in order to accomplish something of value, and that is only after having seen and gotten to know the country. I painted today, a part of the day, in the snow, which falls endlessly. You would have laughed if you could have seen me completely white, with icicles hanging from my beard like stalactites.
Spend time to work on whatever you’re working on, and strive to make it into a masterpiece!
8. Create the air
To me the motif [subject matter] itself is an insignificant factor; what I want to reproduce is what lies between the motif and me.. .Other painters paint a bridge, a house, a boat.. .I want to paint the air in which the bridge, the house and the boat are to be found – the beauty of the air around them, and that is nothing less than the impossible
9. Study Ruskin
Ninety percent of the theory of Impressionist painting is in.. ..Ruskin’s Elements.
I found the book, you can download it for free here:
10. Express what you feel in art!
It’s quite beyond my powers at my age, and yet I want to succeed in expressing what I feel.
As an artist, express your inner soul through the art works you give birth to!
11. Create your direct sensations
Impressionism is only direct sensation. All great painters were less or more impressionists. It is mainly a question of instinct, and much simpler than Sargent thinks.
Follow your instinct and gut. Create what you feel.
12. Self schooling
I was born undisciplined. Never, even as a child, could I be made to obey a set rule. What little I know I learned at home. School was always like a prison to me, I could never bring myself to stay there, even four hours a day, when the sun was shining and the sea was so tempting, and it was such fun scrambling over cliffs and paddling in the shallows. Such, to the great despair of my parents, was the unruly but healthy life I lived until I was fourteen or fifteen. In the meantime I somehow picked up the rudiments of reading, writing and arithmetic, with a smattering of spelling. And there my schooling ended. It never worried me very much because I always had plenty of amusements on the side. I doodled in the margins of my books, I decorated our blue copy paper with ultra-fantastic drawings, and I drew the faces and profiles of my schoolmasters as outrageously as I could, distorting them out of all recognition.
To create a generation of artists, let’s not helicopter parent our kids. Let our imagination run free!
13. Refresh your vision
I felt the need, in order to widen my field of observation and to refresh my vision in front of new sights, to take myself away for a while from the area where I was living, and to make some trips lasting several weeks in Normandy, Brittany and elsewhere..
Traveling is good to refresh your eyes. When you need some change, go on a small trip!