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 I know it’s an outdated stereotype, but I still wondered how it would work.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.



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  • connie

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

    • Patty Palmer

      They really enjoyed it. Like I said in the post, I focused on the story and then the technique of drawing a body and using chalk.

    • Jackie may

      Degas loves movement. He painted horses too. Have the boys paint horses

  • Runde's Room

    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

  • wendyadoula@gmail.com

    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! http://krokotak.com/2012/11/snowflake-ballerinas-for-crafty-moms/ The kids loved them! and they were so cute hanging all in a row!

    • Patty Palmer

      Oh my…these are adorable! Thank you for sharing. I already pinned the lesson to my Degas board!

  • Esther

    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

  • jen shears

    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

      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.

  • shearscj@comcast.net

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

  • jo

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

    • Patty Palmer

      Hi Jo,
      I just sent your comment to Neil. He’ll try and diagnose your problem.

  • Ann

    I home-educate my four in the UK and my youngest daughter loves the Laurence Anholt ‘artists’ books. Is it possible to buy just the lessons that are relevant to the books? So, I’m interested in this one, “Degas Dancers”, but can’t see how to buy it or how much it costs.

    • Patty

      Hi Ann,
      DSS no longer sells individual lesson plans. The Degas lesson will be included in an Impressionist unit inside the Members Club in March. I love the Anholt books too and have used them with many of my lessons.

      • Nicole Kazikiewicz

        I love your website and store! I have purchased Art 101, bundles and lesson plans and use them often. I can not begin to express how appreciative I am for all the hard work you have put into Deep Space Sparkle. You have brought art into our home, shown me that I can teach art and actually love it. I went from being the parent who taught all the science classes at our weekly co-op to the parent who teaches 2 art classes, grades K-2 & 3-6. Who knew this Science mathematical girl did have an artistic side and contemplating changing career paths. We have officially become the art family; art all over our walls, usually needing to clear the table of art projects daily, playdates being made for art making, nephews coming over wanting art lessons, and rooms getting revamped in order to store our rapidly accumulating art supplies. Thank you for bringing color and the love of art into our lives.

        Not being able to purchase individual lessons or bundles any longer, saddens me. As a homeschool mom and a parent who teaches art at our homeschool co-op, the members club is not a fit for us and does not work in our budget. I was looking forward to using your lesson plans in my next year’s famous artists curriculum. Over the last couple of years, I have been pinning your famous artist lessons for this year of study. The news that I must be a club member to purchase those lesson distresses me as I am in the middle of gathering and planning for those lesson plans.

        • Patty

          Hi Nicole,
          Thank you so much for your inspiring comment. I really appreciate hearing how Deep Space Sparkle has helped you! You can still purchase your pinned artist bundles so no need to feel distressed!
          Here they are:https://www.deepspacesparkle.com/product-category/art-lesson-bundles/

          The Members Club isn’t for everyone…and only you can determine how valuable art membership is in your home study. This, however, is a way for me to go all-in with the community who LOVES DSS. There are many home-schoolers in the club and they love it. Not only are lessons provided but you get interaction and training directly form me and other art specialists plus the amazing community! If you haven’t tried it, you totally should. It’s a no-brainer, really….try it and if you don’t like it, you can cancel at anytime.

          Thanks Nicole and keep creating!

  • cutebears7@comcast.net

    I’m a member and I just love all of your lessons. I recently bought a book about Misty Copeland and was going to share it with my second grade classes. I wanted to tie in Edgar Degas and his dancers. I saw you had a lesson, but it was dated I think 2013. I also saw that you told someone there would be a lesson in !arch 2017. Is there a Degas lesson I could access now?
    Thank you,

    • Patty

      Hi Stacey,
      What an awesome idea to incorporate the Misty Copeland book! This Degas lesson plan will be included with the Impressionist bundle that will be released on Feb 13th. There will be at least one more dancer lesson in the bundle. I’ll need to add the Copeland book in the resources, too!

  • Melanie

    How do I get the lesson for the Degas Dancers?

    • Patty

      It’ll be released inside the membership on Feb 13th.

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