Drawing: Great Masters – Edgar Degas

1401 003Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas, La Chanson du Chien. Lithograph, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (top above)

In these spontaneous, scribbly drawings you will see that the handwriting of Edgar Degas.  His handwriting is the total opposite of Van Gogh’s.

Degas had an elegant and graceful line and used parallel tonal strokes to create the contour of the figure.  Thick strokes placed close together show the darker tones and the more spaced tones show the lighter ones.  Degas loved to use thick sharp pencils, crayons or pastels. Here the tonal strokes in the bodies are evenly spaced yet the ones in the background are crazy scribbles with directions changing every which way.

If you look closely at the drawings you will see the artist changing directions with a back and forth scribble.

The first drawing looks rather clumsy yet in contrast, the hands and face are indeed done in a “controlled writing” style.  You may also see some restatements on the arm and torso.  These help to lend character and liveliness to the drawing.

Degas loved the light and shows it elegantly here by leaving clear white areas on both figures.

“What I do is the result of reflection and study of the old masters. Of inspiration, spontaneity and temperament I know nothing.”
Edgar Degas

Well, all I can say is that the drawings above look pretty spontaneous to me. There are just enough marks to make a drawing, no more, no less.

Are you willing to practice leaving some clear white areas to show light as Degas has done?  Take this chance and your drawing will really turn a corner.  “Overworking” kills a drawing, and a painting too.  “Overworking” reminds me of hairdressers who keep cutting and cutting until your hair is way too short!


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