Pastel painting and ballet have been close companions since Edgar Degas first ventured backstage at the Palais Garnier to sketch the dancers of the Paris Opera. Not only are the frosted hues of pink-ribboned pointe shoes and snow-white tutus ideally suited to the tonal delicacy of pastels, but the shapes and movements in ballet achieve an austere grace under the pastellist’s touch. 

As part of The Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2018, Mall Galleries paid homage to this celebrated relationship with a visit from the ballerinas of the Central School of Ballet, who danced and posed, with classical piano accompaniment, for the galleries’ visitors to draw. 280 people took part, with help from Derwent who supplied free art equipment. As eager guests queued out of the door, and excited artists stood on chairs to get the best angle for their balletic compositions, the ballerinas and pianist wove a spell of creative serenity over Mall Galleries.

“It’s a wonderful challenge to capture movement in this way”, remarked one guest, whose sketchbook was dotted with rapidly-drawn figures in motion. Each visitor developed their own approach to drawing dance; some took photographs and worked from these, some used iPads to create digital drawings, and some used multiple pastel pencils simultaneously, the replicated lines mirroring the synchronised movement of the dancers. From realist to abstract and amateur to professional, artists from all backgrounds and ages entered into the spirit of the occasion.  

This event was organised as part of Mall Galleries’ ‘Coffee Morning for Art Lovers’ initiative, which takes place on the last Thursday of every month, offering guests unique opportunities to sketch extraordinary subjects, befriend fellow art-lovers, and receive a coffee and pastry from our café for just £3. Previous sitters have included iguanas and tarantulas, and next month there will be the opportunity to sketch jazz musicians, performing live in the main gallery.  

The next ‘Coffee Morning for Art Lovers’ will take place on 29th March between 10am and noon, during the Royal Society of British Artists Annual Exhibition. This event will be sponsored by Winsor & Newton. If you were as enthralled as we were by the Central School of Ballet’s graduate performing company, Ballet Central, look out for their nationwide tour, which starts tomorrow at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. If you were unable to join us for this event, visit our What’s On page to find out about other activities during The Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2018, which runs until Saturday 3rd March.