Bringing Art to Life

Dancer 2 (2)I am absolutely in love with gesture drawings and the Quick Poses website. I’ve done gesture drawings in the past. The idea of doing rapid-fire little sketches was one I learned as part of my basic drawing instruction last summer. To be honest, it didn’t make much sense. What was the point in scribbling a few lines that were supposed to be human but which really didn’t look like much of anything?

Now that I’m spending more time with figure drawing, I’ve had to revisit gestures, only now I’m seeing them from an entirely new perspective. Gestures are more than frantic scribbles. They’re a method of capturing the essential elements of the human body, seeing the beauty of movement, and breathing life into our art.

DancersThat’s how it feels to me, at least. Of course, if you saw all the scribbles in my figure-drawing sketchbook, you’d think I’d gone mad to speak of seeing beauty and life within them, but it’s there. I felt it when I had my pencil in hand, quickly making lines here and there, working to catch — and hold — that one particular moment in time before the world moved on.

Working with a series of poses, I experienced one of those gestalt moments, when suddenly I knew what was happening without even knowing how I knew. It was such a sudden but deep insight that it left me dumb-founded.

I wasn’t simply trying to draw the human form. I was creating the energy of the body, feeling the poses, experiencing the movements involved.

In my own body — my mind, my imagination, my heart, my spirit — I felt the gentle stretching motions of the ballerinas, then took a blow to the gut as a boxer delivered a knock-out. I jumped and soared with a basketball in hand, then all but flew through the air as dancers performed breath-taking lifts.

I’ve shown only two of the gesture drawings I did this morning — these are from a series of 20. I chose these because they were the ones that most closely resembled real people. The others are little more than jumbles of lines. Yet even in those jumbles, I can see the body and recall the movements I felt.

All of the drawings in the series were done with graphite. For the ones I’m showing here, I went over the marks with a Pitt “SC” pen, which is actually more of a brush. For another gesture-drawing session, I plan to work with my pens instead of a pencil, or maybe do a series with soft pastels.

If you’re interested in figure-drawing or simply want a fun “gesture-drawing” experience, check out the Quick Poses website. I used the “timed” gesture feature for my series of 20 figures. I set each figure to display for 60 seconds, and I was able to create each drawing but one within the allotted time. You can choose other intervals, and you can choose the types of models you want to draw. You can even select an “upside down” option — which I’ll be using for a future session.

I enjoy art each day, but this was one of the most enjoyable art experiences I’ve had. My hope is that by learning to feel as I’m drawing, I’ll be able to express not only emotion but physical energy in my drawings and truly bring my art to life.





    1. Thanks! The jumbles really are fun to look at — at least for me — because there is energy there. It was so much fun to do this rapid-fire gestures and really feel that energy. It was such a totally new and unexpected aspect of drawing that it left me really dumbstruck. I just hope I can find ways of bringing that energy through into other things I draw and paint. I think by learning how to “feel” it, I’ll at least have a starting point for bringing more “life” to my art.

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  1. This is great, Judith! Look at you go! Drawing is so key, and often overlooked. Can’t have a good painting without a good drawing underneath. Lots of life in these, your drawing practice will serve you well, I think. Thanks for the link to that site also.

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    1. I love the site. Whenever I do gesture drawings, it takes me about 3 or 4 figures to “warm up” and really get loose with it. After that, it’s so much fun! It really frees me up — and I’ve learned to never, never begin with the head in gesture drawing — and I can start seeing shapes and feeling energy flowing. It’s a wonderful experience, especially the really weird poses!

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      1. Sounds wonderful! I will try today. Still in bed, but I can sketch in bed. Yesterday was an art free day and I just can’t do that twice in a row. I try to do it never! I think feeling the movement is really a good thing. You’re on the right track.

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      2. A day without art is like…well, it’s awful! We went to south Missouri on Wednesday to visit my husband’s folks so I didn’t get to do much drawing or painting, and today we’ll be driving into the city, so I won’t get to do much today either. On the trip south I took a watercolor book with me so I could read, and for my husband’s doctor appointments I always take a sketchbook, plus we’ll be buying art supplies 🙂 So that’s almost as good as drawing and painting.

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      3. You’ve really been bitten by the acrylics bug! Where do you find all of these sites lol.

        Ok, that quick poses site is ADDICTIVE. I may need a 12-step program for that. Figures was fun, now I’m moving to faces. I’m doing 2-minute ones. Really enjoying! Thanks for the link!

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      4. Did you sign up with your email? If you did, it will track your progress and you can get a certificate 🙂 Yes, the site is wonderful. I haven’t done faces there yet. I’m having too much fun with the figures.

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      5. 2 minutes is much too fast for a face. I switched to feet. Love the feet images, so many ballerinas! There is a video on Artist Network can’t remember the artist I think it might be Joy Thomas. Five minute head studies is what it’s about. And it can be done and you can get a likeness. Two minutes though, personally don’t see the point. Anyone can get the shape of the face and the brow line, lip line and such but it seems a waste (to me) if there’s no hope of recognizing the person. The figures are lots of fun but I could do without young girls holding guns and trying to look sexy. There is nothing sexy about a gun. Love the site, though, Judith, and so glad you let us know about it!

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      6. I’m glad you’re enjoying it, too. I haven’t run into girls with guns. If I do, I’ll just skip right over those, thank you very much. Some of the poses are really wild, but that does make them fun to draw.

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      7. Isn’t it?! Seriously, we should all be hooked on it. I’m much more practiced at feet; hands, I really need to work on. It’s a lot of fun to feel like you’re capturing what you see (feet). Hands are much harder. But fun and challenging!

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      8. In my anatomy study I’m finishing up all the bones and muscles of the arm, and I’ll be starting on all the bones in the hands next. I think I’ll do some “quick” studies with hands then. That should be fun. Challenging, but fun.

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      9. They are definitely challenging. I’ve not studied anatomy, but I’ve been tempted to at times with certain animal faces when the pose is at a certain angle. Dogs in particular, I sometimes think I should draw skulls and muscles. But I’ll try to avoid that if possible lol. I admire your attention to detail.

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      10. I really enjoy anatomy, and I do like drawing bones and muscles…but there are so many of them! I’ve drawn front view, back view, side view, top view, bottom view…and this is just for the arm! Yes, I do think anatomy is good to know. I did skulls last fall when I was first studying facial proportions. It really does help to know the underlying bone structure.

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  2. Wow, those drawings really convey energy and movement held. To me it signals an ability to let go while drawing that I really wish I had. Thanks also for the link tomthe Quick Poses site.

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    1. I really enjoy doing gesture drawings at Quick Poses. It’s helped me “loosen up” a lot. It usually takes 3 or 4 poses for me to “warm up” and then I just feel totally free. It’s a wonderful feeling, and I hope it translates into my figure drawing.

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      1. That is the first time drawing figures even looked interesting to me believe it or not. Your little scribbled ballerina!

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    1. The Quick Poses site is so much fun. You never know what pose will come up next, so there’s this sense of anticipation, plus it goes so fast, you have to quickly assess each pose and “grab it” before it goes away again.

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      1. It’s really fun once you “get into” it. It takes me a couple frantic minutes to settle in and catch my breath, and then I just love it. Every pose is different so I have to think — and react — quickly with my drawing, and that is really helping me focus on seeing shapes immediately instead of spending a lot of time studying a figure and trying so hard to get things right. There is no “right” because there isn’t time. It’s just look-draw-go. Give it a try!

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