Even More Fun in Gesture Drawing

April 16, 2012

120403_19FaceLeft: Final drawing one evening in gesture figure study class. All images in this post are on 12 x 16 inch sheets. Click on the image to view an enlargement and read below for details and to see other images from that evening.

Readers know that I've been taking a "Gestural Figure Study Class" at The Atelier with Christine Mitzuk.

I love this class. Each week Christine has an "experiment" for us to work on after we have completed a series of 1-, 3-, and sometimes 5-minute poses—but typically a whole lot of 1- and 3-minute poses.

During the early warm-up phase of the class where we do quick gestures of the body I made this next sketch.

120403_14BackLeft: A 5-minutes gesture sketch of the model, focusing on the line of the back. I spent too much time fussing to get some of the angles "exact" before I had the entire sense of the gesture, so I did not complete the entire pose. But I did get to focus on that line of his back and the way a small portioin of the leg (his left) he was sitting on was visible from my angle.

It's interesting how long a minute actually is. I find that in doing my quick gestures I always finish with time left over, which means I really should be managing my time better! But when you get to five minute poses the time really does bend in your mind. You want to work quickly but you also want more development than you had in the shorter poses. I find this type of practice is great for when I go out into the world and sketch people sitting in waiting rooms, or sketch animals at the zoo—neither group has any concept that they should hold a pose for you at all!

Also on April 3 we were looking at "the whole" in a variety of ways. We drew the contour line only as you can see in my next image.

120403_16ContourLeft: Drawing only the contour of the figure. The model was resting his left hand on a staff, suggested by the straight line, but not completed. The number "16" on the sheet indicates the sixteenth sheet for this work session. I typically use 18 to 22 sheets of paper.

I was working pretty slowly and deliberately during the 5 minutes I worked on the contour. (The model was holding a wooden staff to support one of his hands in the pose.)

While things can go wonky fast when looking at the contour there are some fun things to observe with the negative space. In fact I think I paid more attention to the negative space because I wasn't "allowed" to draw what was in the postive space.

We followed with a five-minute pose working only on the silhouette of the figure, working from the center out with a piece of buttery soft Alphacolor Char-Kole that Christine brought to class. (She got hers at Utrecht so I've given you a link for it there.)

I don't have a photo of that sketch for some reason, but it was fun to turn the mind onto each of these different approaches.

Our last 40 minutes were spent on two 20-minute poses that were actually the same pose, just with a break in the middle (the model came back and resumed the same pose). You had the option of working on your first 20-minute sketch for another 20 minutes or you could move to an empty easel and take a new view point.

I did neither. And this is really the point of today's post. Of course I've buried my lead!

I had difficulty with the 20-minute pose. There were some lovely areas that I simply wasn't capturing. I knew another 20 minutes wasn't going to salvage what I had. I could start over either in the same place or move. I like where I stand because of the lighting so I didn't really want to move. And I didn't want to start over. So, knowing that I wasn't going to get the lovely lines I wanted where the legs met the torso and the arms extended, I did what I do when I'm out sketching and things aren't going well—I picked one small area on which to focus.

The model had just had a haircut during spring break (in fact everyone except me seemed to have had a haircut during spring break). I decided to focus just on his head because hair, noses, and ears are always so interesting to me.

My default when things aren't going well is to give it a really good try (which I'd already done) and then maximize the remaining time by focusing on something that I love to draw. Since there weren't any birds in the room I went for the portrait.

While this isn't strictly gesture (though I could make a case for the gesture of the muscles in the model's neck and shoulder), Christine is very kind when students make a departure. She weighed in with helpful commentary about developing my shadow shapes in the cheek. (She's going to push you even if you leave the suggested path—that's her job.)

I'm pleased with the end result. But I'm most pleased that even though my energy and attention both were lagging I kept pushing and focusing. I left class eager to get home and get back to work. The productivity push kept moving me forward. And I'm excited to go back and try more experiments next week.

    • Karen E
    • April 16, 2012

    Love the 5-min gesture. Really strong. Your hard work on the angles shows the tension and weight of the figure. Your best posts yet I think.

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