Level IV-Lesson 10: Drawing People with Degas
Learn to draw a human figure in proper proportions and use it to show a person in action
The lesson is suitable for students in grade 6 through adult.
Art Lesson Description
In this lesson you will learn to draw a properly proportioned, generic human figure. The lesson provides a simple way to bend the initial drawing into an action figure, add clothes, and color the figure with chalk pencils on textured card stock. You can turn your figure into a dancer, athlete—whatever you like!
Beginners who draw people often get so caught up in minor details that the overall human form gets distorted. This lesson helps people avoid such pitfall in three ways:
- The lesson provides a simplified way to draw hands and faces,
- The paintings of Degas are used to inspire a loose, less detailed approach, and
- Using chalk pencils on card stock frees us to use a less detailed style.
Please note: The video version and the PowerPoint version of the lesson use different media. Using chalk pencils—not chalk pastels—and using heavily textured paper like textured card stock are both important to the PowerPoint lesson’s success. Oil pastels are used for the video version of the lesson.
This lesson includes both POWERPOINT and VIDEO versions of the lesson plus 2 downloadable printouts: a warmup and a drawing of a generic figure.
List of Supplies for Each Student:
- 1 copy of the warm-up (this is included with the lesson)
- 1 fine tipped permanent black marker
- 1 scissors
- Masking tape
- 1 sheet of textured paper for chalk pencils (PowerPoint Version)
- 1 sheet of 8.5” x 11” copy paper (the kind used in printers) (PowerPoint Version)
- 1 HB drawing pencil and one charcoal white pencil (PowerPoint Version)
- 1 set of chalk pencils (PowerPoint Version)
- 1 sheet of 11" x 15" watercolor paper (Video version)
- 1 sheet of 11" x 14" drawing paper (Video version)
- Oil pastels (Video version)
- A printout of the generic person (Video version) (this is included with the lesson)
Suggestions for Cross-Curricular Connections:
Edgar Degas for younger students:
- “Degas and the Little Dancer” by Laurence Anholt.
- Edgar Degas: Paintings That Dance (Smart About Art) by Maryann Cocca-Leffler.
- I Dreamed I Was a Ballerina by Anna Pavlova. A dancer tells her story. Illustrated with pictures painted by Degas. For children 8-12.
- Bijou, Bonbon and Beau: The Kittens Who Dance for Degas, by Joan Sweeney.
- Degas Paintings: 24 Full-Color Cards (Card Books).
- Edgar Degas (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists) by Mike Venezia.
- Degas and the Little Dancer - Children's Art Education Storybook.
Edgar Degas and Impressionism for older students:
- A story about Degas’ “Little Dancer” for older children and adults.
- Impressionism A&I (Art and Ideas) by James Henry Rubin.
Cooking: Make Pavlova, a dessert that was created by an Austrian chef in honor of a ballet dancer.
Approximate Time to Complete the Art Class:
- Drawing the generic figure: 25 minutes
- Tracing the figure onto textured paper and color with chalk pastels: 60+ minutes
- Total time: 85 minutes