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gesture sketches

Artists who draw and paint the figure are always trying to improve their ability to capture the ‘gesture’, meaning a figure that looks alive, loose, and expressive, as opposed to technically accurate but stiff.  I use the method adapted from those described by Kimon Nicolaides in his book The Natural Way to Draw (1941 ... yes, 1941). In one method he assumes you are in a life drawing class with access to a model every day.  You have the model take a new pose every minute, and in that one minute you try to capture the gesture of the model's pose on a large piece of paper, with continued movements of your arm, using a stick of charcoal.  After one minute you tear off the page and go to the next pose.  The goal is not to be accurate but to learn to see, feel, and capture the gesture.  The idea is not to save these drawings, or even to look at them necessarily, except for a few to track your progress.  Nicolaides advises doing about 25 to 50 of these a day … you go through a lot of large sheets of cheap paper. 

I don’t typically have access to a live model.  One approach I use is to find a Youtube video of a dancer, pause it at some random point and set a timer for one minute, and do this over and over.  I also use the website quickposes.com, which is designed for this activity – you set the time limit for each pose (e.g. one minute) and it shows you a series of photos of models in various poses for one minute each.  I use sticks of charcoal but I also do one-minute gesture sketches with other materials such as oil pastel or acrylic ink with a sumi brush.  Another thing that I sometimes do is go to a place where people are doing something active (like the Detroit Curling Club where my son is a member), sit in the stands and do quick sketches of the people in action, trying to capture the gesture of a certain movement. 

Sometimes I like the pose captured in one of these drawings and I use it for the basis of a painting. I have done thousands of these quick gesture drawings … shown here are some of the ones I’ve saved.

At left:  One minute gesture sketch, 2016.  

Charcoal on toned paper, 18 x 12. 

 

One minute gesture sketch, 2014. 

Oil pastel on paper, 14 x 10.5

  

 

One minute gesture sketch, 2016

Oil pastel on paper, 18 x 12

 

One minute gesture sketch, 2016

Charcoal on toned paper, 18 x 12

 

One minute gesture sketch, 2016

Acrylic ink and sumi brush on paper, 14 x 10 

 

 

One minute gesture sketch, 2016

Graphite on paper, 18 x 12

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One minute gesture sketch, 2019

Nupastel on paper, 17 x 11

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One minute gesture sketch, 2019 

Nupastell on paper, 17 x 11  

 
 

One minute gesture sketch, 2017

Charcoal on toned paper, 18 x 12