DIY Copy the Masters: Henri Matisse

DIY Copy the Masters: Henri Matisse

Posted by DecoArt on Apr 5th 2020

Copy the colors, brush-strokes, and line making of Henri Matisse with Americana® Acrylics.


    • canvas
    • paintbrushes



    A great way to learn about the use of color, lines, and brushwork is to look to a past master painter. For this project, I chose Henri Matisse and his painting "The Cat With Red Fish", 1938. I will walk you through copying this painting to learn some of the techniques in his style of Fauvism.

    1. Sketch out the outline of the painting on a 16" x 20" canvas. (See attached pencil drawing.)
    2. Instruction #1
    3. Gather all of the colors to have them accessible. Using a loaded brush with Bright Yellow, paint the head of the cat with loose brush-strokes. While the paint is still wet, paint some Cadmium Yellow into the head in some areas.
    4. Instruction #2
    5. Leave some areas unpainted to reveal white canvas below. (See photo.) Also add Bright Yellow and Cadmium Yellow to the other areas in the painting using the same technique.
    6. Instruction #3
    7. Add Bright Orange to the body of the cat and the fish. Add Festive Green to the cat's shaded areas and to the water in the fish bowl.
    8. Instruction #4
    9. No blending is required. Using light brush-strokes and leaving a painterly look will be more true to the Fauvism style.
    10. Instruction #5
    11. With this style of painting, you can almost paint it like a paint-by-number painting because of the bold colors next to each other. Using Ultramarine Blue, paint the wall pattern, the sky, and the table. Mix Cherry Red, Bright Orange, and Snow White to paint the mountain and the shape in the foreground. (See lower right corner of photo.)
    12. Instruction #6
    13. Paint in areas of the fish bowl and background grass with Kelly Green, painting around the drawn shapes. (See photo.)
    14. Instruction #7
    15. While painting the pattern on the wall, leave some white canvas showing through. (This will act as a highlight later.)
    16. Instruction #8
    17. Fill in red areas with True Red, leaving unpainted areas around the shapes. (Also leave any areas that are black; these will be painted later.)
    18. Instruction #9
    19. Let dry. When dry, paint over the same areas with Cherry Red to deepen the color. Dip a clean brush into Snow White and dab dots to make the trees in the background. Add Navy Blue and Bright Blue to the background shapes in the grass.
    20. Instruction #10
    21. Wet and load a liner brush with Lamp Black for the black outlines in the painting. (Watch the short attached video in Hero images to see the variation in pressure when painting the lines.)
    22. Instruction #11
    23. (See photo.) The important thing to remember in STEP 11 is that the lines are not all uniform. There is a variation in weight (thick to thin) and that is determined by pressure. Light pressure leaves a thin line, and more pressure will give thicker line.
    24. Instruction #12
    25. Continue this line work through out, looking at the original to see where black is used.
    26. Instruction #13
    27. With Snow White, dab over the tree areas again to brighten the design.
    28. Instruction #14
    29. Go back into the white canvas areas and paint with Snow White to brighten. If there are any areas that you feel need more paint, add now.
    30. Instruction #15


    Matisse-the Cat With Red Fishe
    Pencil Drawing