For the past 2 years I have been drawing gestures. I started slowly and now I draw 30 second gestures, nearly every day, for about 20 to 60 minutes. And I plan to do this for the next 20 or 30 years.
What am I teaching myself when I do my gesture drawings?
One word: Opinion
I am working on having and expressing an opinion.
When a reference photo doesn’t trigger an opinion my resulting gesture drawing is boring and stiff.
Once I have an opinion, I need to express it.
Sometimes, one of my lines will be placed wrongly, the curve will bend in the wrong direction.
The opinion is then lost in the sketch.
I can normally tell in the first few seconds, if the opinion is going to work.
The angle of the head, the line of action or curve of the shoulder …
I can feel it’s going to work.
“It” being my opinion, I’m not really copying the figure, I’m expressing my opinion of the figure.
I’m allowing the humanity of the pose to cause a reaction in me and putting that to paper.
I’ve collected a few ideas or tips on gesture drawing over the last few months and I’d like to share here.
Collect pictures, real or digital, of gestures which really cause a reaction in you.
Pictures where you connect directly could be sport, e.g. golf, football, volleyball, basketball,
children playing, dancers, and all the other stuff, like horror, erotic, action film stuff.
I find football/soccer stills really hard and funny and attempt it sometimes.
When you are “stuck” in your progress:
If you are “stuck” it doesn’t mean something bad.
Keep on going through this state.
Even if your telling yourself, you’re missing something and you think your figures don’t look right at all.
(More often than not, I return to my “bad” figures on the following day, and think “wow, that one looks really dynamic”)
Anyhow, what are you comparing them to? (Stop comparing)
The process of progress:
This is a natural process, you will have phases where you “drop back”, I understand these as “re-programming” phases.
You need these phases and you need to just keep on going on.
It’s like climbing a mountain (like Mnt. Everest), sometimes you are exhausted, but you must go on or you will freeze up, give up or go back.
Warning: listen to your body and take a day off if you really feel exhausted. (ONE day!)
Do not give up!
Triangles: use “malformed” triangles, they are very dynamic.
Do not restate too much, don’t go over your lines to make things “look better”.
By all means, go over the lines to correct an opinion you had, but failed.
But also consider just stopping there and waiting for the next gesture to come (I’m expecting you to be using a portal where a gesture pops up every minute or every 20 or 30 seconds).
Beans are good to practice if you want to incorporate beans into your practice.
I did that a few times too.
If you like beans, keep to beans a while, give it a try, but give it a serious try, perhaps up to 10 minutes per practice session.
In the end, you will have to decide if you feel comfortable with them. But give it some time, a week perhaps.
Pens and paper:
Use cheap paper (larger format to start with: e.g. a used newspaper or smooth newsprint) and keep those sketches rolling.
Consider using a felt pen or something fast, thick and with healthy lines.
Try something out to trick yourself, make it more interesting, more conscious
Keep tickling yourself, to stay out of a comfort zone.
Do not cross out a picture, do not attempt to negatively(!) value them at all.
Find the best ones and use up to a minute to look at what may be working or not, do not over-analyse.
Your style may be different to mine, that’s great, and you need to listen to yourself when doing these practices.
Listen to your body, your mind, experiment, take your time …
YouTube and Books:
I spent hours(!) looking at videos. My personal advice is, stay away from all those videos!
Do not waste time on videos.
A book is better. Why? You can use the book directly, draw in it or place tracing paper over sketches, just draw draw draw.
There is one great book I can recommend and it is Michael Mattesi’s “Force” (he also has a second, newer one, but “Force” is fine).
Most of what I’ve mentioned you will find there.
But you don’t need the book, you need to draw!
What are you waiting for … DRAW!