Degas once said, “No art is less spontaneous than mine.”










I recently went to the Degas exhibit at the Denver Art Museum and was struck by the wonderful combination of showing his sketches and sketchbooks with his oil paintings and pastel works.   It really gives the viewer the experience of discovering what goes into the making of a masterpiece.  Many of his large works have a loose use of brushstrokes and hints of his black “sketched” lines that he used to lay out his compositions with.  The effect it creates is one of art done with some spontaneity and life to it.  Degas said, “No art is less spontaneous than mine.  What I do is the result of reflection and the study of the great masters.”

Below is one example of a pencil study or sketch he did to prepare himself for his bigger works of art.  Degas studied from live models as well as from past masterpieces of famous artists.  Now a days it is easy with the internet to forget how important it is to see art work in person. Then you can get the full effect of the amazing colors and techniques the artists have used and their full visual effect.  Everyone can enjoy this without being an “artist”.

Degas study sketch with light pencil grid lines to help him draw figure in proportion.



For artists’ working today my take away is that any time spent studying your subjects and art techniques is time well spent.  It really gives you a knowledge base with which to create your own masterpieces. Detailed study does not mean your final art work needs or will be tight and lack that spontaneous feel.   So get out those sketchbooks, pencils, and paints and create.


  1. Micky Renee

    I love this! And I have always loved Degas. I am staying in NYC for the summer with my uncle and the other night he showed me a dance studio that has blinds that are lifted in the day. There’s a bench outside where you can sit and watch live dancers dancing in the studio. I can’t wait to grab a sketch book and some pencils and markers and draw some live models. Thanks again for the great article and the inspiration you have given me!


    1. Thanks for reading, so excited it inspired you! Wow that is so cool you can watch the dancers,happy sketching!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Degas is an art hero of mine too! Ever since I began looking carefully at his art online, then reading a biography of him plus other books about the impressionists and their interactions and relationships. I guess I focused on him eventually when I began using pastel myself.

    And it is definitely hard where I live too, to observe dancers in action. Privacy issues arise about what are usually minors in age. Around here, sometimes a professional artist model has a background in ballet and can offer poses (for a fee) in an open studio, that you can sketch or even photograph (with permission) and use ethically.

    So, if you had some others who wanted the same, it might become affordable to try one session and see if it meets your needs. I hope your opportunity delivers for you! But that could become just the beginning for you. Good luck.


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