Gesture Drawing

May 8, 2011
I’ve been experimenting with another drawing exercise – gesture drawing. It’s almost a polar opposite to Contour drawing but a great companion to it.
Here is how Kimon Nicolaides describes the process in The Natural Way to Draw:

“Find somewhere that if full of active people, a playground, a football game… etc. As the people you watch move, you are to draw, letting your pencil swing around the paper almost at will, being impelled by the sense of the action you feel. Draw rapidly and continually in a ceaseless line, from top to bottom, around and around, without taking your pencil off the paper. Let the pencil roam, reporting the gesture.
You should draw, not what the things looks like, note even what it is, but what it is doing. Feel how the figure lifts or droops – pushes forward here – pulls back there – pushed out here – drops down easily there.
As the pencil roams, it will sometimes strike the edge of the form, but more often it will travel through the center of forms and often it will run outside of the figure, even out of the paper altogether. Do not hinder it. Let it move at will. Above all, do not TRY to follow edges.
It is only the action, the gesture, that you are trying to respond to here, not the details of the structure. You must discover – and feel – that the gesture is dynamic, moving, not static. Gesture has no precise edges, no exact shape, no jellied form. The forms are in the act of changing. Gesture is movement in space.
Like contour, gesture is closely related to the tactile experience. In contour drawing you feel that you are touching the edge of the form with your finger (or pencil). In gesture drawing you feel the movement of the whole form in your whole body.” 
I did these sketches at the North Carolina Museum of Art amid the beautiful and very active Rodin sculptures. I’ve been enjoying doing these kind of sketches but think I need to get a bigger sketchbook for them than my little carry-along sketchbook. I’ve filled up a third of the book in one week doing these.
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  • Reply
    Sketchbook: kids at work | Lyric Art
    July 11, 2013 at 7:33 am

    […] drawings of kids who don’t hold still. It’s a great exercise in gesture drawing. Here is a post explaining more about what that […]

  • Reply
    May 8, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    Hi Lyric,
    Drawing exercises are fun, aren't they?

    A great companion to Nicolaides book is "Drawing on the right side of the brain" by Betty Edwards. If you haven't come across this book already I highly recommend it.

    Happy sketching,

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