Monday Muse #1 View of Vetheuil in Summer, by Monet

I’ve decided that each Monday I should post about a “Muse”.  For my purposes a Muse can be any thing or person that brings me inspiration.

Today’s Muse is this painting, by Claude Monet:

Monet - Ansicht von Vetheuil im Sommer
Claude Monet [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Why did I pick this painting as my Monday Muse?

Well, as my readers know, I find it very difficult to be satisfied with my renderings of clouds.  I have produced a few paintings where I was genuinely satisfied with the clouds.  However, those paintings are the exception, and I certainly seem unable to reproduce the results at will.  Its more a matter of “luck” than skill when I produce a sky I am truly happy with.  Sometimes grueling hard work gives me results that I find acceptable, but not really pleasing.  Well today, I was doing something I frequently do, browsing paintings online.  I started looking closely at many of the impressionists’ work, particularly their skies.  What I was seeing was encouraging to me.  These paintings are beautiful, but if I isolate the sky like this:

Monet_-_Ansicht_von_Vetheuil_im_Sommer (2)

I see brush strokes of blue, white, some yellow, a little that is kind of dirty yellow-gray…  What I don’t see is photograph-like realistic clouds.

In fact, the closer you look, the less cloud like they become:
Monet_-_Ansicht_von_Vetheuil_im_Sommer (3)

Monet_-_Ansicht_von_Vetheuil_im_Sommer (4)


To me this is a wonderful encouragement, because the overall picture is amazing, even the sky is amazing.  No person knowledgeable about art would say that Monet didn’t know how to paint.  Yet when I look at the sky closely I realize that if I had done it myself, I would not have been satisfied.  It is showing me that perhaps I need to step back and look at my paintings from further back.  It’s okay for them to not look like photographs.  The are PAINTINGS.  I am my own worst critic of course, because when i saw this, at first I wasn’t thinking anything negative, I was admiring the beauty of the painting.  The reason I looked closer at the sky was to see how he did it, and that’s when I realized that I would not have liked it if I did it, but I loved it when Monet did it.

Now does that mean that I will stop trying to improve my skies?  No.  It does mean though that I can stop stressing every time I fail to make it look exactly like what I see.  I don’t necessarily have overwork my sky to the point of frustration, it is OKAY to put in brushstrokes that give the impression of clouds, especially when the sky isn’t the central point of the painting, but merely a backdrop for the rest.

I really don’t know why I didn’t grasp this concept before, after all, the artists I admire most are Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, neither of which are particularly preoccupied with Photorealism in their paintings.  In fact, one of my frustrations with other aspects of paintings is that I find it difficult to loosen up enough, and yet with clouds, I was refusing to loosen up.  I was trying so much to control every aspect and get the EXACT image held in my mind.

6 Responses to Monday Muse #1 View of Vetheuil in Summer, by Monet

  1. Vicki, I’m visiting from the UBC. I love clouds, so you’re on one of my favorite subjects. If you lie on your back in the grass, on a warm day, and just stare at the clouds, you can actually lose your balance. That’s your sign you’ve gotten lost in them. Which, to me, is a good thing. The Impressionists: so named because they create the impression of something very real, but with tiny dots or strokes of paint. Check out Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party”. Like the modern concept of many thousands of pixels making up a sharp image on your TV set– the Impressionists invented dots that turn into large images. Magic! For me, it isn’t possible ever to be done with clouds: observing or painting. Congratulations on your beautiful clouds.

    • Kebba, oh yes, that is what I like about the impressionists, and I agree that it is probably impossible to ever portray clouds so that they look as amazing the real thing, but if I can give a impression of a beautiful sky with dramatic clouds, I need to learn to be happy with that! 🙂

  2. Vicki, I see what you mean about the clouds on this Monet piece. There’s nothing really striking about them as you get closer and closer to them. But when you view them from afar, they’re amazing! What’s really cool is how these clouds are reflected in the water. Way cool! Don’t worry about your clouds. I thought you did a great job with them to begin with. 🙂

  3. Hi Vicki,
    I LOVE clouds! Azorin, the great Spanish poet, wrote a poem called Las Nubes (the clouds). He said they are like the sea, always the same and yet different. They give us the feeling of instability and eternity. He said, the same clouds today are like the ones. Yet they are always distinct at any given moment. They are very elusive. The same clouds we look at today, were looked at 200, 500, 1000, 3000 years ago by others with the same passions and the same anxieties as we have today. I translated it roughly from Spanish to English. I remember that passage in my college Spanish literature class and fell love with the contradictions. No wonder it’s difficult for you to paint clouds, and yet, it doesn’t have to be perfect as you said. Azorin would likely agree.
    Thanks so much for sharing your muse with us today!