It’s one thing to paint a stationary subject and another to paint a moving one if you are using custom paint by number. In painting self portraits, the subject’s movement is unimportant. You only have to focus on painting it as it is. However, painting dancers is more challenging because you have two subjects – the dancer and the dance.

Not all dances are the same. Some dances are sensual, like Latin dances, while some are light and graceful, like ballet. Here are some basic steps to draw dance and movement:

Sense of Movement

Unlike painting self portraits, movements are emphasized in painting dance. Choosing the right angle is crucial in establishing the subject’s movement. Take a look at the painting below:

Sense Movement
(Artillery and Union infantry advancing toward the angle July 3, 1863 — Gettysburg (PA) cyclorama 2012.jpg taken from Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository)

Looking at the angles of the soldiers in the painting, you can say that they are charging to the right.

When painting dancers, refrain from using horizontal or vertical lines. In painting self portraits, the center of gravity is pronounced. Avoid doing this to emphasize the subject’s movement.

Other factors that can accentuate movement are lighter outlines, correct body proportion, perspective, and color.

Proper body proportion prevents the subject from looking weird. In contrast, correct color choice adds distance. Blue makes the dancer seem to move away from the audience, while red does the opposite.


Framing and cropping give the impression of where your dancer is moving on the canvas.

You can also add prominence to the dancer’s movement by painting different body parts facing different directions.

Here are some examples that you can check out:

  • “Dance” by Henri Matisse
  • “Dance Class” (1874) by Degas

Mood and Energy

An impactful painting can transmit its mood and energy to the audience. In painting dance, the audience should be able to feel its mood and energy.

Brushstrokes, colors, and lighting can affect the mood and energy in your painting. When these factors are strong and harsh, it can give off strong feelings. However, when these factors are lighter and gentler, they can give off a calmer mood and energy.

Here are some paintings that you can study:

  • “Blue Dancer” (Ballerina Blu) by Gino Severini
  • “Flamenco Dancer” by Sonia Delaunay
  • “Tango IV 2004” by Fabian Perez

Hair, Fabric, and Props

Make sure to balance and accentuate the movement of the hair, clothes/fabric, and props to the dancer’s movement.

Take a look at John Singer Sargent’s ‘El Jaleo’ (1882):

El Jaleo

The dancer’s movement is accentuated because of her body’s angle. You can also notice the fluidity of her fabric due to the lighter lines being used. Lastly, although the colors are darker, she still stands out because of her light background and white skirt.

Final Words

Painting dance and movement can be challenging at first. However, with constant practice, you can create a painting that can effectively portray dance and movement. Just make sure that you have both patience and dedication along the way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *