Welcome to Gesture Drawing!

Hello, and thank you for taking the time to check out my book. I hope I can convey a little bit of my excitement about, and love for, drawing through these pages. My goals in this book are:  first, to walk you through some different styles of drawing, in order to help you understand their most basic purposes; and then, to examine in-depth the subject of gesture drawing in particular.

Throughout the book I’ve included samples of my own drawings to illustrate my points, and to demonstrate each style as I describe it.

The main goal of this book is to introduce you to a type of drawing which doesn’t get a lot of appreciation in the art world. Gesture drawing is raw and refreshing; at its best, it captures a moment, a singular expression or emotion. Yet because gesture drawings tend to be loose, and often unfinished-looking, they don’t always get the same respect as, say, subtly-nuanced value drawings, or delicate line drawings. Which is unfortunate. There’s a unique power in the loose, unconstrained marks that capture a moment, boldly focused on the ‘now’.

Gesture Drawing One

As I said previously, I’m going to begin by providing a short overview of a variety of different types of drawing, and discuss how each can help artists express themselves in particular ways.

While all art is personal, there are also universal aspects which can be shared and communicated through common use of line, or value, or movement. Choosing the style of drawing which best meets the needs of the artwork at hand is an important part of creating a great drawing.

Following is a pencil study I drew of my yard early one morning – it started as a line drawing, intended to capture the interplay between the long grasses and the branches – it was meant only to be a 5 or 10 minute sketch.

But the more I looked at the scene in front of me, the more I realized that value (light and shadow) would be needed to do justice to the beauty that I wanted to capture. It’s having various drawing tools in one’s arsenal that lets an artist match a drawing to the moment, and change the drawing as the vision changes.

Thus no book about drawing should focus solely on one technique, for that’s too limiting. Art is freedom, and with freedom comes choice.

Trees in Yard Sketch

After briefly covering some of the primary forms of drawing, I’ll talk about gesture drawing in greater detail. I’ll look at what defines gesture drawing, when it does (or doesn’t) work for a particular subject, and how it can be used to facilitate other types of drawing, and improve drawing skill overall.

And then I’ll get to the nitty-gritty – how to actually go about creating gesture drawings, techniques to improve drawing skills, and what materials fit what circumstances in the world of gesture drawings. I also included three chapters solely composed of gesture drawings created within different time limits, using different materials, and on different surfaces.

I primarily hope that this book, more than anything, will encourage people to just jump in, and draw. The best thing about gesture drawing is the freedom that accompanies it – when you have 2 minutes to create a drawing, using a broad brush on a large sheet of paper, it’s not going to have the subtlety of the Mona Lisa, or of a delicate pencil portrait by Ingres.

But it will have a raw, fresh, emotional quality which proudly holds its own in the world of mark-making. And, most important of all, if I can encourage you to create more gesture drawings, consequentially, you will be doing more drawing. Which is the best way to improve. As artists we must be comfortable with all types of marks – bold powerful ones, delicate gentle ones, and everything in-between. Bold and rugged marks often get left by the wayside in favor of fine precise lines. Let’s change that.

I was a high-school art teacher for years, and I found, time-and-again, that many students had lost something as they moved away from their elementary-school selves – they had lost the willingness to just leap in and create, making marks with joy and freedom. Art often becomes labored, stressful, a product of fear and infused with feelings of inadequacy. Ironically, that often combines with an attempt to be ‘perfect’ (photographic), which is a recipe for disaster. Together, let’s learn to let that go, and just be in the moment. Let’s learn to let go of worry about our creations being ‘good enough’, and instead focus on the joyous act of creating. Let’s go!