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A Dancer Deserves to be Painted

Updated on January 27, 2014

Ballet Photo or Ballet Painting?

Have you ever heard the comment "This painting looks just like a photograph!" I think such a remark is often intended to be a compliment to the artist. Yet as an artist myself, a remark like this would send me back to the drawing board!

The way a camera sees is vastly different from the way a human being sees.This lens explores how we see and what goes into the mix of an artist 'seeing' a subject and then painting a painting.

If you enjoy this lens, please mark it as a favorite, and sign my guestbook !

There are wonderful books about ballet at the end - well worth checking out!

Thank you so much for visiting.

A Camera or a Canvas

"My Dance Teacher's Tutu" by Ann Radley

A camera is an instrument designed to create a picture of the world. And so is an artist.

With a lovely dancer before your eyes, would you choose to preserve the beauty of the moment with a photograph or a painting?

There are many differences in the way a camera sees and in the way a human being sees.

In some ways the camera is more accurate and certainly more predictable.

But first, let's compare the two.

How Does a Camera See?

Light passes through the lens or eye of the camera. (By the way, it is a camera lens I am speaking of here - not a Squidoo lens.) The size of the aperture controls the amount of light allowed in. Rays of light are bent in such a way that an image is produced on film or a microchip inside the camera. Depth of field refers to the area of a picture that will be in focus. The photographer controls the area or depth of field that will come into focus by adjusting the F Stop setting. Therefore if the camera is focused at a particular distance, whatever falls within that distance should appear clear and crisp in the photograph.

How Do Our Eyes See?

The amount of light reaching the lens in the human eye is controlled by the iris - our built-in aperture. The size of the iris opening continually changes to control the amount of light allowed in. Rays of light passing through the lens are bent so that an image is produced on the retina at the back of the eye. The image on the retina is transformed into tiny electrical signals which are routed through the optic nerve to the brain.

We See in 3 D

Because we have two eyes with about an eye's width between them, we can see depth. The view from each of our eyes is slightly different. What we see with both eyes open is a composite picture put together in our brains which gives a 3D depth to the picture we see. What you see with both eyes open has more depth than what you see with just one eye.

If you have any question or hesitation about this, please just try it out!

One major way in which our sight differs from that of a camera is that we filter out what is irrelevant. When we walk down the street our eyes take in vast amounts of visual data - much more than we are aware of. Most of this information, does not reach our awareness.

Here is a fun picture to illustrate this point. In the Nutcracker Ballet, Marie having just received her precious gift, has eyes only for her beloved Nutcracker!

As We Look - Our Eyes Dance

Our eyes are fluid instruments which are constantly moving.

The eye takes in visual data about an object of interest, not with a fixed and rigid stare, but by dancing around it, behaving almost like water. These tiny rapid movements are so automatic they are hardly noticeable. In fact to me the movement of our eyes is a continual moving dance in itself.

Why Not Just Take a Photo?

In a whirlwind of dance, a camera is just the tool to freeze the moment. It can capture detail that the eye just isn't able to keep up with. With a camera, every detail such as what you see in a mirror's reflection will be recorded with equal importance.

When we look with our eyes at a specific point, it is only the core of what we are looking at that is in focus. Surrounding objects gradually lose their clarity the further they are away from the focal point. An artist as creator, has free play as to where the center of interest is in a painting. It is my opinion that an artist can create something more in alignment with the way our eyes see than a photograph can.

The Music, the Energy, the Passion, can Radiate from a Painting

"Eye to Eye I" by Ann Radley

The sound . . . the rhythm . . . the feeling . . . the touch . . . . can all be part of an artist's very individual response to a subject.

As an artist watching a wild and wonderful dance, I hear the music and feel the rhythm in my body. And I feel the energy and passion radiating from the dancers.

See more paintings by artist Ann Radley

Ballet Fantasy Truer Than Life?

Raven's Gift by Ann Radley

Many people would not consider commissioning a painting of a dancer, because photographs are so much more convenient. And with a photograph you are reasonably sure of what you will get.

A painting can be so much more exciting because the possibilities are endless. . . .

Sometimes a fantastical setting can best express the invisible spirit of a dance - more so than the physical stage setting in which the dance takes place.

In mythology the raven sometimes plays the role of master magician, pointing the way toward wisdom and transformation. The inky black color of the raven is associated with darkness, yet a darkness where universal secrets are stored.

In the oil painting shown here, the raven's life is nearly at an end. The raven willingly uses his last bit of strength to carry the dancer, allowing her to use him as a springboard to reach her full potential. The dancer gratefully accepts the raven's gift.

Visit my Gallery of Paintings on EBSQ

Excellent Books about Ballet Technique

Say Hello and tell me what you think!

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    • AnnRadley profile image

      AnnRadley 4 years ago

      @meatkins: Micheal thanks for your comments. I think you mean my line drawing called "Arabesque Bright" which is in my Joy of Drawing Lens. If you follow the Link in this lens to my FineArtAmerica site you can find this drawing in the Dancer Gallery, or simply by looking through all the artwork. You can also buy a print of it on FAA. If there are any other questions you have please let me know. Good luck with your drawing!

    • profile image

      meatkins 4 years ago

      hello i am in a beginning drawing class and we are required to find gestural line and explain what and why we like what we see i found one of your gestural line art of a dancer on a sight and it is one i am using to give you credit i was led to your site but i find no references to age just schools artist studied with but i do like your work and will share with my class and teacher i am a student at Spartanburg Community College in South Carolina

      Micheal Atkins

    • AnnRadley profile image

      AnnRadley 5 years ago

      @nifwlseirff: I seem to need a physical reference too. But the artist has so many tools (that the camera doesn't) like lost and found edges, and bringing the focal point of a painting into sharper focus, and playing with color contrast and saturation. Thanks so much for your kind comments!

    • profile image

      nifwlseirff 5 years ago

      I'd love to be able to paint or draw from my mind's eye, but seem to require a physical crutch, and end up with rather 'photo realistic' art. If I persevere, perhaps I'll eventually develop my mind-hand connection! Gorgeous art, and a thoughtful opinion on the difference of photos versus art!

    • profile image

      dessertlover 5 years ago

      Great lens, beautiful images!

    • AnnRadley profile image

      AnnRadley 5 years ago

      @SteveKaye: Thank you so much for your kind comments and the blessing!

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      This is a truly beautiful presentation of art. I especially like your comments on the differences between what the camera sees compared to what the eye sees and what the artist captures. Wish you the best.

    • profile image

      pawpaw911 5 years ago

      Dancing, and painting. I envy those who can do either.

    • Teapixie LM profile image

      Tea Pixie 5 years ago

      I fell in love with Degas' ballerinas, particularly the ones out of posture, and began doing studies of his work. I am so impressed with your comparison of the camera and paint brush - I can't seem to remember everything I need to reproduce an image, so I have to photograph it first.

      I love this article.

    • karen-stephens profile image

      karen-stephens 5 years ago

      Thank you inspiring us with one more lens on painting and inspirations. xxxo Angel Blessings. :)

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      Beautiful to look at, and beautifully written!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Your ballet dancer paintings are beautiful!

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 6 years ago

      Lovely lens.

    • AnnRadley profile image

      AnnRadley 6 years ago

      @KarenTBTEN: Thank you so much for your kind comments and the blessing!

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 6 years ago

      Fascinating. Even though most of us know a painting is different -- and should be different, perhaps -- it can be hard to say why. You express this well. SquidAngel blessings.

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 6 years ago

      Your paintings are lovely. My grandmother loved to do oil paintings of ballet dancers as well; my middle daughter inherited one when she passed. I treasure her work. Thanks for sharing such a joyous talent :)

    • FCakir LM profile image

      FCakir LM 6 years ago

      My daugther is a ballet student and I love very much ballet paintings. Your's are wonderful

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 6 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      lovely paintings. really you are great artist. ~blessed~

    • AnnRadley profile image

      AnnRadley 7 years ago

      @evelynsaenz1: Thanks for your nice comments Evelyn

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 7 years ago from Royalton

      A painting can show so much more than a photography because the painting can show emotion, the important parts as seen through the eyes of the painter. Thank you for pointing out the differences.

    • chefkeem profile image

      Achim Thiemermann 7 years ago from Austin, Texas

      A painter deserves to be danced. :)

    • Sharon Weaver profile image

      Sharon Weaver 7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      You have explained a very difficult concept and as an artist I appreciate this lens on many levels. I don't want my paintings to look like a photo either so thanks for saying this. Wonderful images of dancers too.

    • Sharon Weaver profile image

      Sharon Weaver 7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      You have explained a very difficult concept and as an artist I appreciate this lens on many levels. I don't want my paintings to look like a photo either so thanks for saying this. Wonderful images of dancers too.

    • AnnRadley profile image

      AnnRadley 7 years ago

      @KarenHC: Greeting cards can be ordered from any of my paintings - on FineArtAmerica (link is above) But were you meaning to illustrate the beauty of a pose, or more how to do a pose correctly?

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Your work is amazing, Ann. Really beautiful!

    • KarenHC profile image

      Karen 7 years ago from U.S.

      @AnnRadley: Great :-) I don't know if you also make greeting cards out of your paintings, but I think there should be more yoga cards with good designs of poses!

    • AnnRadley profile image

      AnnRadley 7 years ago

      @KarenHC: Yes I have - almost feels like you are reading my mind! There is something so inspiring about portraying the beauty and suble energy. I did one painting of the Siva Nataraja recently - however this is a new direction for me. As far as yoga practitioners - YES - wondeful idea. Thanks so much for your kind suggestion and comments!

    • KarenHC profile image

      Karen 7 years ago from U.S.

      I enjoyed reading this lens and checking out your artwork site -- you also mentioned practicing yoga -- have you thought about painting yoga practitioners?

      The heading "As We Look - Our Eyes Dance" is so apt! A photo rarely brings in the atmosphere or the depth of what we're bringing in through our "dancing eyes" :-)

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      I too love ballet and have painted dancers, although I wish I could get more action shots, Very lovely paintings and thanks for your comment on my squidoo!

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Lanley 9 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      The first one reminded me of Degas. Your work is beautiful, and I love how you detail the differences between the camera and the brush.

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Trisha, what wonderful, wonderful paintings. Such joy in them. A pleasure to behold. xx

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Enjoyed your lens. I love your work! Being both a photographer and painter, I have to agree with your comments. That is why I so often find myself tweaking my photos in an attempt to add to them the emotion that I felt when viewing the subject with the movement or "dance" of my eyes!

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Loved the intro. to your work and especially 'a Ballerina Fairy Poised on a Raven.'

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 9 years ago

      Nice lens. I enjoyed the art!

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 9 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Very nice lens, love the pictures. 5*****

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Hi Trish, Nicely written lens: informative, thought provoking, and light hearted. Thanks for sharing your passion! Love, Pat

    • Janet2221 profile image

      Janet2221 9 years ago

      Nice lens! Welcome to the Dance Group. :)

    • SherryHolderHunt profile image

      SherryHolderHunt 9 years ago

      Hi, 5*'s from me, the love of the art of painting shines through in your lens.

      Favorited and joined your fan club. When you get a free moment, come visit my lens, I paint mainly in watercolor or acrylics.

    • profile image

      spiritartist 9 years ago

      I love "A Ballerina Fairy Poised on A Raven"! Thanks for visiting my lens and for your nice comments! Keep up the great work!

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      What a fabulous lens! Leaves me wanting more! I am deeply honored to call you my friend, and thrilled to also be your colleague. I am very impressed with this site, and know that you put a tremendous amount of time into it. Your paintings are just getting better and better. You go, girl!

      Love you,


    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Trish, you are an amazing woman and your work is beautiful! Love the way you put this together, all the best to you! Michelle

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      It's nice to see your beautiful work. I love the style you work in.

    • charkamman lm profile image

      charkamman lm 9 years ago

      what a beautiful lens... thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      you inspire me trish, with your dedication and love for your subject and commitment to sharing your gifts... thank you for being YOU!!

      love you, jana

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Trish, I am inspired by your work, and the creative display your have put together here to share your visions. Best wishes for great success! Love Mari Ane

    • James20 profile image

      James20 9 years ago


      We all seem to see we need to change something in our lenses. Great work here. I come from a family who are artistic. I love taking pictures of nature. 5*****


      Funny...the security word that I have to type in is giggletoes.

    • AlisonMeacham profile image

      AlisonMeacham 9 years ago

      This is such a beautiful lens. My daughter is a ballet dancer and hopes one day to be a professional dancer. Few people realise just how much hard work and dedication this takes.

    • dianbee profile image

      dianbee 9 years ago

      Trish, it's so nice to meet you on squidoo! This lens is lovely and will be wonderful to watch grow.

    • dianbee profile image

      dianbee 9 years ago

      Trish, it's so nice to meet you on squidoo! This lens is lovely and will be wonderful to watch grow.

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Trish, This is so beautiful! I am so happy for you and so glad you are sharing this with the world!!!

      Big love,