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Monday, April 29, 2013

Edgar Degas

"A picture is first of all a product of the imagination of the artist; it must never be a copy . . . . The air we see in the painting of the old masters is never the air that we breathe."

Edgar Degas
French Painter
1834 - 1917

We all need to encourage, foster and invest in our imagination.  Without imagination, most art, writing and music fail.  Imagination is what we the creators bring to the table.  All creative people have the same raw material.  How we mold and shape that material is what makes each creative person different. 

If we merely copy the work of others, then we are technicians following a pattern.  We need to alter and reshape the landscape of the world we inhabit.  We must imagine new ways of seeing.

Young children are very imaginative.  We all need to become a child again and see the world through a child's eyes.  We need to see the world as if we have never seen it before.  We need to see the world with fresh eyes untainted by experience and knowledge.

Creative Practice
This week I want you to step outside your comfort zone and explore the movement of your body.  Find a large space and where you can move about freely.  Dress in loose-fitting clothes.  Move about the space and explore the following through movement.  (You may want to watch the video below before you start.)
  • Become the color red.
  • Change into a rabbit.
  • Become light blue.
  • Fly like an eagle.
  • Become the color green.
  • Climb like a monkey.
  • Become the tree the monkey is climbing.
  • Become bright pink.
  • Become a runner who has just finished a marathon.
  • Become the bride walking down the aisle to her future husband.
Now, sit down and write for 30 minutes.  After you have finished writing, ask yourself what you learned through this process.  How did the movement influence your writing?

Background of Artist
Edgar Degas was born in Paris, France, the eldest of five children of a modestly wealthy family.  His mother died when he was thirteen.  He began painting at a young age.  His father wanted him to study law, but he did not apply himself to his studies.  He entered art school when he was twenty.  He also spent three years in Italy studying the Italian masters. In 1872 he traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana where his Creole mother was from.  He lived with relatives for a short period of time.

Degas is often identified with the Impressionists, though, he did not identify himself in that way.  He preferred to be called a realist.  His style showed a deep respect for the old masters whom he copied well into middle age.  He began by painting conventional historical paintings such as the Daughter of Jephthah (1859 - 1861) and the Young Spartans (1860 - 62).  In the late 1860's, Degas shifted his subject matter from historical events to contemporary life.  He painted women such as milliners and laundresses at work.  In 1868 he exhibited the first of his paintings of dancers.  More than half his creative output is of dancers.

One of the most powerful classes I have ever taken was a class in in creative drama where we explored the world around us through our bodies.  In order to portray a character, actors have to have immense imagination.  Watch this video of a acting class.