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Impressionism Art Assignment

Grade Level: 3-5 Art Education Lesson Plan

Art Elements: Color

Art Skills: Tints, Painting Techniques, Collage

Making Connections: Art History

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Teaching art techniques to students can be easily forgotten, especially at the elementary level.  Teachers get so focused on introducing the lesson as a “project” or an “artist” they forget about using terminology to explain basic techniques, even to their youngest students.  Art teachers really shouldn’t teach “Projects” or at least not approach it to students this way.  They should, whenever possible, help students learn skills and techniques and then incorporate them into a project.

 Instead of saying: “Today we are going to do a project about Monet,” approach it differently.  

Try saying, “Today we are going to learn to paint like an impressionist.”

Why approach it this way?  Because students value content they can use again.  They want to know WHY they are learning something, not just a “follow me and you will have an impressionist patenting.”  Most importantly, students are capable (in a BIG way) of accomplishing much, much  more than we give them credit for. Can a 3rd grader develop their own style of brush strokes and mark making? You betcha. You just need to set them up for success.

How to Teach Your Students to Paint Like an Impressionist

1. First talk about the art style of Impressionism.  What does it look like? It’s identified by individualized brush strokes that do not blend together.

2. Emphasize that a brush stroke and mark making are unique to each PERSON. You develop the technique you want. Show how to hold the brush in different ways in order to make different sized marks.  There is no “How to Draw” or “Follow Me,”  just an open demonstration allowing the students to make marks that fits in with an impressionistic style.

3. Start at the horizon line and work your way down, filling the whole paper with brush strokes.  Be sure to leave some paper showing in between!

4. Talk in a funny French accent as you demonstrate how to make individual brush strokes on the paper. This is a must!

5. Talk about light. Impressionists used light from the outdoors as the basis of their paintings.

6.  After adding some blue and purple “brush strokes” in the water, demonstrate how to take white paint and go over your already wet blue paint to create a tint. Show where the light might be hitting the water when you add white.  Never wipe off or rinse your brush. The depth of color will be much better this way.


7. Next, you will use the exact same technique to create trees above the horizon line and reflect them below in the water. Add in white to show the light hitting the objects.

8. Design your own unique bridge using construction paper, and some construction paper water lilies and tissue paper,  and you have an impressionist painting!




Notice how no two paintings look just alike, yet all students had success at creating an Impressionist painting.  Now, students will be able to describe to their families WHY an Impressionist painting looks the way it does. They can replicate the technique in future pieces of artwork in school or at home. They don’t need your tracer, template, or demonstration in order to replace the technique.  They just needed the freedom to make marks, make the marks their own, and a few simple guidelines to work within!



In what ways do you teach techniques instead of projects? 

Any other successful Impressionist painting ideas out there?


This great Art Ed lesson plan is 100% FREE to download! Use it in your classroom and share with your colleagues. For more free lessons like this one, visit our Lessons Page and download them all!

Learn about Artists’ Lives and Explore Their Art with Lessons, Galleries, Activities, and Videos

By Phil Nast, retired middle school teacher and freelance writer

Found In: arts, language arts, social studies, 9-12

The Impressionists were a group of Paris-based painters who became prominent during the 1870s and 1880s. The principal Impressionists were Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Berthe Morisot, Armand Guillaumin, and Frederic Bazille. A characteristic of their art was an attempt to capture the changing effects of light and color. Learn about their lives and explore their art with lessons, galleries, activities, and videos.

Lesson Plans

Impressionism: What Can Art Tell Us about Ourselves?
Students in grades 9-12 consider the challenges of life as an adolescent working in Paris in the late 1800s by analyzing a series of works of art. They will compare the vocations depicted in the artworks with those they might encounter in 21st-century Los Angeles.

Painting like an Impressionist
Students in grades 9-12 demonstrate knowledge of the Impressionist style by using complementary colors, employing a variety of types of brushstrokes, and depicting a specific time of day or weather condition.

Discovering the Arts: Impressionism and Beyond ( PDF, 129 KB, 7 pgs.)
In this class project, students (grades 9-12) create an Impressionist exhibition to compare and contrast major artists of the movement. They discuss the techniques and subjects of this movement and develop a mini-exhibit about one

Lesson Plan Collections

When Impressionism Was a Dirty Word (Education at the Getty)
Four lesson plans (grades K-12) designed for teachers to prompt classroom discussion and learning around the history of Impressionist painting.


The Artist’s Toolkit
Students can explore the tools artists use: line, color, and balance to build works of art. Includes short videos of artists in action and an encyclopedia of visual elements and principles.

Art Access – Family Activities (The Art Institute of Chicago)
These three projects can be done at home or adapted to the classroom. Many of the supplies are household objects, and the steps are easy to follow.

Background Resources

Picturing France 1830-1900 (National Gallery of Art, NGA Classroom)
Picturing France, 1830–1900 is for middle and upper grade levels. It looks at nineteenth-century painting in France, as well as the culture that produced and is reflected by the art. Region by region, it provides a glance at the setting, history, and cultural life of Paris, the Île-de-France, the mountain areas of Franche-Comté and Auvergne, Normandy, Brittany, and Provence, as well as in-depth examinations of more than 50 works. Printable resources for students (a 159-page guide) and teachers (a 138-page classroom guide) are available for download.

Impressionism: Art and Modernity (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Thematic essays, slideshow, and maps.

American Impressionism (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Thematic essays, slideshow, and maps.

The Athenaeum
Search by artist to find downloadable images.

Impressionism and Impressionist Painters
Covers 12 Impressionist painters from Bazille to van Gogh.

Art Access – Impressionism and Post-Impressionism (The Art Institute of Chicago)
Images, lesson, activities.

Impressionism (WebMuseum, Paris)
A brief essay on the movement and its principal artists.

Impressionism (1860-1900) (WebMuseum, Paris)
Brief bios and examples of art for 20 artists.

Claude Monet: Life & Art
A website devoted to Monet’s life and works.


The Impressionists (British Broadcasting Corporation)
This 3-hour BBC mini-series tells the story of Impressionism most famous French artists – Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne and Manet. View it here in three parts via YouTube.

The French Impressionists (PBS Video) (58:26)
This PBS video documentary showcases “the color and texture that defined a turning point in art history.”

last updated: September 14, 2016