Hello. I’m a Gesture. It is my purpose in life to get drawn in a way that brings out not only the basic “ story point, ” but also the subtle nuances of the pose. All my acting ability goes into my poses. It is relatively easy. First I think of what I want to do, then almost like magic my body just moves into the pose. All the parts of my body know instinctively what to do. It is, of course, a contrived pose, that is, I am not really doing it — I’m just “play-acting.” Nevertheless, I sum up all the necessary forces to pull it off.
I realize that when an artist is drawing me, the pen or pencil does not automatically or involuntarily assume the gesture like my body does. The artist has to fi gure out how my body accomplished the gesture, you might say, intellectually. He has to see (mentally) how I am balanced; the angles various parts of my body have taken; the squashes and stretches; the opposing forces, etc. This is so he can feel those forces I am making use of in expressing the gesture, so that he can guide his pen or pencil correspondingly.
When I first strike a pose, the newness of it is very vivid in my mind and body — it is clear, definite, and well-defined. I usually caricature it enough so there will be no mistake about the story behind it. It s odd that after a while I lose the newness of the feeling, and have to remind myself of the original concept. I realize that the artist has the same problem. When he fi rst looks at my pose he sees the gesture in a sparkle of clarity. He immediately sums it up and forms a “fi rst impression. ” As he proceeds, he often begins to get involved in drawing problems, and that first impression — which was so crystalline clear-cut, so obvious, so apparent — begins to slip away. So the artist has to constantly renew that first impression in his mind, too.
With me, it’s easy to strike a gesture, because I am it. But the artist has to re-create it on paper. I don’t envy his task, so I try to make it as easy for him as I can. I can’t help it if my clothes don’t always cooperate and act as drapery ought to. All too often they don’t fully explain what is going on underneath—that is one thing the artist has more control over than I do. And drapery is an important factor in gesture drawing. Here’s a pose where I was acting like I was pushing a boat or raft along with a long pole. The student’s drawing (on the left) shows that he did not feel the weight of my body as it pressed down on the pole, and that I was leaning into the “push.” The instructor’s suggestion (on the right) at least captures some of my efforts.
Here’s another pose, where I feel kinda ’ slighted in the student’s drawing. I’m hitchhiking, and it’s as if a car just went by without stopping for me. My looking off to stage left suggests that. The instructor’s drawing has me following the car with my whole upper body as it passes. It hints of a contemptuous backwash of wind as it passes, or perhaps that I leaned toward it to voice some unfriendly comment.
There might even be a suggestion of the middle finger replacing the thumb …
Whenever I pose, I use the space around me to do it in. I form different perimeters that help define the gesture. For instance, if I spread my arms apart, I am increasing the space between them. A good way to think of the tension thus created, is to imagine I am stretching a rubber band — the farther apart my hands — the more tension is suggested. That is what I did in this next pose. I spread the newspaper open and then positioned my head a little closer to the right hand, because I was looking over to the left side of the paper. I had to turn my head (face) toward that page to appear to be reading it. That created a nice tension between my face and the page, just like the outstretched hands. I, the Gesture, used a body to manifest myself, but the body is not me. Likewise the instructor ignored the details of the figure as he went for the essence of the gesture.
There has to be a certain amount of attention paid to the body (anatomy) in acting out a gesture or in drawing one. One student had become frustrated with his attempt to capture this pose. The instructor saw that the student had lost control because he had been copying some of the lines that appeared on the model’s body rather than the gesture of the body itself, to express the pose. His suggestion was to draw the torso fi rst, making it easy to see where the arms, legs, and neck are connected. The torso, in effect, becomes the nucleus, or the foundation for drawing.
I hope I haven’t bored you with all this analysis, but I feel strongly about having my efforts depicted with all the integrity due a gesture.
Posted by Lauren, editorial project manager at Focal Press. Follow me on Twitter @focalauren