Degas Dancer Art Lesson

Ballerina art project

I’ve always been partial to drawing the human form. In fact, I really don’t think I’ve ever had any interest in drawing anything else. From a young age, I only drew fashion models, gymnasts, figure skaters and the occasional ballerina. But drawing the human form takes practice. Lots of it. Rarely can a child whip out a perfect human body the first time around. With this in mind, I develop all my lessons on the human form with a bit of caution. Focusing more on shapes and proportion rather than movement.

I’ve always adored Edgar Degas and his paintings of the Paris Opera House dancers. But like many of you, I wondered if I could put together a lesson that would appeal to both boys and girls. I know it’s an outdated stereotype, but I still wondered how it would work. After I studied the Dancer paintings and saw how technical they were, I knew that if I approached the dancers on a technical basis, all children could relate.

So without much focus on the ballerinas, I read Laurence Anholt’s book, Degas and the Little Dancer, which was not only an emotional read but artistically engaging (Anholt used Degas paintings as inspiration for the illustrations in the story). After the story and studying Degas’s paintings, the children (all children) were enraptured. This is the key, I think. To focus on the emotion of the dancer and the artist as well as understand how the body is really just a series of simple shapes.

My Degas Dancer Art Lesson Plan details the process and how even the boys succeeded in drawing a simple, but beautiful human form.

Degas Dancer Art Lesson

This lesson took two, 45-minute class sessions.





  1. connie says:

    how does this lesson go with the boys in your class?

  2. Runde's Room says:

    I LOVE this! The minute I saw it earlier today, I put it on my wishlist. My two little ballerinas at home are going to be floored! :)

    Runde’s Room

  3. says:

    I did the cutest activity with art camp last year that would go so well with this lesson for quick finishers. They were dancer snowflakes! The kids loved them! and they were so cute hanging all in a row!

  4. Esther says:

    Thanks a million for this wonderful idea, I’ve done it this month with my 6 years old kids and they loved it. You can see their works at my blog

  5. jen shears says:

    Hi Patty!
    I’m checking with Kimm to see if we’ve already purchased this lesson- I’m wondering about the 2 classes for completion- could it be done in one longer class or is there drying that needs to happen???

    • Patty Palmer says:

      You can probably do this lesson in one session but of course, it depends on how long you have. To read the book plus do the lesson required about 70 minutes for my group of 30 kids. If you have a smaller group, you can do the lesson in less time….especially if you don’t read the story.

  6. says:

    We used this lesson today & it was great!! The kids all seemed to enjoy it :)
    Thank you!!

  7. jo says:

    Hi Patty, your website and lesson inspiration are amazing …. but I can’t seem to buy them … do you have any advice?! Thanks Jo

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About Patty

I teach art to 400 school children in Goleta, California. My art library contains hundreds of free art lesson ideas. My shop has art lesson plans, videos and resources to help you teach art to kids. It's a whole lot easier with Deep Space Sparkle.

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