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”.
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.