Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Degas in Motion

This project is adapted from a lesson I saw in the book "Discovering Great Artists" by MaryAnn Kohl  and Kim Solga. While this project is quick and simple, it really illustrates the idea if movement in art.

Car moving across the page...
We started off by brainstorming different ways to show an object moving in a drawing or painting. I asked the children to draw a ball bouncing in their sketchbooks. Some drew a round ball with a line on the page showing the path the ball had traveled (kind of like in a cartoon). I told them that this was a way to given the idea of movement, but it was more of a thinking way of interpreting movement. Our brain knows when we see a line like that, the artist is trying to depict how the object traveled. BUT it doesn't SHOW movement. Other children used repetition with value to SHOW movement. They drew multiple copies of the ball with the drawings getting lighter in value the further they were from the real ball. This gave the visual illusion of the path the ball had traveled and, in doing that, allowed our eyes to follow that path and move, visually, across the page.

If you look at the paintings and drawings Degas did of racehorses and dancers, you can see he used repetition and value. Degas would often repeat the image of the horses' legs and the folds of the dancers' skirts many times which gave the illusion of movement. He also repeated entire forms throughout a painting to lead the viewer's eye throughout the piece--so we could take in all that was going on within the painting. He was a pretty smart guy!

A great children's book about Degas is "Edgar Degas: Paintings That Dance," by Kristin N. Cole and Maryann Cocca-Leffler. This wonderful book about Degas is great for illustrating the concept of motion in Degas' work.

Motorcycle flying off a jump...

Degas in Motion

Supplies Needed:
  • One 3" x 5" index card (blank, no lines) or card stock
  • Pencil and eraser
  • Sharpie marker, black
  • Scissors
  • Crayons
  • One 9" x 12" piece white construction paper or other heavyweight paper
  • Masking Tape
  • Newspaper or cardbaord
  • Paintbrush
  • Tempera paint, we used black, blue or green
  • Cup for paint
  • Colored pencils, optional
  • Glue stick

1. Draw an object that moves onto the index card. Make sure it isn't too detailed and it takes up most of the index card, since you don't want to have the children drawing a bug that is about the size of a dime!

Some objects that work well are: a butterfly, a ladybug, an airplane, a submarine, a truck, a motorcycle, a superhero, a surfer, a skateboarder, etc.

2. Use the Sharpie to outline your object and fill in some of the details with the Sharpie, if you'd like. These will be colored in later.

3. Cut out your object with scissors.

4. So, how would this object move? Is your submarine ascending or descending into the deep? Is your motorcycle taking a jump? Is the butterfly moving diagonally across the page? Place your object onto the page and trace around it with crayon. Then move the object a bit and trace it again (you can use the same color crayon or a different color). The tracings should overlap slightly and move across the page in the way the real object would move. I told the children they needed to trace their shape about 5 times.

Make sure the crayon lines are nice and thick (you may need to go over them again).

5. Once you are done tracing your object, tape your paper to a stack of newspaper or a piece of cardboard to keep it flat. Thin a bit of tempera paint with water and paint a nice wash over the entire surface of your paper. The crayon lines will resist the paint so you'll be able to see them still.

6. While this is drying, use colored pencils to color in your object you drew on the index card.

7. When the background is dry, use a glue stick to attach the colored in object to the background along the path of movement. It now looks as though your object is moving across the page!

Ladybug scooting across a picnic blanket...


  1. Great idea - I love the motorbike! Fantastic way to teach movement :)

  2. What a fresh idea! It's difficult to get kiddos to show movement in their artwork and this look so easy. Thanks for an informative post and for the book recommendations.

  3. Thanks for sharing this great lesson! I've been looking for good ideas for movement with 4th grade, and I might be able to do something similar :).

  4. Thank you ladies! Let me know if you try it and how it goes with your kiddos!


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