Gesture Drawing—"Scribbles"

As I progressed with my drawing instruction, I hit a wall. I traced that problem to having gone through Stan Prokopenko's Figure Drawing Fundamentals series too quickly.

I'm now reviewing that series with an improved mindset of PATIENCE. 

Although I took the time to practice gesture drawing when I first started these lessons, I didn't keep in mind the CONCEPT that was being taught with the lesson. Appreciating the concept of gesture is just as important as doing the gesture drawings.

This time, while watching the full version of the Proko gesture lesson, I took FIVE pages of notes as a reminder of how to do the exercise and its purpose.

Here's a summary of why gesture is the single most important part of the drawing:
  1. Gesture is: the movement between things; the motion, action body language, energy, story idea, message. It describes the relationship among the forms.
  2. Gesture is NOT the contours, forms nor the tone but the movement that connects the contours, forms and tone.
  3. The goal is to practice gesture so that it becomes second nature.
  4. Gesture is in everything. Without it, the drawing is static and boring.
  5. Gesture is more about how the object feels than how it looks.
  6. The concept to be learned from gesture: I'm training my mind to see rhythm in everything I draw; training my mind to consider more than just contours when I draw and shade.
Here's an example of how gesture is in everything—a Frank Gehry architecture gesture drawing:

After reviewing the Proko approach to gesture, I was reminded of the gesture lessons of Kimon Nicolaides, Samantha Youssef and Glenn Vilppu. Proko, Youssef and Vilppu have similar, spaghetti-noodle approaches to gesture.

But Nicolaides teaches a scribble method that the others don't teach that I thought would be valuable to practice. Both methods require quickly recording the feeling of the pose but the scribbling involves a faster, even more visceral response to the pose. Plus, I like all of those moving, energetic lines.

I'm dedicating four weeks to practicing just gesture. My daily drawing practice now looks like this:
  1. Warmup circles (1-2 pages)
  2. Warmup ellipses  (1-2 pages)
  3. Warmup straight lines  (1 page)
  4. 50 drawings of 5 second "scribble" gestures
  5. 50 drawings of 30 second "spaghetti noodle" gestures
  6. Youssef blocking exercise (1 pose)
I start with the Watts warmup of circles, ellipses and straight lines using a charcoal pencil. Then I switch to a Tombow fine point and brush pen for the 5 second scribble drawings. I found free-flowing ink to work better than charcoal for those particular drawings. I then switch back to a blunt charcoal pencil for the 30 second gestures. For the blocking exercise, I use a well-sharpened charcoal pencil. All of these exercises are done on smooth newsprint.

In her book Movement and Form, Youssef describes blocking as "…the practice of training our eyes to recognize the individual shapes of the objects in our picture plane…It is meant to train your eyes to graphically translate what you see onto paper with accuracy."

This idea of blocking is similar to that of concept artist Robh Ruppel's in his book Graphic L.A. He talks about how drawing is symbol-making; that the way to make a drawing look real is the use of basic shapes, basic brushes and getting the relative values right. He recommends—like Youssef—reducing everything we see into simple geometric shapes and the fewest values. Youssef recommends daily blocking practice so that's exactly what I'm going to do. 

My goal in life is to be able to paint like THIS!

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