Handwriting of the Masters: Delacroix and Degas

Throughout our lives, we are told was it right and wrong. We are told what is the norm and to follow directions. When are young and like to draw, we like to copy and trace whatever we can get our eyes and hands on. I remember drawing the Mighty Ducks logo so many times. Now some people might tell you that tracing and copying is wrong. I disagree. Although we shouldn’t copy and trace for our whole lives, we can use this technique to become dramatically better at a skill (drawing).

People copy other people all the time, from impersonations to DIY videos and watching your favorite cartoon show and mimicking what you saw. It’s a way to let go of who you are and step into the shoes of someone else. To relax a bit and let someone guide you. We can also see this when a child does what the parents do, or when someone is asking another person to repeat something, you’ll find that they repeat it the exact same tone and pitch of the speaker.

My point is that we should copy artwork of the masters of Art. To see and draw like they drew and to let go of our old habits and see if we can have another quality in our creativity and begin to grow and evolve our skill set. Of course, we can’t copy for our whole art career, but especially when we are getting started it will be a great tool for practice. We looked at two artists this week, Delacroix and Degas.

Eugene Dalacroix

Eugene Delacroix – 1798 – 186.3, A French man and leader of the Romantic movement. He almdelacroix-photoost died multiple times growing up. When he was a baby from a burn from a neglectful nurse who dropped a candle in the cradle after falling asleep and another time was dropped into the sea after climbing into a ship, almost died of poisoning and imitated a man who hanged himself. When he went to the High School, he was recognized and was mentored. His paintings were controversial as they depicted historical events in a raw and unfit manner. Some of these include people suffering during a war, people being murdered by an order of a king and depicted the French revolution through one of his paintings. While his stay in Algeria once the French took over their land. He produced over 100 drawings and painting depicting the northern African people and the surroundings. He was asked to paint murals and it took him a long time and he got fatigued so he went to his countryside cottage where he died with his house helper.

Full biography here

Since his paintings were very controversial due to the subject matter of his paintings, I will not be linking a video about him

Delacroix’s Handwriting

He used lots of free-flowing lines to feel out his subject. Many lines that were fluid and loose. Once he was able to capture his subject he then focused on areas of the subject that were interesting. His handwriting is a bit difficult if you the type who likes to be perfect and can’t understand why you would want to make messy lines when you don’t need to. I enjoy this type of drawing because it helps to break away from the norm of drawing we are usually taught.


Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas – 1834 – 1917, French, his Father was a banker, his Mother was an Amedegas-photorican, while at school he was an average student who was uncommunicative and “in the clouds”, he got decent marks in art but same as other students or worse. He started a career in art soon after school. In 1853, he was given permission to copy paintings from the Louvre in Paris. In 1855, he gained admission to Ecole des beaux Arts, but left after 1 year to travel for 3 years in Italy where he copied other masters. He met Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres which he looked up to, he have Degas advise

“Draw lines young man, and still more lines, both from life and from memory, and you will become a good artist”.

In 1859, he wanted to make a name for himself so he made lots of painting and submitted them to the Salon, they didn’t like his work. In 1862, he met with Edourad Manet and were friendly rivals. Upset about the mainstream art scene, they began to make their own art movement. In 1873, they made a group called Society of Independent Artists, would later be known as the impressionists. Over the next 12 years, they staged exhibitions showing their work. Edgar died in 1917

Full biography here

Degas’ Handwriting

His handwriting was full of lines and more lines. He liked to restate his lines over and over so he could get the best representation of his subject. He liked to used hatching marks to annotate tone and value in his drawings. Many students like his work because it’s forgiving and it’s fun to make hatching marks. Just make sure you stick to his pattern and you’ll be drawing like Degas in no time


Class Summary

During the class, they practiced drawing like the two artists mentioned above and tried to copy their artwork as close as possible after they were given a brief biography of each artist. There wasn’t enough time in class to finish all the activities, so I gave it for homework.


For homework, I would like each student to read the First Chapter in Keys to Drawing, Choose one of the two artists’ handwriting and draw three types of drawing.

  • A portrait of someone (no face please)
  • Still Life
  • Landscape

Each drawing should take at least 25 minutes to complete and I will be looking for quality and nothing rushed.

Thank you to my students for being so interested in my classes.and doing such a great job with your drawings.


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