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I found out why this paint-by-numbers kit was on Oprah's Favorite Things list

I'm not artistic, but Modern Monet makes me feel like I am.
Illustration of Modern Monet paint-by-numbers kits
Courtesy Jess Bender

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Art has never been my forte. I’ve never been coordinated with a pair of scissors and I’m practically incapable of coloring within the lines. And don’t even get me started on my drawing skills! (Games of Pictionary and Telestrations are disastrous from the moment my marker hits the pad.)

And yet something compelled me to become interested in paint-by-numbers again in the midst of quarantine. Perhaps it was the months I’ve spent indoors, yearning for a creative outlet that doubled as escapism. Or maybe it was my wanting a taste of the good old days. Either way, I wanted to find some solace with a paintbrush in hand — and Modern Monet made that daydream accessible for me.

You’ll have some wanderlust doing it

Featured on Oprah’s Favorite Things list in 2020, Modern Monet makes high-quality paint-by-numbers kits that double as DIY masterpieces. Each of their six kits are inspired by different destinations around the world that might stir up some feelings of wanderlust. The Amalfi Coast, Santorini and Venice are definitely on my bucket — and painting — lists. But as Audrey Hepburn would say, “Paris is always a good idea.” (Also, the color scheme dominating the Eiffel Tower kit matched my apartment’s aesthetic the best.)

It’s a childhood favorite — but with an adult complexity

While it might seem like your average paint-by-numbers kit on the outside, you’ll quickly discover how intricate it is. Included with your printed canvas (yes, this paint-by-numbers is on a canvas — so fancy!) are four brushes with bristles of different shapes and sizes; a tube topper that doubles as a cup for your supplies; a map to help you find numbers you’ve missed during the painting process; and 24 acrylic paints across nature’s color spectrum including various shades of sky blue, cirrus cloud gray, brassy embers and bucolic greens. The high quality of the kit alone impressed Amazon reviewers, so much so that it currently has a 4.4-star rating on the platform.

If Oprah can do it, so can you

I initially imagined Modern Monet as a relaxing way to spend a long holiday weekend with my boyfriend since we weren’t going to be with our respective families. It ultimately was — but it just took a little bit of getting used to the complexity of it all. Some numbered areas are small enough to only require a single touch of your paintbrush. Other areas take wild twists and turns to add shade and shadows to trees, fluffy clouds and the iconic Champ de Mars tower.

Fortunately, as Modern Monet’s website enthusiastically states, “there are no rules” for finishing your painting. My boyfriend and I also found ourselves not only working on this project as a team, but also during our own spare time. Our strategy for finishing our Parisian landscape was painting our own respective sides: me to the left, him to the right. The first hour was a little messy — mainly on my part; I didn’t realize it was a better idea to work my way to the outside from the middle until I was covered in whites and grays.

The process eventually became easier once we started noticing the significance of each number, so we painted whole sections instead of tirelessly hunting for numbers throughout the canvas. He painted happy little trees in the middle of the night, while I found myself layering clouds over blue skies in the early morning hours. Although the tube noted that this was a 12-hour project, we collectively finished our masterpiece in less than 10.

Courtesy Jess Bender

After all of our hard work, the final product was absolutely captivating. The details we captured of the Eiffel Tower almost look like we set up an easel in front of it and painted it there. From the structure’s latticework and the subtle shadowing on the clouds to the small bench parked right in the middle of it all, Modern Monet’s interpretation of the Parisian landscape practically looks like a blown-up photograph from afar.

While I’m nowhere near the artist that I’d like to be, at least I can say I’m pretty good at painting in between the lines. And I have the evidence to prove it hanging on my wall!

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