Drawing – Some Facts About Gesture

Jul 13 060


Gesture drawing is the bridge between your feelings and the marks you make.  It helps strengthen the link between what you see and feel and how your body moves in response to that energy. Gesture drawing is drawing movement in space.  Most things have a “gesture”. a hat, a handbag, a figure, a tree etc.  It is best to look at the pose as a whole, to try to draw a unit, a unit of energy, a unit of movement.  Where does the weight fall?  How does the spine twist?  Most of all, gesture drawings are great practice for anything you are required to draw. Here are some tips:

  • It is best to draw not what the thing looks like but what it is doing. Do not try to draw what it is.
  • Feel how the figure lifts or droops, pushes forward here, pulls back there, pushes out here, drops down easily there
  • Try to draw the actual thrust of the jaw, the clench of the hand.
  • A drawing of a fighter should show the push from foot to fist behind the blows that make them hurt.
  • There may be nothing in the drawing to suggest a figure – that is the least of your concerns.
  • Your pencil marks will travel through the centre of the form and often run outside of the figure or object, even out of the paper all together.
  • Above all, do not try to follow edges.  It is only the action, the gesture you are trying to respond to here, not the details of the structure.
  • Discover and feel that the gesture is dynamic, moving, not static.
  • Try to feel the object as a whole unit – a unit of energy, a unit of movement.
  • To be able to see the gesture, you must be able to feel it in your own body doing whatever the model is doing.
  • If you do not feel as the model feels, your drawing is no better than a map or plan.

When gesture drawing, you feel the movement of the whole form in your whole body.

Exercise – Allow 15 minutes to do several gesture drawings.

This exercise is best done with a real model, although you can draw a handbag, hat, paper bag, tea towel etc.

With the model, it may help to start with the tilt of the hips.  You are immediately drawing the whole thing so the starting point doesn’t really matter. Allow your pencil to roam from one end of the body to the other, rely on sensation rather than thought.  The gesture sketch ideally will take between 10 and 20 seconds.  This is a set up sketch for your real drawing.  Don’t forget to feel the energy of the model when you are doing the drawing.

Here are some crazy gesture drawings I have done in the past.  Thinking about gesture really helps when setting up for larger works such as a painting.

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