Understanding gestures/figures?
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    Understanding gestures/figures?

    For the past month or so, I've made efforts to learn gesture drawing. I work mainly from photographs and, when I have time, I draw from life when I'm at class.

    The problem I'm having is that I feel as if I took one step forward when I began, and as I've been practicing, I've been slowly going backwards.

    I've been using Michael Hampton's book about figure and gesture drawing, and it's been extremely helpful, though I often find myself going back to review pages because I don't understand a concept. Because of this, I've only been able to get through about 40 pages of 240.

    I suppose the main problem I'm having is defining a gesture to express an idea or action, yet keeping it simple, the concept of "economy of line" and repetition/timing of lines.

    I start with the head, and from there I work down the body with the spine. After that, I define both the ribcage and pelvis with basic ovals, though I think this is where the problem lies. I know I'm not supposed to be literally defining shapes, but rather the forms of the body interlocked. So, to me, when it says "define x form," it says make it identifiable and obvious outside of the fact that where it's supposed to be. When I look at Hampton's drawings in the book itself, I see exactly what he means, but I can't really replicate it, for lack of a better word, even after observing one of my references.

    That's the whole deal. I normally work around this by just detailing the form from the get-go, though I think I'm missing the point of actually conveying the idea of a sense of emotion or movement with the base of a gesture. I may be trying to push myself to work too fast (I worked very slow when I began, and I don't want that to be a habit.), though I'm not sure.

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    Wow, a whole month, working occasionally from life but mostly from photos, and you still haven't mastered it? I'm shocked. Shocked!


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    I'm not looking to master anything. I do not claim to be good at anything or express my ability to do anything. I am looking to understand.

    Edit: More specifically, the basics of gesture drawing, not every little thing to be known about it.

    Last edited by Pengan; August 16th, 2011 at 11:51 PM.
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    I'm no expert in gestures, but I've been working very hard lately at mastering them. One thing I've definitely learned about any sort of figure drawing, gestures included, is that starting with the head is a REALLY bad idea. The head can move completely independently from the rest of the body, so placing it first tells you nothing about the figure as a whole. Start with an abstract line of action that more or less represents what the figure is doing. Then (this is what works for me) follow Hogarth's hierarchy of the most important parts of figure drawing. Torso, pelvis, legs, arms, head. Also, 1 month of practice is a paltry amount of time.

    Anyway, if you want really good feedback, post some in a sketchbook thread. It's what I did, and I made incredible gains from it. Best move I've made with art. Also, doing gestures from a photograph isn't a really good idea, since you're not really seeing the living figure. You miss the 3d forms, but also the strain of muscles in balance, the flow of energy through the body, and other weird things like that. The point of gestures is to see what the figure is doing, not just what it looks like. With a photograph? You're missing that huge chunk of the point of the exercise. Trust me, once you work from life you'll immediately know what the difference feels like.

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    I don't know that I agree with Hogarth about putting the head last, but I wouldn't put it first either. First is line of action, and the major masses will go with that flow. The head position often affects where the body is going though, as in "where the head goes the ass will follow", especially where the gaze is pointed, since that's often a focal point.

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    Try doing loads of 10 to 20 second gestures. A pose can be adequately conveyed in that amount of time without premature concerns of construction distracting you from the purpose of gesture: The story. What's the figure here doing?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strato View Post
    I'm no expert in gestures, but I've been working very hard lately at mastering them. One thing I've definitely learned about any sort of figure drawing, gestures included, is that starting with the head is a REALLY bad idea. The head can move completely independently from the rest of the body, so placing it first tells you nothing about the figure as a whole. Start with an abstract line of action that more or less represents what the figure is doing. Then (this is what works for me) follow Hogarth's hierarchy of the most important parts of figure drawing. Torso, pelvis, legs, arms, head. Also, 1 month of practice is a paltry amount of time.

    Anyway, if you want really good feedback, post some in a sketchbook thread. It's what I did, and I made incredible gains from it. Best move I've made with art. Also, doing gestures from a photograph isn't a really good idea, since you're not really seeing the living figure. You miss the 3d forms, but also the strain of muscles in balance, the flow of energy through the body, and other weird things like that. The point of gestures is to see what the figure is doing, not just what it looks like. With a photograph? You're missing that huge chunk of the point of the exercise. Trust me, once you work from life you'll immediately know what the difference feels like.
    Strange. I've always used the head to get a good idea of where the spine starts and ends. Anytime I've worked from a specific limb, or even the torso, it's turns out... unbalanced? I'm not sure. I'll make more passes at that in the future. I'm unsure as to how to get more life drawing done outside of hiring an actual model/going to a class for one, which isn't plausible at the moment. I'm not sure how comfortable I am with just creeping outside of a grocery store or something of the sort and sketching people that walk by, but that's just a part of my personality I can get over.

    Also, I can understand it taking a long time to be decent at gesture drawing, though I don't see how being frustrated due to not understanding how something works for an entire month is understandable. Maybe it's just my own skewed perception.

    Also, I'll invest in a scanner ASAP.

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    People are actually pretty flattered if you ask to draw them. Plus if you draw in an inconspicuous public spot like a bench in a park most people will totally ignore you. Lots of action goes on in a busy park, which is IDEAL for gestures. Also, don't think about working from a specific body part at all. You want to get the impression of what the figure or object is doing, which is what line of action is for.

    I've been working on gestures for a few months, and I'm still no good. But I'm not really frustrated about it. Sorry for not having sympathy, but you're not really going to find that around these forums, especially with people who've been working on drawing for decades longer than I have. A month feels like a long time in the present, but it's microscopic in the course of your growth as an artist or a person. If you stop focusing on time and more on output, you'll quickly realize that months can go by with barely any progress and it shouldn't bother you too much. This shit takes a lot of time, especially fundamentals like gestures.

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    hey there
    here are some articles by Glenn Villpu
    http://vilppustore.com/vilppublog/20...esture-part-1/
    http://vilppustore.com/vilppublog/20...esture-part-2/
    +

    " Never copy the Model but Analyze it " villpu


    and
    please show us some of your gesture drawings

    Change is such hard work

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    and about starting with the head or spine or anywhere
    you're free , you can even start from the legs
    +
    you must spend about 1 or 2 mins when you working on gesture ( try to feel to pose and feel how the body moves )

    sorry for my english

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strato View Post
    People are actually pretty flattered if you ask to draw them. Plus if you draw in an inconspicuous public spot like a bench in a park most people will totally ignore you. Lots of action goes on in a busy park, which is IDEAL for gestures. Also, don't think about working from a specific body part at all. You want to get the impression of what the figure or object is doing, which is what line of action is for.

    I've been working on gestures for a few months, and I'm still no good. But I'm not really frustrated about it. Sorry for not having sympathy, but you're not really going to find that around these forums, especially with people who've been working on drawing for decades longer than I have. A month feels like a long time in the present, but it's microscopic in the course of your growth as an artist or a person. If you stop focusing on time and more on output, you'll quickly realize that months can go by with barely any progress and it shouldn't bother you too much. This shit takes a lot of time, especially fundamentals like gestures.
    Well, I've yet to see a grocery store with a bench out front, but a park is definitely manageable. I can work something out to regularly visit a park that's within five miles. I have no intention of garnering sympathy from anyone, and I know that I have tons to learn, it takes time, etc. Though, it feels counter-productive and irritating when you can't even comprehend the basic idea of something. How do you practice something you don't get? It feels like I'm drawing blind. Similar to if someone saw how a circle was drawn, but they didn't understand that movements or technique one would use to make one.

    Quote Originally Posted by WaSsiM View Post
    hey there
    here are some articles by Glenn Villpu
    http://vilppustore.com/vilppublog/20...esture-part-1/
    http://vilppustore.com/vilppublog/20...esture-part-2/
    +

    " Never copy the Model but Analyze it " villpu


    and
    please show us some of your gesture drawings
    Villpu is something I've seen before, though I haven't looked at any of his videos/teachings yet. I'll use that in conjunction with the other materials I have.

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    WaSsiM, love your signature quote. Thanks for the Villpu links, I've been wondering how to do gesture myself. Do you know of a link with good visual examples, here on CA or somewhere else?

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    You will take those "steps backwards". Its part of learning, but really its just the curve getting steeper. You'll pop the edge and you will realize you can do much better. But don't get caught up in trying to find some mystical way to explain it so it all makes sense to you. Just practice practice practice practice. (H = LST − α). All the time.

    Edit* Just re-read your last post.
    Its a simple solution. If you have so much time, then study it diligently and form your own ideas on it. Just do what you can, as much as you can. Don't get frustrated. And don't focus too much on "understanding".

    Now, I know you have 1000++ reasons to say I'm wrong on that, and to them all I'll say; "sure, but its art after all, you have to start, keep it up, and keep going. No matter how you choose to accomplish that. If you don't understand it at first one day you will look back on it and you will, just get the practice done."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leonor View Post
    WaSsiM, love your signature quote. Thanks for the Villpu links, I've been wondering how to do gesture myself. Do you know of a link with good visual examples, here on CA or somewhere else?
    you're welccome
    here are some good posts by Xeon_OND
    http://www.conceptart.org/forums/sho...3&postcount=37

    +

    http://www.conceptart.org/forums/sho...1&postcount=42

    Ps : there's a Nude pictures in second link

    and i think that will be helpful for you Pengan

    Change is such hard work

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    Quote Originally Posted by Koudee View Post
    You will take those "steps backwards". Its part of learning, but really its just the curve getting steeper. You'll pop the edge and you will realize you can do much better. But don't get caught up in trying to find some mystical way to explain it so it all makes sense to you. Just practice practice practice practice. (H = LST − α). All the time.

    Edit* Just re-read your last post.
    Its a simple solution. If you have so much time, then study it diligently and form your own ideas on it. Just do what you can, as much as you can. Don't get frustrated. And don't focus too much on "understanding".

    Now, I know you have 1000++ reasons to say I'm wrong on that, and to them all I'll say; "sure, but its art after all, you have to start, keep it up, and keep going. No matter how you choose to accomplish that. If you don't understand it at first one day you will look back on it and you will, just get the practice done."
    Wonderful post, thanks. I was experiencing another frustrating moment today, yet reading this just now makes me feel a lot more lax about my situation. I suppose because I'm more of a person who enjoys things based in exact sciences, I enjoy understanding the inside and out of variables, data, etc. Obviously, I don't make it work well in art, so I'll keep a different mindset when practicing to keep my cool.

    Thanks again. I got the answer I needed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WaSsiM View Post
    hey there
    here are some articles by Glenn Villpu
    http://vilppustore.com/vilppublog/20...esture-part-1/
    http://vilppustore.com/vilppublog/20...esture-part-2/
    +

    " Never copy the Model but Analyze it " villpu


    and
    please show us some of your gesture drawings
    Yeah, if it's gestures you're struggling with, Vilppu is your man. I find that he and Loomis compliment each other quite well.

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    I also highly recommend Walt Stanchfield's books on gesture drawing. Here's a link to Volume 1 (of 2).

    IMHO he explains what gesture drawing is and why it's necessary better than anyone else I've found- it's important to read the book to get the real value from it.

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    gesture in itself is quite a simple exercise, I've been following the 'Natural Way to Draw' by Nicolaides, and it's one of the first exercises you're taught. At any rate, with gesture, it isn't a knowledge you can apply to something, like the way anatomy is, but is more of an instant reaction or impression of something. It doesn't need that much thinking about, as it's a simple exercise.

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    I start with the head, and from there I work down the body with the spine.
    I'm noob Pengan and only just started reading book, but my understanding is the curve of the spine is the first step and the most important step. Sounds like you may be trying to run before you can walk.


    Re-read page 14-17, also study his examples in the Gesture drawing chapter carefully and you should see his construction using a series of "C" marks ( C X 2 = S)



    What i learnt from Gesture section is the "C" and "S" (double C) construction make the figure flow and seem alive instead of stiff.

    Last edited by Charlie D; August 20th, 2011 at 07:59 AM.
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    I'm going to suggest one thing that my professor at school recommended for me. Try drawing the figure in about 4 lines (+/-1 or 2). Use the first to go down the spine and torso and out through a leg and foot (or whatever is best carrying the gesture), then the other 3 for the other limbs. You can still indicate bends and curves and what not, but you'll be forcing yourself to focus on the gesture and get the body connected. It's also a good exercise to do when sitting in a park or coffee shop just because you can get down the whole figure quickly.

    Vilppu is probably your best best at learning gesture, but sometimes I work better when I have a definite exercise I can practice. Also, I don't know if you problem is getting the gesture or with the figure itself, just because I can't see anything you've done. If you want individual feedback, the best way to get it is to show your drawings.

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    Not sure why people are telling the OP to look at other books. This book explains the process of Gesture drawing very well. I think it also explains/shows the construction of the figure is not really that complicated.

    In fact, it shows you that you can construct the figure just using a series of "C" , straight line and "S" marks. If you want to draw figures, get a copy.

    Last edited by Charlie D; August 20th, 2011 at 09:21 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pengan View Post
    I'm not looking to master anything. I do not claim to be good at anything or express my ability to do anything. I am looking to understand.

    Edit: More specifically, the basics of gesture drawing, not every little thing to be known about it.
    Sadly I'm the one to break it to you, but understanding is mastery.

    Familiarity is to know the general, knowledge is to know all the details, mastery is to know why the details are.

    To paraphrase Bruce Lee, "First one knows nothing, then one learns technique, finally one ignores technique and simply does."

    Quote Originally Posted by Pengan View Post
    Strange. I've always used the head to get a good idea of where the spine starts and ends. Anytime I've worked from a specific limb, or even the torso, it's turns out... unbalanced? I'm not sure. I'll make more passes at that in the future. I'm unsure as to how to get more life drawing done outside of hiring an actual model/going to a class for one, which isn't plausible at the moment. I'm not sure how comfortable I am with just creeping outside of a grocery store or something of the sort and sketching people that walk by, but that's just a part of my personality I can get over.

    Also, I can understand it taking a long time to be decent at gesture drawing, though I don't see how being frustrated due to not understanding how something works for an entire month is understandable. Maybe it's just my own skewed perception.

    Also, I'll invest in a scanner ASAP.
    As regards obtaining a model...

    Have you perused your local city/junior college? Chances are there is a figure drawing class somewhere in there. It is also likely there are good chances that you may take classes at that college without credit, that is to say you pay money but obtain no grade. That is to say, you may pay cash for the knowledge but must not worry about your grade because even if you fail the college cannot bar you from taking further classes because your figure drawing course was taken without credit.

    Should a local junior/city college be not an option, have you searched for any local non-accredited figure-drawing/artistic courses?

    If you have exhausted all your options for local colleges or artistic colleges, have you researched historical sculptors/artists?

    I like Hellenistic sculptures myself, there's plenty of high quality images to be found through a simple Google Image search.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pengan View Post
    Well, I've yet to see a grocery store with a bench out front, but a park is definitely manageable. I can work something out to regularly visit a park that's within five miles. I have no intention of garnering sympathy from anyone, and I know that I have tons to learn, it takes time, etc. Though, it feels counter-productive and irritating when you can't even comprehend the basic idea of something. How do you practice something you don't get? It feels like I'm drawing blind. Similar to if someone saw how a circle was drawn, but they didn't understand that movements or technique one would use to make one.

    Villpu is something I've seen before, though I haven't looked at any of his videos/teachings yet. I'll use that in conjunction with the other materials I have.
    All options exhausted, go ahead and fight with it.

    That is to say if you don't get it, so to speak, keep trying until you do.

    There are many a way to understand a thing. Some learn by merely hearing how a thing is done, others learn by seeing how that thing does, and there are a few who learn only by wrestling with that thing and understanding how it submits and how it wins.

    Another way of looking at it, is to say one learns by kinesthetics. By that, I mean one learns only by trying and failing. One attempts and one fails, and one attempts again only to fail again, eventually one attempts and wins. It is an exhaustive way of learning, but it is also an exhaustive way of learning in every sense of the phrase.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pengan View Post
    Wonderful post, thanks. I was experiencing another frustrating moment today, yet reading this just now makes me feel a lot more lax about my situation. I suppose because I'm more of a person who enjoys things based in exact sciences, I enjoy understanding the inside and out of variables, data, etc. Obviously, I don't make it work well in art, so I'll keep a different mindset when practicing to keep my cool.

    Thanks again. I got the answer I needed.
    Do not let yourself become lax.

    This is a subject you must fight with. If you give nothing but your all, failure is your only destination.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hypothetical
    Right ol' man, why don't you give me something to work with?
    I understand my post might seem vague or even bullshity, however when you hear elders say "you have to be there to understand" they are being absolutely honest.

    You say you a person who sees in the manner of "exact sciences". Someone who only wishes to "understand". You use a broad vocabulary, are concerned with precise definitions, and want a definite method for how one might travel this path of an artist.

    Unfortunately, I must tell you that not all paths are as well tread as those of science. If you ask over and over again "how", you will eventually be told as a Nike commercial that you simply must "do it".

    I write this simply because I believe I have a similar mindset as to your own. Whenever I have been told a concept I have responded in confusion, whenever I have read a concept I have given argument, whenever I have been shown a concept I have shown in curiosity, and whenever I have experienced only then have I begun to understand.

    As of now, I am taking a break from copying Bernini's David. To copy a sculpture on paper is hardly a masterly task. However I recognize that few can do even that, even fewer can surpass that, and those few whom can hold what many call an inherent "talent". I am 27 years of age and I've yet to match the skill of artists great such as Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Bernini, Booth, Beardsly, Amano, so on and so forth. Listing merely the famous artists above me would be a thread upon itself, and that says nothing of the unknown artists who surpass me.

    Still I struggle with the human figure, still I explore perspective, still I study patterns and tessellations, still I construct basic shapes and shade them, still I draw from photos of sculptures just to enhance my own understanding of form... and still much more. All for how many years now? Eleven? More? At some point in my teenage years I began to take art seriously, I cannot remember exactly when, but over a decade later I've yet decades more to go. And that's discounting the decade I spent doodling since a child to adolescence.

    Continually I study figures, I study color, I study line, I study pattern, I study art as a whole, I study history, I study math. Yes math. It's quite a thing when you search for how to develop repeatable patterns one might tile together, to find crystallography, to find find fractals, to finally see that Calculus course I took a decade ago is relevant to the art I'm trying to perform today!

    And I understand, colloquially speaking, that I am still at the skill level of "utter shit".

    You ask to "merely" understand, but to understand is everything. Keep at it, don't give up, fight with it and never surrender, even if you lose come back at it until you are victorious, then go at it again and again until you are nothing but victorious.

    Art is as brutal a subject as any Science, it just doesn't have a "gating" course to weed out the weak. Art has not only centuries of tradition, but approximately a century of rebellion, plus a whole philosophy revolving around "aesthetic", and several economic bastions such as "fine art" or "illustration" or "concept art" or "pixel pusher" or "et cetera".

    Anyhow, I ramble on. It's time I ended this post. In short, I'm a stubborn borderline ignorant prick, and if you're anything like me (and your posts say you are) it's a long road ahead for you. Do not be content for anything short of "understanding", but realize that you won't reach that point for decades to come at best.

    TL;DR: Read the damn post, overcoming hardship is your first step to becoming a decent artist.

    -My work can be found at my local directory thread.
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  29. #23
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    Just been over to CGMA and looked at the authors gallery images and just like in book, in every rendering you can see a series of "C" ,straight line and "S" marks


    The light has been switched on. Thank you Mr Michael Hampton

    Learning to see

    "...the ideas are what matter most" Doug Chiang
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  31. #24
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    Gesture is about understanding the pose. It's actually not all that complicated. You mainly understand where everything is located in relation to what - where does the elbow fall in relation to the ribcage? Are the arms outstretched or doing a self-hug kinda thing? Is the person looking happy and cuddy or cold and abandoned? Why? This is the type of thing gesture helps you understand, not "how many buttons are on the sweater".

    I'm not sure why people do hundreds of gesture drawings.. I mean maybe it helps with your visual library on poses? You know how a pose should look without perhaps emulating it yourself? Otherwise, why do some of us fill sketchbooks with them? I think I have other questions like this in other posts, but I'll be darned if I can find any of them.

    Doctors heal you, Artists immortalize you.

    "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach" - bullshit.

    The usual staples for anatomy:
    George Bridgman
    Joseph Sheppard
    Andrew Loomis
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  33. #25
    Black Spot's Avatar
    Black Spot is offline Pew, Pew, Pew Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    While I hate doing gesture drawings I do understand that it is impossible for a live model to hold a dynamic pose for very long. Capturing a moment is hard but well worth the effort as without it a picture will be static.


    I didn't think it was possible to be called an artist when you have nothing to say. It's like being a writer who publishes individual words as books and expects to be praised for it.
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