To begin, let’s have a brief discussion about what gesture drawing really is? Some people define gesture drawing as action. I think that it is action and a little more. It is the energy or life force of the character or person you are drawing. Essentially, gesture drawing is the personality and make-up of the subject you are drawing.
This helps us get the definition life drawing. It is exactly that! Everything and everyone has a gesture. Even a rock. The people in our drawings should appear as though they are living and breathing through our drawing. Hence, I talk about making the human form come alive a lot.
Gesture drawing is what breathes life into our drawing. Your art will start to take on a deeper level.
When we are gesture drawing, we are looking to do more than merely copy what we are seeing. We are looking to capture the essence of our subject. We are literally breathing life into our drawing.
It is started in the block-in step and fully mastered through this next level of gesture drawing. As you refine your block in and break it down into sub-shells, you will see your gesture drawing start to take shape and the subject’s action start to be expressed in its motion.
Look at the subject you are drawing and try to spot the body language and what they are saying in their action. These are living creatures and should be thought of as such.
Capturing gesture can be a difficult process at first, but it is nonetheless an invaluable skill that the artist should look to mastering. The first step would be to be able to see the gesture in the subject that you are drawing. You won’t be able to capture it in your drawing if you can’t first see it.
Do you see the movement in your subject? Do you see the life and what energy it has? Feel what it is to be that subject in order to better understand and capture that essence.
Here are some exercises you can do to warm up to gesture drawing…
Do gesture sketches with a time limit. Give yourself 5 seconds to catch an impression of each pose your model makes.
Set different time increments for your gesture drawings. Do a sketch at 5 seconds, 20 seconds, 1 min.
Study the action of a model and use a soft pencil and sketch freely without drawing the details.
Look for large, rhythm shapes in the drawing.
The purpose of the gesture is of course to freely and instantly get a resemblance of what the model is doing rather than how it is made. This will help you capture the emotion and spirit of the drawing.
It’s been said that the difference between a drawing with gesture and one without is like the difference between a house that has a family living in it with energy and one that’s been abandoned and empty.
Gesture drawing takes a lot of work and practice to master but you will instantly see results to your drawings that will elevate and make them come alive. You will see immediate results. Practice your gesture drawings when you are at a park, at your kid’s soccer games, sitting in a mall, at an amusement park, or wherever you are.
Practice anytime you can, quick little gesture drawing sketches to capture the essence of the living actions of your subjects and breathe life into your drawings.