Blog post

Pleasant memory: A simple recipe for meaningful relations, in colours of Impressionism and Expressionism

6 October 2019By Joanna IK

Knowing others

It’s that time of the year to say farewell to the playful summer sun. And to welcome the organising autumn sun. To get back into our daily routine, and blogging, carrying the pleasant memory of summer holidays.

Today, I am sharing with you a pleasant memory of my first years in adult education. I was about to learn the difference between Impressionism and Expressionism. At the same time, I’d learn the secret to meaningful communication with others.

This is the story: I had always appreciated painting. As a school kid, I used to paint. In fact, I had developed my own style. So I wish to remember! And I had always confused Impressionism for Expressionism. I’d learn the difference the year I started teaching English to student cooks at a state vocational institute. There would be one more thing that I’d learn, about relations…

Pond of Water Lilies (1899). Claude Monet

Memory of the student cooks: Different starting point and common destination

I had limited teaching experience at vocational institutes when I started working with that particular group of students. I was certain that they could read anxiety on my face. Our lessons would be held in a traditional class, with a blackboard and chalk. I’d read education books about the importance of the environment and technology in learning. And wonder how I could retain any interest in our lessons in a class with no computer, no projector, no slides. I couldn’t see how I could possibly implement what I had been reading, and put an end to anxiety.

Some of the students were professional cooks interested in having their work experience accredited. They had practical knowledge and pleasures of cooking, and wanted to frame that by theory. Some were looking for a new professional career, using more of their talents. They may have studied a different subject, in Greece or abroad, and could see that it didn’t suit them anymore. They had different starting points and different experiences, yet they shared the same intention: to prepare for a significant change in their life. In that class, we all appreciated each other’s efforts to create a base for our dreams and expectations from life.

Pleasures of painting and communication

Around that time, I’d remember how much I enjoy painting. I’d illustrate the cover of the materials for our lessons. I’d select photos of paintings available online which would have a story to tell (never forgetting copyright!). I’d usually select Impressionist paintings, with Expressionist painting as an alternative option. Monet and his landscapes, Degas and his ballerinas, Kandinsky and the spiritual, would find their own place in our lessons.

The student cooks would respond in a positive manner. We’d have interesting discussions over the illustrated covers, with all making contributions equally valued. Like everyone else, they were waiting for the opportunity to express thoughts, concerns and interests in bloom. They were waiting for the right moment. After all, cooking is a form of art which demands the ability to appreciate beauty. Like when we plan to serve a fine meal.

Difference between Impressionism and Expressionism: The first impression and the deeper feeling

During our discussions, I came to understand that I was still confusing Impressionism for Expressionism. For some reason, I thought that there wasn’t much I could do about that. How lucky I was to be part of a group that viewed the class as the place to learn through exchanging experiences. Isn’t that the essence of adult education? Long before action research became a learning tool in adult education (in Greece), we piloted it effectively. We collected texts and photos of both Impressionist and Expressionist paintings, and discussed the differences between them.

The discussion was led by a student with a great understanding and appreciation of painting. He had lived abroad, in a country known for its love for the arts; a poor country with rich culture. Thanks to that student we all learned that if Impressionism is the first impression and the first response to what we see around us, Expressionism is the thought that follows and the deeper feeling. This explains why Impressionist painters favour brighter colours and Expressionists darker shades…

Murnau Street with Women. Wassily Kandinsky

Secret to meaningful relations: Celebrating uniqueness

Christmas was around the corner so we decided to put together a small party; a group gathering. We did enjoy learning from each other and that was a good reason to celebrate! There was a task for all; a task adding to creativity.

On that day, the desk turned into a buffet: tablecloth, napkins, feast of flavours and aromas. What the cooks had prepared was in bright colours, combined in harmony. We all favoured Impressionism. In between, there was a card; my contribution to the celebration. In the background, there were colourful wishes. Around the buffet, there was a friendly and ever-growing group of people. You see, the celebration was open to all in the institute who wished to share the festive mood. It turned out to be a good number of people.

On that day, we all enjoyed ourselves. We as a team and our visitors. In that traditional class, defined by the blackboard and chalk, there was a place for everyone and everything: dreams and expectations; anxieties and worries; knowledge and experience.

Learning the difference between Impressionism and Expressionism meant essentially learning what it takes to have meaningful communication with others. It became clear that the main “ingredient” for meaningful relations with others is the ability to recognise and appreciate the starting point and the destination of each individual; to celebrate everyone’s uniqueness. That is a simple recipe tested!

Have a creative week


If you wish to find out more about Monet, my favourite painter, you can read Michael Howard: The Treasures of Monet. Musée Marmottan Monet (2007)

About Kandinski, the book he wrote to explain his work: Concerning the Spiritual in Art. Dover Publications (2012 Kindle Edition)

Pictures: Visual art encyclopedia

Comments (9)

  • Sushmita

    28 October 2019 at 00:57

    I learned a pretty new thing today. Though I have always known the importance of communication in a relationship, this gave me a whole new perspective!

  • Kayleigh

    24 October 2019 at 21:56

    Between the two, my eye is more drawn to expressionism. I like the contrasting colours and the more modern aesthetic. And I’m a little on the “emo” side so maybe that has something to do with it too!

  • Kristin

    23 October 2019 at 04:48

    My daughter loves anything that has to do with art. She often paints and loves every second of it! I let her draw, paint, color, or create things out of play dough all day long. I love that she uses her own imagination instead of being stuck on a tablet or phone! Art is such a great outlet for anyone to let go of emotions or feelings that aren’t good for the soul. I love your message here, Thanks for sharing!

  • Erica (The Prepping Wife)

    22 October 2019 at 15:33

    I’ve never been good at painting. I don’t have that eye for colors or appreciation. I’m much better at writing. So I can’t say I really knew the difference between impressionism and expressionism. I’ve always admired people who can be that creative. This sounds like a real learning and growing experience for you! Those are the best kind of memories, because they leave a lasting impression on you.

  • Mariana

    22 October 2019 at 04:57

    I am a big fan of Monet’s work and when I first saw the first painting, I instantly thought it was Monet’s, which it was. Landscapes are my favorite part about paintings, I love so much landscape paintings and how you can see all the colors mixed at close sight, but while getting farther from the painting they all combine.
    I will try to find The Treasures of Monet and learn more about his work. Thank you for the suggestion!

  • Daphne Takahashi

    22 October 2019 at 04:13

    Loved the way you intertwined art and communication with others! Beautifully written! Thanks for sharing your vision!

  • The Sunny Side Lifestyle Co.

    21 October 2019 at 17:15

    Joanna, thank you for sharing your perspective on appreciating, respecting and listening to others. It doesn’t matter what we are learning, from cooking to art, the dialogue is the most important part of the learning process. These tools are essential not only learning, but also in living a full life.

  • Sarah Emery

    20 October 2019 at 06:02

    What a fantastic explanation on how the main “ingredient” became concluded for a meaningful communication with others through impressionism and expressionism. Taking the time to understand another’s perspective is key, and this article put it so eloquently. Great piece!

  • Scott DeNicola

    18 October 2019 at 21:34

    Very true indeed! In this world of digital everything, communication seems to be taking a back seat. Talking opens up a lot of doors. I tell my children that all the time. Put your phones down for a minute and speak to someone and have a discussion.

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