Do you find that your figure drawings lack the sense of movement and momentum that you would like them to have? Don’t be disheartened! This is a common problem faced by many artists. Beginning artists are often attracted to the simplicity and straight forward approach of the constructive method; using simple geometric forms to construct a figure.
However, the problem is that often a drawing composed with geometry as its foundation can come across stiff and lifeless. In contrast, gesture drawing is an incredibly powerful tool for imbuing figures with a sense of fluidity and momentum. What is gesture drawing? Developed in Kimon Nicolaïdes’ seminal book The Natural Way to Draw for the first time in a modern text, gesture drawing is an old form of loose sketching technique, that attempts to capture the essence of the human figure quickly and fluidly. Its primary purpose is to capture the human body in motion, enabling the artist to: better comprehend the inter-connectivity of musculature, become familiar with the sinuous convolutions of the human figure, as well as, understand the range and capabilities of the joints in the body.
“Don’t be precious, make mistakes. Make mistakes work for you.” ‒Salgood Sam
The practice of gesture drawing allows you to break out of your shell, placing an emphasis of mood over precision. It loosens your hand movements in order to break out of stiff representations and allows you to focus on movement, action, and direction.
“Do not stop to refine.” ‒Salgood Sam
So, how can you master the art of gesture drawing? You can just hit the streets and draw people in the streets. Or, you can find videos online to draw. There are some great videos with all kinds of bodies in motion. The important thing is to try and find a video where people are engaging in repeated patterns: dancers, tai chi instructors, boxers, etc.
Try this video of two combat specialists from our Dynamic Drawing class:
Step 1: Before you begin drawing, observe your object. The act of drawing begins first with seeing the object, seeing the object “the way an artist sees” it as Betty Edwards says in her book The Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. This allows your brain and your hands to absorb the natural rhythms of the figure, to synchronize your hand/eye coordination with the movement you are attempting to recreate.
Step 2: Loosen up by circling your hand over the page, feeling out your working space. This may seem oversimplified but if you want your drawings to be loose and fluid, your body needs to be loose as well. Stretch before sitting down to draw. Do some warm up exercises with your hands. Remember, the energy of the drawing begins with you!
“You won’t get the energy of the pose, if you don’t start with that energy. If you’re trying to draw with dynamic energy in your art…you have to understand the energy is going to come from you.” ‒Salgood Sam
Step 3: Start with the core. Begin by drawing the chest and then quickly work out from there. Don’t worry too much about the head, hands or feet. Just try to capture the movement of the body and its internal sense of movement. Draw quickly. Not so much that you lose control but enough that you push yourself to draw in long continuous lines. Try not to lift your pencil from the paper, just keep drawing in a fluid motion. Move through the forms.
“Find rhythm in your motions.” ‒Salgood Sam
Step 4: Once you have completed the initial gesture sketch then you can go over it, adding in some contour details of the clothing and solidifying the structure of the body with some constructive shapes to give it a three dimensional feeling. Even if you lay some alternative rendering approaches over your gesture drawing, it will retain the fluidity of your initial sketch.
“No one’s looking for accuracy, they’re looking for the impression of accuracy.” ‒Salgood Sam
So there you have it. Now you can master the art of drawing figures in motion. Equipped with the power to do quick, expressive gestural sketches you will find that your drawings will take shape faster and with more power than ever before!
Check out this video of Syn Studio’s Combat Workshop to see some gesture drawing at work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_rSloja5V8
For more information or to sign up for the Dynamic Drawing class with Salgood Sam at Syn Studio, visit: http://synstudio.ca/dynamic-drawing/