The most important part of any drawing is something that many people spend so little time in doing.
The “Gesture drawing”. Or the ruff sketch.
I get it…I do.
It’s much more tempting to just jump right into it and start laying down the folds, the muscles, the details!!
The ‘FUN STUFF’.
But unless that ruff sketch is nailed down.
Unless that gesture is well worked out…ALL that ‘fun’ detail that you toiled over for hours and hours…is nothing more than wasted time.
Your drawing will be stiff. Lifeless. Wrong.
I’ve seen people do all that work AND THEN…go beyond that and actually start laying paints over it.
And that well rendered, even well drawn piece is flat and dead.
It’s kinda heartbreaking really.
And it’s not just young artists that fall victim to this.
We’ve all been guilty of it at one time or another.
The foundation to any good painting or work of art…is a good, solid drawing. And the cornerstone to that drawing, is the gesture drawing.
If the detail and polish is the ‘skin’ of the drawing…then the gesture drawing is surely the soul of it.
I was always surprised that not enough emphasis was spent on gesture drawing.
Even in many art school figure drawing classes. The emphasis was to ‘draw that figure.’ Keep an eye out for the bumps in the body, where the fat meets the bone. The bends. Drawing that form that stood before you.
So…what many people had at the end of that day, was a technically well drawn study of what was standing in front of them.
And 8 out of 10 times…it was stiff. Lifeless.
Which is ironic, being that the classes were called “Life Drawing”.
What is the ‘gesture’?
Gesture drawing is THE place to explore. And perfect your pose, as well as the feel for your final piece.
Keeping it loose, and exploring all of the possibilities for that pose. And not just settling for the first thing that pops into your head.
finding the right movement.
Finding the life and the energy.
Finding the flow
One of, if not *the* most important thing to keep in mind when approaching quick sketch or gesture drawing is the “line of action”.
Many people attribute this (mistakenly) to only action poses. But really, it’s even more important in quiet poses or standing still poses. Because I find that those types of poses are the easiest to stiffen.
Lines of action can be the line from the head to the foot. But not always.
The only constant is the line that acts as the spine.
Below are some examples of line of action.
Most obvious in action poses. But also can be seen in just standing poses.
It is something to always keep in mind when approaching your drawing.
Dynamics: Pushing the pose
Mind you…(and this is only MY opinion) you should not and never feel like you’re a slave to any rule.
Whether your out at the park doing gesture drawing at a sports event.
Or gesture drawing from scratch to find a pose for your illustration (or keys for your animation)… The point of gesture drawing is pushing that pose.
Keeping it loose…finding that line of action and pushing it.
Sure, you can push it too far. But you won’t know until you see it. Then you can pull it back if need be.
One of the reasons gesture is so important is that it allows you to find that perfect pose, ROUGHLY…without spending too much time on it.
You can’t build a good house on a shoddy foundation. And that foundation for your drawing is a good strong, loose gesture!
Part of your mindset on approaching gesture drawing should be actions vs counteractions.
The body is made up of different units. Each one individual. But all acting and counteracting off of each other.
Pushing and pulling, stretching and constraining pending on the action itself.
Here are some examples I did off of some photo’s of sports figures:
Remember…in gesturing, your want is to capture the *essence* of the pose. As loosely as possible . And again, that should mean pushing that pose. Notice how my gestures aren’t exactly the poses in the picture. The legs are clearly stretched beyond what they are in the pics. The angle in the torso is as well.
And that’s as it should be!
Again, you can always bring it back if you go to far. The whole point of gesture drawing is to explore and find just the right amount of push and pull that gives you the perfect dynamic for your final drawing.
More examples of beautiful gesture drawings:
Notice the clear line of action. The push and pulls. The pinches that give way to the stretches.
Even in these much rougher gesture sketches, the line of action, and stress points of push and pull are clearly evident.
And the motion is beautifully clear.
Some of the most wonderful examples of gesture drawing are from animators, who are masters of the gesture . Capturing motion, energy, personality….LIFE. In every scribbly sketch.
As an animator myself, my thumbnail gestures would serve as the basis for my keys. Which I’d blow up, and time out for a pencil test. And upon director approval, start my tie downs from them.
Below are examples of ruff gestures from assorted animators including master animator Glen Keane:
Gesture tie down
So let’s say after you’ve searched and explored, you’ve finally found the gesture that you’re satisfied with. Let’s say it’s some agile ‘spiderman-esque’ figure. Leaping into action.
If your gesture is in pencil, chances are you’re gonna want to put a sheet over that (on lightbox) and do your tie downs over that.
If your working digitally, you can scan that gesture in your computer, and turn down the opacity so the lines are lighter.
Put a layer over that.
And work in passes. Clarifying your shapes.
I for one am STILL changing things from the gesture drawing. Shifting things as I go..(angle of feet and hands, feet, etc)
Still trying to keep the energy of the gesture..and as much of the looseness (not in lines, but in feel) as I can. Still working roughly!
As you can see, with each clarifying line of tie-down, we’ll be loosing some of that energy, and the drawing will start to slightly stiffen up.
That’s just the nature of any tie down. But the want is to keep as much of the power and life of the original gesture as possible.
Continue to tie down the pose, tweaking and altering where you need to. Keeping as much of that energy and movement as possible!
Don’t get the ‘chained to your drawing table’ syndrome. Get up and walk away from it for awhile. Get a drink. Eat something.
Stepping away from your drawing even momentarily will help you approach it with a fresh eye when you return to it.
And so on and so on, until you get the desired result that you’re looking for.
Again…the importance of being able to gesture and gesture draw well can not be overstated.
Try it yourself! Get yourself a ‘gesture’ drawing pad and fill it with nothing but ruff fast sketches!
Get your mind in habit of getting it down quickly, and out of ‘tinker mode’ .
There’s a time for that later. But unless you get that corner stone down of capturing the energy and looseness, all the tinkering in the world won’t help your drawing.
Have any questions of comments? Feel free to send them my way. I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts about gesture drawing.
Have fun and get loose!