An Impressionistic Worldmap

Create a fresh and innovative artwork for the “impressionism” collection! That call/suggestion/recommendation I received at the beginning of March in an email from Art Heroes, the platform my webshop is connected to. I like that kind of challenge. And with my collection of world maps in mind, an impressionistic world map was a natural choice. But it wasn’t that easy, creating a map in the style of nineteenth-century French painters.

Colorful impressionist world map
An impressionistic world map

New techniques

First of all: what exactly is impressionism? The movement emerged around 1860, when young artists like Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, and Camille Pissarro began to experiment with new techniques and subjects. They often went out into nature to paint. By working outdoors, they could better capture the effects of light and atmosphere.

Instead of accurately depicting details, the impressionists focussed on portraying fleeting moments and impressions. They created vibrant, spontaneous compositions that tried to capture the emotion and essence of a subject.

Part of the Impressionist World Map, showing Europe, the Middle East, Northern Africa, the Atlantic Ocean and parts of the Americas
Vibrant compositions


Impressionist painters were fascinated by the way light influences the perception of color. They often used short, loose brushstrokes and bright colors to capture the illusion of light and movement.

Impressionistic paintings are characterized by the absence of hard contour lines. Instead, shapes and contours are suggested by subtle transitions in color and tone.

1 tot 1 detail of an impressionist world map, with parts of Europe and Asia
Subtle transitions


I often use a combination of filters, layers, and other effects in Photoshop for my digital paintings. But this time, that didn’t yield results I was happy with. So, I had to try something new: brushes. Real digital brushes.

I was drawn to an icon in Photoshop’s toolbar that I had somewhat overlooked until recently: that of the Art History Brush. It derives its colors from an underlying layer or an earlier version of a layer. The great thing about Photoshop brushes is that you can give them a certain randomness. You can vary not only the size and angle of the brush within certain limits, but also the color.

Windows with settings using the Art History Brush in Adobe Photoshop
Windows with settings

Color in color

By moving a brush over the surface in that way, a colorful and, indeed, impressionistic interpretation of the world map appeared. With colors based on NASA’s famous Blue Marble maps, which show the Earth in realistic colors.

But also with a lot of color blends. “Work color in your color!”, our art teacher Jerry van der Raaf always used to say in the seventies of the last century, at Blaise Pascal high school in Spijkenisse. I never understood what he meant. But now I do.

Work in progress on a digitally painted impressionistic world map
Work in progress


Next, I added some extra layers. A splash layer, which enhances the impressionistic feeling even more. A grunge layer that provides some extra color variations. And a relief layer that adds even more detail to the whole. Submarine mountains turn out to look surprisingly much like brush strokes.

1 to 1 detail of an impressionist world map showing South East Asia
Impressionism in Southeast Asia


I doubted whether I wanted to show borders and coastlines in my map, as a kind of grooves or cracks in the surface. I presented the dilemma to the Facebook panel, which was quite unanimous in the advice: no lines. And as we saw earlier, it doesn’t really fit with impressionism, which works with smooth transitions. Yet in the end result, there are still some lines visible but much less prominent than I initially planned. The borders are fading, and that’s how it should be in a world that is actually one.

Two versions of an impressionist world map: one with and one without national borders and coasts as lines
With or without lines?

Knowledge and understanding

And so you see what a simple email can lead to. More knowledge and understanding of one of the most important art movements of the last two hundred years. A beautiful addition, if I may say so myself, to my growing collection of world maps. And that Art History Brush, I’m definitely going to use it more often!

Impressionist painting of a living room, AI-generated, with on the wall an impressionist world map, painted in Photoshop
An impressionistic living room

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