Gesture Drawing by Savvy Dani (Original article posted on Aristides Atelier - adapted by Dynamic Symmetry Art)
At the Classical Atelier, we start the year with gesture drawings in the Life Room. These drawings are quick studies that capture the essence of the pose. As the year moves on, the pose gets longer and can last weeks at a time. So it is easy to think that gesture drawings are a once-a-year affair. However, the gesture drawing underlies every successfully sustained drawing we do, and it is critical to learning this aspect of figure drawing if we wish to avoid making rigid and lifeless works of art. Dynamism is an essential part of every pose we commit to paper - even in the most 'static' pose, the model has to contend with gravity and also put in considerable effort to remain still. In fact, a gesture is even applied to a still-life setup. So it is only reasonable that we learn how to do this well.
The goal of gesture drawing in our system is to discover the simplest design that fully expresses the figure being observed. Let us understand how to make use of the 5, 10, 20 minutes allotted to the gesture drawing session and how to take the drawing further into the block in process.
5 Minute Session
See how the figure is rooted to the ground. There will be a flow of forces to the standing leg, or maybe the whole body is leaning on a stick. Gravity weighs the figure down or perhaps the whole figure is pressing into the seat. Maybe there is an arm shooting outward, and the whole figure is intent in this direction. It is our goal to observe the underlying intent of the pose and capture it with the least number of lines. There are no measurements done here. We use curved lines if necessary.
10 Minute Session
As the duration of the pose increases, we take a few quick measurements. The vertical and horizontal mid-points, the ratio of the width to the height, etc. But we still remain focused on the gesture. We start with the gesture drawing we obtained in the first 5-minutes. Using drop-lines and cross-comparison lines, we bring more accuracy to the gesture drawing.
20 Minute Session
The duration of a 20-minute pose is sufficient to transform the gesture drawing into the framework for a block in. Using drop lines and cross comparison lines, we discover internal lines and points on the figure. We capture basic shadow shapes and eyeball them to resolve errors. At this stage, the drawing will start resembling a preliminary block in.
If the pose lasts multiple sessions, we continue to work through the block in process. Since the drawing began with the gesture, we will find that we have a fluidity ingrained; breaking down the block in further into structural elements will not yield the rigidity that we dread. We have achieved our goal and are on our way to a successful drawing.
A brief note on the specifics of technique before we conclude. Use very thin lines while drawing the gesture. A sharply honed pencil point is essential. As you work through, draw multiple lines if necessary, but keep them all independent - don't merge them to form thick lines. Emphasize lines and make them dark only when certain. Keep your pencil constantly moving. To maintain fluidity to the lines, draw with the palm facing toward the body and draw long lines while you discover the rhythm of the pose.
Enjoy the discovery of the gesture. Choose one line over another with full awareness - a straight vertical line to indicate strength, a horizontal for repose and the arabesque for a fluidity of movement. There will be multiple options for the same pose so let your artistic sensibility be your guide.