Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Start With a Gesture

...A gesture drawing, that is!

Most of us know about gesture, and if you have studied art, remember doing gesture drawings back in college or art school, but have you continued to keep them a part of your practice?

A gesture drawing is a very quick (one minute or less, generally) drawing that captures what a figure or scene is DOING, rather than the space it takes up on the page. In a gesture drawing, you would concentrate on the reach of an arm, the feeling of weight on one foot, the bend of the trunk of a tree, etc.

In one of my very favorite art books, Kimon Nicolaides' The Natural Way to Draw, he talks about gesture through the entire book. Here is a great quote about it's use:
The focus should be on the entire figure and you should keep the whole thing going at once. Try to feel the entire thing as a unit- a unit of energy, a unit of movement. Sometimes I let new students begin to draw on a five minute pose, and then, after one minute, ask the model to step down from the stand. The students stop drawing with surprise. I tell them to go ahead and draw, that they had started to draw and must have had something in mind; but usually, they are unable to continue. The truth is that they had started with some little thing, such as the hair, and had not even looked at the pose as a whole. In the first five seconds you should put something down that indicates every part of the body in the pose. Remind yourself of this once in a while by limiting a group of gesture studies to five or ten seconds each.

Gesture drawings are best done on larger pieces of paper- newsprint pads are great. Use a conte' crayon or charcoal and work loosely, letting your crayon travel on the page as your eyes take in the whole form and what it is doing. Don't get hung up about how it looks. This is more of an exercise for your brain than it is for your hand. If you begin with a gesture drawing and can keep that energy throughout your drawing or painting to completion, you will have something that BEGS to be looked at, because the energy of movement will draw people to it. But for now, we are taking baby steps with short gesture drawings.

Try some today! We will be developing gesture over the next few days, so get some practice in today on a few quick gesture drawings.

Today, practice a few of these gestures from life. These are easy to do in public on mid-size paper, because they are fast, and no one will realize what you are doing. Pets and family members also make good models.

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