Impressionists in the Bosque

Students in Ms. Custer’s class are channeling their inner Van Gogh by nature drawing in the bosque. They are exploring nature and light through making art, similar to the way many of the great Impressionist artists, like Monet and Renoir, have done in the past. Each class period, students take a short 10-minute walk into the bosque with large, thick paper in hand and a box of pastels. Ms. Custer said she decided to use pastels because it’s an oil paint alternative and more accessible to students. Ms. Custer explained, “These are my instructions to students: they don’t have to draw an exact rendition of the space, but it’s about their impression and thinking about how that space makes them feel.” 

She frames the project in terms of Impressionism and artists’ use of light. Before starting their own pieces, students learned about Impressionism and its history. Ms. Custer said, “There was a shift in the concept of painting...from things that were far more posed and constructed ahead of time, to things that were ephemeral and of the moment...your “impression” of the space as opposed to something that was contrived or preconstructed.” She said that with the advent of portable paint tubes, subject matters changed. Artists no longer had to paint based off of a sketch, but they could be a part of nature and paint what they saw in real time. This transformed the art world and sparked the Impressionist movement. Ms. Custer said the ability to surround oneself in nature is an important aspect of Impressionism and greatly impacts an artist’s work. “One day it may be more gloomy, and your painting might be a little more blue,” she said. 

While working on her piece, Juliana ‘22 expressed, “I experiment a lot with color. Depending on the temperature, my colors can change. If it’s cold, it affects how you feel and how you evaluate the space.”

Students sit in the same spot each class and only work on the pieces outdoors in the bosque. For each 85-minute class, they sit and draw with their pastels. Some students have more realistic interpretations of the space, and some incorporate other aspects like hidden faces in trees or different colors. Ms. Custer says that as long as she can tell that the work being produced comes from the space, she is open to students’ interpretations. “It doesn't have to be perfect, which is great,” said Juliana ‘22. “It’s expressive, so it can be how you feel and how you see it. It doesn’t have to be exact.”

The project is set to last for a total of 4–6 classes. Ms. Custer says she times the project to take place in October when the leaves are changing in the bosque; this gives students an opportunity to get outside and take in Bosque School’s beautiful surroundings.