Gesture Drawing

This fall, I’m teaching several art classes — some in my home and one at our homeschool co-op. This week, we worked on drawing a still life, a project that included lessons in proportion and shading. To get the students warmed up and focused, however, we did a quick activity before working on the main pieces — a very quick activity. The students created some gesture drawings.

Gesture drawing is the name given to the quick sketches an artist creates of a particular subject — sketches to capture the mood, feeling, emotion, or movement of the subject. The sketches are created as a series of overlapping (often circular) lines without any erasing — no changes can be made once a line is on the paper. These drawings are done quickly; depending on the subject matter, one may spend as little as 10 seconds drawing a particular object, while more difficult compositions may take five minutes or so.

The purpose? This style of drawing helps to literally “loosen” up an artist; no erasers can be used to make corrections, and the artist is encouraged to draw quickly and freely. Gesture drawing is also aids in sharpening observation skills as the artist must focus all of his or her attention on the object.  Here’s how we did it:

I found a number of objects to use from my kitchen, some symmetrical, some not. The objects included mugs, syrup bottles, bananas, pears, cooking utensils, and toys (yes, we have toys in our kitchen too!).  I placed one object in front of each student, then provided them with a piece of scratch paper on which to draw. I gave them all a pencil but no eraser. They then had 30 sections to draw the object they were looking at.

We all found out that thirty seconds goes by very quickly when one is drawing. Next, I had everyone pass their objects two people to the left. We then spent another 30 seconds drawing the second object. We followed this procedure two or three more times. I even had them try drawing the object while looking only at the object and not at their paper at all.

The best part of all — you don’t  even need an art class to try this fun activity!  You can do it together with your children around the kitchen table, and everyone can create a gesture drawing (or two or three). You’ll find it’s good practice for everyone — and a lot of fun!

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