The Star, by Edgar Degas
Pastel on paper, 1881
If there has ever been a master of the medium of pastel, it is Edgar Degas. Pastel is a really difficult medium to work with--finicky, grimy, and not for the faint of heart, because the colours aren't mixed ahead of time and application can't be pre-tested. There's no way to cover up the mistakes of a pastel error, like you could with acrylic or oil paint (or like you could rinse off, with some watercolour). I remember using soft pastels when I was very, very young; my grandmother had a small tray of them and let me do what I would with them, which was almost Degas quality.
Degas' skill is at its finest in The Star, which beautifully combines highlights and lowlights. If you look closely, you realize that solid colours aren't really solid--they're amalgamations of other, less delicately manifested hues. There's almost a texture to each part of Degas' painting: the cotton candy softness of the ladies' tutus; the scratchy, crisp texture of the prima ballerina's dress; the wooden, yet leathery footing of the stage. It's amazing.
Please send me your photos inspired by this painting by Monday, September 22nd. (God, it's almost October.) I can't wait to see how you all interpret this beauty.