Tuesday, April 3, 2018


Calendar is at bottom of post

Self-Portrait, 1863
Edgar Degas was born in France in 1834.  He was fascinated by movement and is famous for his pictures of dancers and racehorses.  By the time he was 63, he was getting old and suffering from eye problems, and rarely left his studio.  But he still worked furiously on drawings and sculptures of dancers, based on memory, imagination and earlier sketches.

The invention of photography inspired painters like Edgar Degas to create paintings that capture some of photography’s spontaneity.  Notice how informal this painting is of Degas and his friend.  What do you think makes this painting informal?  His friend is leaning back and he is not looking directly at the viewer – casual pose.  They are not sitting side by side in a pose.  Degas has his hand up to his chin.  What about the background?  It does not appear to be like a typical studio portrait.

Degas was fascinated by dancers and created over 1,500 pictures and sculptures of them.  Here it shows them in their restful, casual state listening to the dance instructor.

This picture is a glimpse of the dancers during rehearsal where some are dancing while others are resting or having costume adjustments.  Degas once said he wanted to “paint life through a keyhole”  meaning he wanted to capture people as they really looked, rather than formal poses.

Templeton Elementary School Art Literacy Program
Edgar Degas Bio Presentation
Art vocabulary word:  Impressionist

Edgar Degas (day-gah) was a French artist who lived from 1834 to 1917.  This is one of his self-portraits.

 He is most famous for his pictures of ballet dancers.  He did drawings, prints, paintings and sculptures of many subjects, but over half of them were of dancers.

 It turned out to be a good thing that Degas was so good at drawing dancers, because after his brother lost most of the family money, he had to earn as much as he could with his artwork, and pictures of dancers sold very well.

Degas was a very talented and well trained artist, and he was particularly good at showing the movement of figures.  Degas is thought of as a member of the Impressionists.  Impressionist artists did things very differently than the painters who came before them.  Impressionists liked to paint outdoors, and in cafes, and in the places where they could draw and paint from life, instead of inside a studio.  Impressionists often used bold brushstrokes and dabs of color that you could see, instead of blending everything perfectly.  Impressionists liked to show the light, and catch moments of time in their work, and to paint regular people doing everyday things, instead of only painting rich people and religious scenes. 

Degas himself did not think he was an impressionist.  He made fun of them, and he called himself a Realist.  He thought his art had more in common with traditional art, because it was very carefully planned, and he spent a lot of time studying the works of the Old Masters.  Art historians still say Degas was an impressionist.  His pictures are mostly of everyday people - working, doing laundry, at the theatre, at the racetrack.  He composed his pictures in modern ways, showing the figures from unusual angles or cutting them off with the edge of the frame.  His pictures captured little moments in time, which is very much what impressionism is all about.

Edgar Degas was known for being a very grumpy man, who said  mean things to lots of people, but he did make some lovely artwork.  And he said a few lovely things as well, like this quote from him:

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”

Templeton Elementary School Art Literacy Program
Degas Oil Pastel Figure Project

Getting ready

Presenters, first thing, please sign onto the Art Lit cart sign-out sheet on the wall.  That way we know where the art carts are at any time.  Next, please check the Art Lit cart for the supplies you will need.  The presentation folders and the tools should all be kept on the carts.  You will need to take a stack of black paper from the box on the counter.  These are the supplies you will need:

On the cart:
Presentation folder
Desk protector sheets (30)
Black paper (30 sheets)
Bag of pencils (30)
Pencil sharpener (1)

6 large plastic boxes of pastels
2 small pastel sets (just in case)
1 box of Q-tips
Baby wipes
Sports pictures in plastic sleeves (17)
Ballet dancer pictures in sleeves (16)

In the classroom, set up the kids’ places for them.  Each student starts out with a desk cover sheet, a sheet of black paper, and a pencil.  Each table group gets one large plastic box of pastels to share.  It’s possible someone may need to switch seats to be close to pastels.  If a kid sits all alone, give him or her a small single set to use.  Use your judgment on the Q-tips.  For older kids you might want to give each kid one to start.  For younger kids, you might want to hold onto them until the drawing is underway. 

The Project

(Things you might want to say to the kids are in purple.)  Try to think of questions to ask the kids as you go along.   Present the artist to the kids and show his work.  Then show them the samples of our project.  Put the Degas pictures and the project samples where the kids can see them.  Have the kids start by writing their names AND their teacher’s name in pencil on the back of their paper.  Tell them to write hard so it shows up on the black paper.


Today we are going to do oil pastel drawings of figures, like Degas used to do.  You can choose to draw a ballet dancer, or an athlete.  (Have the kids hold up their hands for who wants dancers or athletes, and hand out the sleeves of pictures to work from.  If by chance there are not enough of one kind, kids will have to share with the kid next to them, or switch seats and do that.) 

We are going to do the pictures on black paper, so the bright and light colors will show up more than the dark ones.  Think about your picture before you start using the pastels.  Think about how you will compose the picture.  Composition means the way the parts of a picture are arranged.   For this project it means where the figure will be on the page, how large it will be, and how the colors you use balance with each other.  If you want to draw more than one figure in your picture you can.  Also think about what colors you want to use. 

Start by using your pencil to lightly draw the shape of the figure.  You don’t have to erase, because the pastel will cover up the pencil lines. If drawing a person seems hard to you, just look at the picture you are going to use and think of it as a group of shapes.  If you can draw the simple shapes you see with your pencil, then afterwards you can color them in pastel and make them look like a person.
You don’t have to use the colors that are in the picture you are working from.  You can change the colors of the clothing or the person any way you want to.  You can use many colors, or only a couple of them.   If you like, you can draw a background, or part of one, to show where your figure is.  You don’t have to color in the whole page.  You can leave as much black as you like. 


If you want to blend your oil pastel lines, you can rub them with a finger, or with a Q-tip.  If you want to mix colors, you can do that by drawing lightly with one color, then going over it lightly with another color.  
If you want to show light shining on your figure, use a lighter color on the parts of your figure that are being lit up.  Degas showed how the stage lights were lighting up his ballet figures this way.  It can work the same way with athletes who are outside in the sun. 


Please try to make sure the pastels go back into the same containers, and get the lids back on securely.  Each container has a certain selection of colors, and if they are moved around, some kids will not have the colors they need. Please count the pictures in plastic sleeves and the pencils before you leave the room, and ask kids to look for missing items.   After kids clean up the supplies, they will probably need to wash hands.   PLEASE SAVE ALL UNUSED PAPERS FOR RE-USE.  Put them into the box in the library.  Save unused Q-tips too.  Take all projects back to the Art Lit area, do not leave them in teachers’ rooms.  The projects can go into the folder with your teacher’s name on it.  Folders will be on the counter.