Degas Redux

Ballerina in Oil

Over the weekend, I spent more time watching my private art student paint than engaging in my own work.  I’ll post my own watercolor momentarily, but first wanted to show you this piece.

I am posting the results of the second day spent on this oil painting of a ballerina.  My student spent the first day toning the background and blocking in the body without the tutu.  Today, she continued rendering the shadows and highlights throughout the body, and then scumbled the first layers of the tutu.

As I watched this painting emerge from the gloom, I could visualize Edgar Degas carving out a female form on toned paper, with a stick of pastel in hand.  Indeed this young student seemed just as fast and deft with a brush as I imagined Degas in his studio.  Watching this ballerina come forth from the gathering darkness was quite an enchanting experience for me, and I am sure my student felt the same level of thrill and accomplishment.  What an amazing experience the artist knows, watching life emerge from the abyss, knowing that s/he is the one making it happen.

Again, I must express amazement at this student’s level of concentration and focus on the work at hand.  Viewing a projection of a black-and-white photo of this subject, this young artist chose a sepia background, mixing her own combination of green oxide, cadmium yellow deep, ultramarine blue and burnt umber, with traces of cadmium red medium.  Turning to the figure, she chose to work lavenders into the shadows and yellows into the highlights, again using no “factory” flesh pigments, but blending her own flesh tones from a combination of primary and secondary colors.  This canvas is approximately 14 x 16″ (not in my possession at the moment) and my student has put in about 3 hours on it so far.  She will probably complete it at the next session.

I cannot express my level of pride in her work.  As stated in previous posts, she is currently in the ninth grade, seeking entrance into a magnet school for the visual arts in the fall.  She is about two weeks away from submitting her portfolio of drawings and paintings.  I have had the privilege of working with her only since last October, and am amazed to see what she has produced.  She has so much to offer to the world of visual art, and possesses as much enthusiasm as ability to create.

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4 Responses to “Degas Redux”

  1. Carolyn Says:

    David – thanks for sharing your student’s work and story with us! It is a joy always to see a vision come to fruition, but to see it with a student, whether it is an “aha!” moment in the classroom or in the watching of talent unfold, is especially gratifying. I know your student is appreciative of your guidance in the learning process. What an amazing talent she has!


    • davidtripp Says:

      Thank you, Carolyn. These moments are indeed rare, aren’t they? I’m sorry I could not have “coached” her over several years instead of the equivalent of one “crash” semester. But, granted she gets into the school, she will have the very best in the coming years, and I indeed envy her future instructors. She is indeed remarkable!


  2. CELIA Says:

    I would just like to say thank you for posting this picture and your comments. I found it by accident as I was researching Degas for my own college work and in my ignorance I thought at first it was a Degas painting (that’s how good it is!) – I find it amazing and inspiring. Also your description of how it was done was very helpful to me as I am a novice art student with little practical experience. I’ll be putting a copy in my notes to help my own development if that’s OK!


    • davidtripp Says:

      Thank you, Celia. My student is profoundly honored that you looked at her work, thinking it was a Degas piece! She thanks you as well. Good luck with your research and art endeavors. It’s wonderful, reading your remarks.


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