Art School Boot Camp: Expanding Your Style with Art History | Christine Nishiyama | Skillshare

Art School Boot Camp: Expanding Your Style with Art History

Christine Nishiyama, Artist at Might Could Studios

Art School Boot Camp: Expanding Your Style with Art History

Christine Nishiyama, Artist at Might Could Studios

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8 Lessons (20m)
    • 1. Why Learn About Art History?

    • 2. Impressionism

    • 3. Post Impressionism

    • 4. Fauvism

    • 5. Cubism

    • 6. Expressionism

    • 7. Dada

    • 8. Surrealism

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About This Class

Welcome to the next session of Art School Boot Camp! I’m Christine Fleming, illustrator at Might Could Studios. In this installment of boot camp, we’re focusing on all the artists who came before us and diving into Art History.


Wait, don’t go! Art history is important, and it’s not boring—I promise! Art history is super important as an artist because it lets you see and understand what makes great art. The more you know about art movements, art legends, and their styles and techniques, the more you can analyze and improve your own work! All artists are influenced by other artists, and that includes you! So why not learn from the masters?

Art history will also cement the design principles we’ve already talked about in this series, including composition, gesture, and color, showing you successful examples of both following the rules AND breaking them!


Art movements are all about rebellion and breaking the rules that came before. From Impressionism to Surrealism, we’ll cover WHEN the rebellion happened, WHERE it happened, WHO rebelled, WHAT they rebelled against, and HOW they rebelled. Then I’ll show you how you can rebel NOW with specific techniques from each movement that you can apply to your own artwork!

For our class project, we’ll be creating a new piece of art inspired by an art movement, using one of the techniques shown in the class. By the end of the class, you’ll have a better understanding of art history, specific techniques from the masters that you can try in your own work, and a bolt of inspiration to get excited about making new art! So let’s jump in and break all the rules!



You can see more about Christine and her work at

Get weekly essays on creativity and art making here!

Hope to see you in there! :D

Meet Your Teacher

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Christine Nishiyama

Artist at Might Could Studios

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Hallo! I'm Christine Nishiyama, artist + founder of Might Could Studios.

I make books and comics, and I draw a whoooole lot. I've taught over 95,000 aspiring and established artists, helping them explore their art, gain more confidence, and discover their unique artistic styles.

My core belief is that art is good and we should all make more of it. Might Could is here to uplift and challenge artists in the exploration and evolution of our unique artistic styles and voices.

Join #mightcoulddrawtoday, my free weekly drawing challenge for a creative kick in tha booty!

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1. Why Learn About Art History?: Welcome to the next session of Art School Boot Camp. I'm Christine Fleming, Illustrator at Might Could Studios. In this installment of boot camp, we're focusing on all the artists who came before us and diving into the world of art history. Art history is super important as an artist because it lets you see and understand what makes great art. The more you know about art movements, art legends, and their styles and techniques, the more you can analyze and improve your own work. All artists are influenced by other artists and that includes you. So why not learn from the masters? Art history will also cement the design principles we've already learned about in this series, including composition, color, and gesture. From Impressionism to Surrealism, we'll cover the who, what, when, where, why, and how of seven of the modern art movements. I'll show you the now with specific techniques from each movement that you can try out and apply to your own work right now. For our class project, we'll be creating a new piece of art inspired by an art movement and using one of the techniques shown in the class. By the end of this class, you'll have a better understanding of art history, specific techniques you can apply to your own work, and a bolt of inspiration to get excited about making new art. So let's jump in and break all the rules. 2. Impressionism: Impressionism began in France and span from the 1860s to the 1920s. The major players of impressionism where Monet, Degas, Renoir, and Sisley. The aim of impressionism, was to capture fleeting moments and light in nature. The Impressionists rebelled against realism. They also rebelled against academic art, government-sanctioned art, and the level of finish and detail required by realism at the time. How did the impressionist rebel? First they rebelled by choosing different subject matters to paint. Art academies, then the reigning power and art, declared that only historical art was worth creating and appreciating. The impressionists went against this, believing that landscapes and contemporary life were also worthy of painting. Impressionists took this idea further by focusing on particular times of days in their painting and showing passage of time by details in nature such as clouds flooding by or ripples in water. The aim to capture a moment in contemporary life and the fleetingness of that moment. The impressionist also changed the way color was used in artworks. They pushed the boundaries of color, focusing on the light and color in nature. The impressionists were among the first to paint landscapes outdoors, in part because of the invention of paint tubes and they focused on painting particular times of the day. This forced them to work quickly to capture the light before it faded and lead to them applying paint and small colored strokes, not worrying about outline or detail. That brings us to the small brush strokes, the most recognizable aspect of impressionism. Impressionist painted with small brush strokes of pure color that merged together as the viewer stepped back from the painting. So instead of seeing the individual strokes, the colors blend and you see the overall composition. This created brighter colors and a soft unfinished look. The quickly painted small brush strokes of pure color created a look of sketchiness or preliminary work that was initially seen by critics as unfinished and not worthy of a museum or gallery. This is where the name Impressionism came from, as if these were impressions and not fully finished artworks. The last way the impressionist rebelled was to break the rules of composition. At the time, artists were told to use all design principles to lead to a focal point in the artwork that was almost always in the center of the piece. Impressionists threw this out the window and pushed the boundaries of composition, cropping their work asymmetrically and often focusing on subjects at the edges of the artwork. How can we use some of the techniques from impressionism in our own work? The first way is to push the ways you use color. The conventional way to paint shadows is to use black or brown but the impressionist way to paint shadows, is using complimentary colors. For example, the shadow of this yellow haystack is painted purple instead of brown. You can also change the way you use brushstrokes in your artwork. The conventional way was to not let strokes be visible and mix colors smoothly on the canvas. The impressionist way is to paint with individual small strokes of pure color. If you wanted, you could even try painting outdoors just like an impressionist. 3. Post Impressionism: Post-impressionism began in France. It occurred between the 1880s and the 1900s. The major players of post-impressionism where Rousseau, Van Gogh, Cézanne, and Gauguin. Post-impressionism took the principles of impressionism and pushed them further, adding more subjectivity. They rebelled against impressionism and in particular to the attention of light and color in nature. They wanted to push some of the principles of impressionism even further. So how did they revolt? First, they added in geometric shapes to their artwork. They kept the sketchy quality of impressionism, but experimented with different types of shapes and their brushstrokes. They also added more distortion into their artwork and did not try to directly represent things as they were in nature. They aimed to show a bit more expressiveness and how they depicted the world. The post-impressionists also, we're not afraid to use unnatural color. They rejected the aim of impressionist to capture color exactly as it was in nature. Instead, they used whichever colors they felt were right to convey the feeling of the artwork. Finally, they aim to convey its sense of mind with their art. They didn't want to just convey nature as the impressionist did, but instead convey their own sense of mind and how they interpreted the world. So how can we use the techniques of post-impressionism? First, you can try using brighter colors in your art. The conventional way is to paint colors as they're seeing in reality or nature. The post-impressionist way is to exaggerate colors to include bright and maybe unnatural color. You can also focus on your sense of mind. The conventional ways is to paint the world as it is and the post-impressionist way is to paint the world as you see and feel it. 4. Fauvism: Fauvism also began in France. It occurred between 1900 and 1910. For the moment we're going to skip over expressionism and jump to fauvism. Expressionism developed over a longer period. We're going to come back to it in a couple of decades. The major players of fauvism, were Derain and Matisse, the artists who made up fauvism, or often called Les Fauves, which means the wild beast. Together, they pushed the boundaries of color, using it to define form and create moods. The fauvist rebelled against impressionism. The fauvist rebelled against impressionism, and in particular, the scientific focus on appearance of nature and the restrained use of color. How did the fauvists rebel? First of all, they used color as shape. They simplified forms and used bold flat colors. They also used color as mood. They used vivid color to enhance emotion and aimed to project a mood with their color, not just reflect what was seen in nature. Fauvism is also recognizable by its bold brushwork. They kept the visibility of brushwork from impressionism, but they used bolder and larger brushstrokes. They also added even more individual expression. They put more emphasis on subjective expression than on other principles such as correct proportions or perspective. How can we use the techniques of fauvism in our work? First, we can pump up the color. The conventional way was to paint color naturally. The fauvists way is to paint color to set the mood. We can also use bold brushstrokes. The conventional ways was to paint detail with small, smooth brushstrokes. The fauvist way is to paint shapes with large bowed brushstrokes. 5. Cubism: Cubism began in France and Spain from 1906 to 1919. The major artists in Cubism were Picasso and Braque. Cubism was a philosophical way of thinking deeply about vision and how it is represented. The Cubists rebelled against impressionism, fauvism, and the renaissance. They rejected the idea of linear time from the renaissance, the focus on specific moments from impressionism, and the range of colors from fauvism. This painting by Picasso is argued to be the first piece that started Cubism, according to some historians. At the time, it was the birth of a completely new way of visualizing and creating art, and is said to have violently overturned established conventions. There are many aspects of this painting that were rejections of all the artwork that came before it. First of all, the setting is interior, closed, and cluttered, which is the opposite of impressionism and fauvism. The piece also has sharp jagged forums, as opposed to the central graceful flowing lines and shapes of impressionism and fauvism. The mood or emotion of the piece is kind of apprehensive and unsure, while the mood and emotion of most impressionist and fauvist pieces were pleasurable. The figure/ground relationship in this piece is also dissolved and difficult to see. Picasso was showing two different moments in time, which was a completely revolutionary idea. Let's look at some specific ways that Cubism developed. First, they kept the flatness off fauvism. They didn't want to mask the canvas, but instead have the viewer recognize it for what it is, and didn't try to create an illusion of depth in the artwork. They rejected the clear, bright pigments of fauvism, and instead used deeper, muddier tones, more urban-like with dark colors, blacks and grays. They broke up the surfaces of their painting into small jagged areas of paint, and faceted the treatment of both solid and space. Cubism is also known for simultaneity. This is when all surfaces of subjects are in a single plane, as if all surfaces were visible at the same time. This was also completely revolutionary at the time. But the Cubists didn't just do this to be weird, they were doing it to think and communicate about a sense of fluid consciousness, blurring the past, present, and future. They were challenging and rebelling against the accepted renaissance way of looking at time in a linear way, which is pretty much how we still think about time today. They showed the subject not just from a specific moment as the impressionists did, but instead showed the subject from different viewpoints at different times, as if we're all seeing multiple dimensions. How can we use the techniques of Cubism in our own artwork? First, we can break shapes into facets. The conventional way is to paint shapes as they are. The Cubists way is to break up the shape to dissolve the figure/ ground relationship. We can also show different viewpoints in our artwork. The conventional way is to paint from one viewpoint. The Cubists way is to paint from all viewpoints at once. 6. Expressionism: Expressionism began in Germany and ranged from the 1890s to the 1930s. The major expressionists were at Munch, Kandinsky, and Klee. The expressionists aimed to depict the world as an internal, emotional, and spiritual experience. They rebelled against the impressionist aim to depict nature and the external world as it is seen, and also against the fauvist cheerfulness. How did the expressionists rebel? First, they focused on self-expression. They saw the individual voice as the most important piece of the artwork. Thereby they explored the soul and not just the outside world. They were internal and not just external. They believed in total freedom of expression, free of conventions or rules. They also injected a lot of emotion into their work. While the fauvists also used color, brushwork, and shapes to express emotion, expressionism stands out because of the intensity of their emotions and the difference of emotions they expressed. Some of the emotions they explored included insecurity, hostility, anxiety, and alienation. They also differed in which colors they chose to use in their artworks. They exaggerated color to express emotion and create mood. They also used bold brushwork as the fauvists did to express emotion. They also added in distortion and exaggeration to heighten the individual voice. How can we use the techniques of expressionism? First, we can tap into our emotional side. The conventional way was to paint the external world. The expressionist way is to paint your internal world. We can also use color and brushwork to create emotion. The conventional way was to use soft colors and brushstrokes. The expressionist way is to use deep color and bold brushstrokes. 7. Dada: Dada began in Switzerland and then moved to Berlin, Cologne, and New York. It ranged from 1916-1922. The major artists in Dada were Duchamp, Ernst, and Ray. Dada was art made in the name of ideals, protesting the current political and cultural norms. The Dada artists rebelled against war, established values and expressionism. Word War I ignited Dada as German artists fled to Switzerland. They didn't believe that the expressionists were being daring enough, or were acknowledging what was going on in the world at the time. They rejected anything established or accepted in the art world. One aspect of Dada that's unique was the manifestos. The artists got together and wrote manifestos and magazines to protest what was going on in the world. Dada is also known for its photomontages. These are collages made of photos and text from newspapers using current events to bring their artwork into the present moment and protest the war. They utilized the concepts of flat perspective and fragmentation from cubism. They often call these photomontages, visual poetry. Dada also brought the concept of temporary installations. They often held exhibitions with live performances. At one exhibit in 1920 in Germany, the audience entered the exhibit through the men's bathroom where they watched a woman perform crude spoken poetry in front of a row of urinals, and then were given hammers and encouraged to destroy the exhibit. Another new concept from Dada was the use of chance in art-making. Artists left parts of the creation up to chance. This was also called automatism, which is avoiding conscious intention in creation. In this example by Jean Arp, he tore up pieces of paper and let them fall as they went by chance onto the canvas. This is at least what Jean Arp says, but I have a feeling that he may have arranged a few of them afterwards. The Dada's also challenged the definition of art. They believed that everyone could be an artist and everything could be art. In this example, Duchamp took a urinal out of a factory, signed it, and declared it art. How can we use the techniques of Dada in our own work? One way is we can create photomontages. The conventional way was to paint your own imagery. The Dada way was to re-purpose images from newspapers. We can also use art as protest and a form of communication. The conventional way was to create art to describe the world. The Dada way was to create art to proclaim your beliefs. 8. Surrealism: Surrealism began in France and then moved to London and New York. It's banned from the 19 twenties to the 19 sixties. The major surrealist where Ernst, Miro, Dali, and Magritte. The surrealist aimed to make art from the subconscious and explore the imagination of the unconscious mind. There about against Dada and all rational thought. In particular, they rebelled against the negativity of Dada and the concept that rational thought was the only way of thinking. So how did they rebel? First, they developed the technique called psychic automatism. This is a way of letting the subconscious takeover and denying conscious control. A somewhat concept is free association, working from your own thoughts rather than other suggestions. Psychic automatism is emptying your mind of conscious thought, joined spontaneously. Whatever comes to mind is the expression of your unconscious mind. This form the idea of sketch. Then the surrealist would refine it. Combining dream and reality to create surreality. The interpretation of dreams was another aspect of surrealism. Sigmund Freud's research on dreams became a basis of surrealism. They believed you could unlock the unconscious through analyzing dreams. These scenes of nonsensical imagery were painted in a realistic style, which aimed to open the viewer up to the irrational. Another aspect of surrealism was juxtaposition. Juxtaposition is the grouping of unrelated objects. The surrealists believed that painting unrelated images together encouraged subconscious thought and encouraged your brain to make new connections. So how can we use the techniques of surrealism in our own work? First, we can take part in automatism. The conventional way is to plan your artwork out thoroughly. The surrealist way is to draw whatever comes to your mind, and then you go back and refine it. We can also use interpretation of our dreams and our artwork. The conventional thought is that dreams are unimportant, but a surrealist will challenge you on that. That wraps up our art history timeline. Thank you so much for taking this class. I hope you feel inspired by all these boundary pushing art movements. I really hope you create your own artwork with one of these techniques. I'd love to see what you come up with. You can upload your artwork to the project gallery by clicking on the "Start Your Project" button on the community page. You can also check out your fellow students work and see what are the box artwork they created. I look at every project that's posted in all my classes and I love to see your work. Have fun breaking all the rules. I can't wait to see your art history inspiring projects. I'll see you in the next art school boot kin.