[ A+ ] /[ A- ]

In Dynamic Drawing one of the core ideas is the best way to learn to draw quickly with a fluid line and get greater control, is to spend time just practicing that!

Pretty simple really. To facilitate that we have Live Dynamic Gesture Drawing, using moving rather than still subjects. The model repeats a simple pattern. Could be a dance move, or opening a door? At regular speed or slowed down. Repeated in a loop for 3 to 5 min. Sessions should run 20 min to 1 hour in all.

There are a few kinds of Gesture drawing, many are familiar with line of action, and the Reilly method approach to gesture, Mike Mattesi’s Force system is quite popular, there are others too! All of them have their uses but in the course I utilize what I colloquially call ‘full gesture’ which is a scribly loose form of gesture exemplified by Kimon Nicolaides. The main difference being it’s well suited to a fast continuous line approach that helps students break out of limited short strokes and get comfortable with going FAST!!!

The goal is to gain greater muscle memory of drawing with speed and some grace, without worrying about the outcome of the drawings. I also encourage applying this constraint while sketching in public, and using video material for study.

I’ve posted some slowed down recordings of models we’ve had in class to use for practice. Use smooth papers for this exercise! Cheap newsprint is fine but get some with a smooth finish. The method looks like this in short.

  • For the first 30 seconds to one minute, study the models movement, while moving your hand without trying to draw.
  • Find rhythm in your motions, matched to the model/subjects movements. Try to feel  in your own, the forms of the subject’s body and movement through space.
  • Use that to also help remember your own body. Remember your Grip! Don’t let your hand become too tight. This is a muscle memory exercise, so observe the how of things as much as what you are trying to do.
  • Begin to draw moving swiftly. Not so fast you have NO control, but faster than you THINK you are comfortable. Don’t worry about getting the drawing right, just the fluid lines mater. The drawing will just be an impression. Let yourself be messy, be loose. Notice what it feels like to draw like that.
  • Use open and loose patterns. Describe the body, its transit through space, and the overall form the body makes throughout the movements.
  • Do not stop to refine. Draw until a simple gesture is achieved and then start another.
movement studies
Some examples of describing bodies in motion.

When I say Describe the body, its transit through space, and the overall form the body makes throughout the movements, I explain in class that I’m thinking of a range of things; ways of describing movement through space like Artist Shinichi Maruyama’s work, or Nude Descending a Staircase by Marcel Duchamp. Mark Holmes also does watercolour studies of Dancers that capture it well. He’s a master of the kind of spontaneous line I’m trying to get students to be comfortable with too!

The idea is to find things that the kind of line we want to practice, describes well. It makes no sense to try to draw with an exacting and controlled line, to practice drawing fluidly.

You can revisit your favorites later if you wish to. Either directly working over them to refine and pull out ideas you see, or use the scan and print in blue technique to make new iterations without losing the original sketch. The pen and paper version of infinite undo!

But for the duration of the Live Dynamic Gesture Drawing do not over work your studies! Give them 1.5 min at the most, under  minute and do up to 6 of the same gesture if you can! Push yourself. Pay attention to what it feels like, and feel out your limits.

While drawing, Remember what we learned in the section on your grip. Posture matters, don’t stress about being perfect but don’t stoop our slouch if you can help it. Support your upper body with your lower body, and leave your hands to draw and not have to hold you up.

Leave your drawing hand free to move and your other to just aid in stability by resting it on the table but not supporting more than it’s own weight. Hold the utensil with a relaxed drawing hand, without resting your hand on the paper. Only use your index finger if you need to stabilize. But work towards being strong enough to draw without even that. Use no more pressure to hold the brush pen or pencil in your fingers, than it takes to keep it from sipping from your fingers. And be mindful of the pressure on the paper, only use the minimum required to make a given desired mark.

This will give you the greatest range of line expression. Any extra energy going into the paper is lost control and excessive force that will tire your quicker.

It’s a good idea to always do some light stretching exercises before the modeling session begins to help give you the subtlety of control this aspect of the exercise requires. It’s something good to do before you draw every time even! But start the habit by making a point of doing in class. I personally recommend these Yoga exercises for the arms.

Also try skating the page a few times to get comfortable with large open forms. Here’s a great example of Mike Mattesi demonstrating that. He start the demo at the end of the embedded clip at 13:33

While doing Live Dynamic Gesture Drawing, you want to be making those kind of looping motions rather than breaking up the line. Move quickly in round motions, if you can in a continuous line! Or as close to one as you can manage. The goal is NOT to draw accurately, just fluidly. To get familiar with the physical aspect of drawing like this, without worrying about being correct or anatomy. Go for an accurate impression rather than precision. With time and repetition your control will increase.

Here’s a few clips of me demoing the technique a little, and how to go on to apply it as a stage in your life studies and sketching practice.

Remember, spend half or more of the first minute just watching and understanding the movement, while automatically starting to move the drawing hand with tool ready, over the paper but not touching, finding the physical rhythm pace and form of the subject. To get the most out of this you also want to be doing anatomy studies separately.

Attend Life art regularly, doing quick studies of stationary poses, use longer studies that are dedicated to trying understand and replicate what you see for that. Also to that end as practice, especially early on, I encourage copying! Following in the footsteps of masters is a great way to learn, just always credit the original sources! And best not to be trying to sell that stuff either. Don’t be a Labeouf!

As part of course study work, In class I’ll be giving you 20 anatomical drawings in light blue to trace. Do all of them if you can. And more.

If you pay attention and carefully look at how things work as you’re drawing, I’ll bet you even after just two or three, you’ll start to see an improvement in your other work.


Here’s a long clip of one of our regular models, Pascal Bernardin, doing repeating movements for the Dynamic Drawing gesture exercises. Playback is in real time, if you find it too much, start by using the playback speed option to slow it down for a bit at first. If you don’t see the option to adjust playback speed in the YouTube player, you are probably using the default Flash based video player. Go to youtube.com/html5 and opt into the HTML5 YouTube player.

Here’s some studies done in class from this clip.

Also, note that gesture work isn’t just for drawing from moving subjects, again this is just a constraint I’m using to help you grasp the technique by putting a time and attention limit on the practice. But as I demonstrated in the example clip up above, I use gesture, rather than constructive anatomy, any time I’m working from a model, live over photographed. I did a study series as a demo for the Long Series Exercise, that shows how I use gesture in HD and develop figurate contour drawings from it.

Last, here’s a gallery of some of the Live Dynamic Gesture Drawing I’ve done myself in class.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.