Art: Confused about gesture drawing

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  1. #1
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    Confused about gesture drawing

    Hi everyone,

    I'm currently reading and following the drawing exercises from the the book Natural Way to Draw by Nicolaides.

    With gesture drawing, whilst I enjoy doing it, I'm getting more and more confused about the point of the exercise.

    Is it a simple 'warm up' exercise and a simple way to make a mental note of something to draw later?

    Is it just to improve your eye-hands coordination, or more towards being able to recognise the main gist of the pose, or both?

    Is it meant to become a basis of something to build on later, or is it simply a throwaway prototypes? I don't get how you can build on something that is so scribbly, sometimes I forget what I've drawn.

    Is it more important to capture the whole 'big picture' or should I focus only on the main important areas? I find my drawings make a lot more sense if I do both, but often I get caught in the details and start drawing the edges (which you are not meant to do?) and with the quick 30-60 seconds drawings there's often no time to do both.

    Is the point to draw quickly or accurately? For beginners like myself, what should I focus on - draw quickly and lots of it, draw less but more accurately or feel the pose and be able to memorise it for later?

    Is gesture drawing meant to be loose and scribbly or is it meant to be nice and clean with least amount of strokes possible? Or does it not matter what you do?

    Lastly, where do you go from gesture drawings? Should you try build on it, or do you use it simply to jot down memories of what the pose was, and start from scratch? Or am I missing the point?

    I've included some of my Posemaniacs gesture drawings in the attachments. These are done in between 30-60 seconds.

    Lately I try to draw while watching movies and the results are really not good - nothing more than a bunch of scribbles. Should I avoid doing this or do I just need to persevere more and keep practising?

    What are your thoughts? Any tips, crits or feedback?

    I like Nicolaides' approach to drawing but unfortunately the example drawings in the book are not done by him, so it's really hard to imagine what he's really trying to say.

    Can anyone recommend other drawing books that have similar structured exercises?

    Sorry for the many questions, I'm really lost here ..

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  3. #2
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    Whenever I'm not completely sure about an exercise's purpose, I read and re-read all the things he's had to say about it.

    Gesture drawing. It's not about putting lines down as efficiently as possible. It's not about being careful or making the drawing LOOK a certain way. It's about capturing the LIFE of the model.

    He states over and over that gesture is about THE WHOLE, which is always governed by WHAT THE MODEL IS DOING. Getting a grasp of the whole, which is best done through empathizing with the model with your own body, is the purpose of gesture drawing. The instructions are: keep looking at the model, FEEL the ACTION within your own body, and think about the character of the MOVEMENT what the model is DOING and the IMPULSE that caused the model to take that pose, draw quickly and impulsively, with continuous line (not lifting from the paper"). Yes, when you see the result you will feel like you're just doing a bunch of scribbles. What you get out of the exercises should not be fancy drawings, but the knowledge you cultivate from the experience.

    He also states that the purpose of the the exercise is to balance out the slow, meticulous drawing exercises with rapid drawings (gestures). And where many of the other drawing exercises focus on draw the FORM and the TANGIBLE parts of the figure one piece at a time, gesture drawing is meant to represent the INTANGIBLE movement of the ENTIRE figure, inside and out. Of course, the tangible parts of the whole have movement and gesture too.

    Other teachers might have guidelines like the ones you mentioned for gesture drawing (use as few lines as possible, draw stick figures, begin with the head etc etc). These are useful ways to draw, but not what Nicolaides instructs. The point of Nicolaides gesture exercises is simply to look, feel, empathize with the model, and follow your impulses in order to grasp the "whole". The rest is really up to you.

    Other words you might use to help think about gesture are "spirit", "action", "impulse", "character", "essence", "purpose", "desire", "emotion". All of these help define the gesture of something.

    Your understanding of gesture drawing will also develop the more you do it. Also remember that Nicolaides says in his book, these exercises are not meant to teach us how to draw... but how to learn to draw by giving us things to think about. How you apply what you've learned from these exercise is up to you. =]

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    D: All of the above. But mainly: "being able to recognise the main gist of the pose"...

    The other thing to be aware of is you should start with the gesture of the pose, no matter the length of the drawing time. If you lose the gesture you've lost the point - that is how important it is.

    And I don't recommend posemaniacs - this tool is so much better: http://www.pixelovely.com/tools/gesture.html

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    Thanks for the replies.

    @Bar - thanks for the insightful reply. Strangely enough, what you said pretty much sums up what I would say if anyone asks what gesture drawing is. So I get it in my head, just when I start drawing I tend to get carried away e.g. drawing the details of the arm etc.

    @Black Spot and Jeffx99 - thanks for the great links.

    Drawing without lifting the hand is a good point. That was something I missed when I started drawing from movies, because everything happens so fast and I lost that 'deliberation', and ended up just drawing whatever I see.

    Any other thoughts or tips from anyone else?

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    Bridgmans books have great gesture and he explains it well. Barbara Bradley's book is great for figure and gesture.

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    In terms of drawing duration, as a beginner, should I go from slow (e.g. 2 minutes) to fast (e.g. 30sec or less), or vice versa?

    When drawing clothed figures, do you try see through the naked form or include the clothing as part of the gesture? Or does it not matter?

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    Quote Originally Posted by supermonchi View Post
    In terms of drawing duration, as a beginner, should I go from slow (e.g. 2 minutes) to fast (e.g. 30sec or less), or vice versa?

    When drawing clothed figures, do you try see through the naked form or include the clothing as part of the gesture? Or does it not matter?
    Both - mix it up - do it all.

    With clothed I generally include the outer contours of clothing - the bulk of the clothes in the gesture. You're basically trying to catch the action very quickly - if nude then they're nude - if clothed then clothed.

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