Dancing with Degas

It's an unbreakable rule in art circles that you work only from your own reference photos, and for work that will be shown in competition or sold, I adhere strictly to that rule.  However, when I saw the photograph that prompted this painting, in an old magazine ad for the ballet in New Zealand, I just couldn't resist, The composition, with its deep space and cut-off figure at the right, was very reminiscent of Degas' ballet and cabaret paintings.  Photography was a young science in Degas' time, and he, like many other artists of the day, was fascinated by its ability to capture a "snapshot" of real life as opposed to posed, stiff tableaux, resulting in many compositions with partial figures along the edges. As well, the artificial light of the stage, bathing the principal dancer in a dramatic glare from the footlights, also reminded me of the many paintings in which Degas used heavily textured layers of brightly coloured pastel to recreate the unnatural brightness and temperature of stage lighting.

I did change the principal dancer from the male in the photo to a female, wanting to introduce a hint of a storyline (is the lefthand dancer jealous of the principal dancer?  Is her hands-on-hips gesture one of pique or simply readiness for her entrance?), and also enjoying creating her tulle skirt, uplit by the footlights. I also simplified the surroundings quite a bit, eliminating distracting props and scenery fragments.

So, this one was just for the pleasure of doing it--but I am framing it for my six year old granddaughter's birthday! I called it "In the Wings" and am indebted to the unknown photographer for the inspiration.