What separates artists from ex-artists is that those who challenge their fears, continue; those who don’t, quit. Each step in the artmaking process puts that issue to the test.
As a method of free handwriting, this post will be all about gesture or scribble drawing. This type of drawing is about drawing the essence or spirit of the subject only and there is no regard for how the drawing will turn out.
To start a gestural drawing it is best to get the pencil moving without planning or preparing. This way is often called free handwriting. To define free handwriting, words such as quick, sketchy, loose and impulsive come to mind.
Get started by making quick “feeling out” strokes stating your first responses to the subject.
The pencil grip is most important with free handwriting. Allow the pencil to dangle by sliding your hand as far back from the point as you can. Try to use your elbow and shoulder in order to get more fluidity and movement into the line. It is most important to hold the pencil loosely. You can rest your hand gently on the paper although most confident artists do not do this. What you give up in control, you pick up with mobility and speed. You will need to be self-tolerant with this.
Choose a subject that invokes a feeling in you, perhaps a pet, a handbag, a person, a favourite tree in your garden or even a coat draped over a chair. The idea is to draw not what the subject is but what it is doing.
Remember, you are drawing the spirit or essence of the subject in the quickest and most economical way and you don’t care how the drawing turns out either.
Each drawing should take only one minute and it is best to keep your pencil moving all the time. A good gestural drawing will not eventuate if you take your pencil off the paper in a stop/start way. It is best to do at least 6 one minute gestural drawings before you start your final sketch.
As with all drawing, it is wise to be mindful of the weight of the subject. For example, a model usually places the most weight on one leg. The weight in a handbag rests at the bottom of the bag. It helps to think about this weight when you are drawing. You will be surprised at the difference this will make to the gesture you are after in your final drawing.
And what is the purpose of gestural drawings you might ask? Gestural drawings help you see the subject as having an intelligent life of its own. These quick drawings prepare you for when you do a more controlled drawing later. You will see the subject in a different way after drawing gesturally. This type of drawing is good way to warm up too.
There are three free handwriting techniques to try, the gesture, the connected line and the five minute rapid. In these three styles there is, once again, no regard for how the drawing will turn out. Instead, the above words can be used as triggers as you try out these three methods.
And here is a juicy quote to get you thinking..
.”The roughly rendered typography of the rubber stamp gives it a gestural immediacy. It suggests the informal. We can almost sense the sound that the stamp would make when the image was made.” Unknown
In the next post I will write about the “connected line” drawing.
To read more about gesture drawing here are some links…
Henri Matisse had a signature which was all about the curving decorative line. His simplicity and elegance of line is balanced by a methodical approach with his patterns of decoration.
Matisse’s drawings are spontaneous in that he would draw in a long single line which took him wherever. The lines seem to lack planning, and proportions were not as important as contours. Light, shade and perspective were not his main focus, neither were accurate proportions as can be seen from the girl’s hand in the study above.
For Matisse, line was all! He loved decorative linear patterns and did not bother with restatements. The faces of his subjects usually had no expression or individual character which added mystery to his work.
Below are some lovely drawings I saw a couple of years ago at a Matisse exhibition at GOMA
The reclining ladies are called odalisques.
Here is an easy exercise…
Try going over the face of a Matisse drawing holding your pen in the air. Follow the shorthand way Matisse drew the model’s features. Doing likewise with the model’s dress will help you to feel the speed and pressure of Matisse’s long contours. As you do this, think of the artist himself (you can read about him in the link above) and imagine you are he.
Now go ahead and do your own drawing from a magazine in the style of Matisse.