If writing practice were art, it would be a gesture drawing.
–red Ravine, 2007
I remember doing gesture drawings on a rainy day in winter, sitting in front of my pad of cheap newsprint, thin charcoal stick in my right hand. The room had high ceilings and a gray cement floor. Our nude model was cold; I could tell from the gooseflesh on her arms, from her nipples. Before we began she walked to the small space heater, bent over and pushed it closer to the wooden stage where she was to pose. In spite of the cold, she seemed more comfortable in her skin than I was fully clothed.
Kimon Nicolaides introduced the concept of gesture drawing in 1941 in his book The Natural Way To Draw: A Working Plan For Art Study. Artist Nancy Doyle, in her instruction website, explains the concept this way:
I see the idea of gesture as the essential character of a figure or object, a kind-of eastern philosophy viewpoint. That is, everything has a gesture. As Nicolaides wrote, ‘Everything has a gesture – even a pencil.’ On the physical level, the pencil’s gesture is a ‘shooting’ straight line, very quick. That physical movement has an intangible counterpart – its essence – its movement identity, personality, or essence…That deep green shadow of the leaves – what gesture does it have? What is it doing? Curving diagonally from top to bottom, right to left? What is its energy level? What is the spirit of its movement, its light, its color? Also, I began to see the actual composition of the painting in gestural terms – an idea that the abstract expressionists also espoused. What is the composition doing? It has a certain movement – physical and spiritual. Is it graceful? Sweeping? Tentative? Curved? Angular? Agitated? Serene?
In gesture drawing the artist sketches the model using quick lines. Each gesture drawing is done in anywhere from a thirty seconds to two or three minutes. The idea is to capture in your drawing the movement of the body, the essence of the pose. Gesture drawing reminds the artist that no matter what you are drawing, it has action and life.
–Leaning Forward On Right Foot, drawing © 2007 by
ybonesy. All rights reserved.
This week’s topic assignment is to apply the concept of gesture drawing to writing. Find a quiet spot outside or in to sit for three minutes. Then with notebook and pen in hand, walk to an object – a chair, lamp post, shrub, shoe – and quickly capture with words what you see. Write for no more than a minute or two. (If you don’t want to keep time with a watch, use line count instead; one or two lines, not even full sentences.) Keep your hand moving the entire time, and try to keep your eyes on the object as you write. Move to another object and do the same. Do this until you have ten different objects in your notebook.
When you’re done, go to the same quiet spot where you started and read aloud what you’ve written. Share with us in Comments whichever gesture practices you’d like. Also tell us, how did this feel? Was it simply a short timed practice? Or did you get to the essence of whatever it was in front of you more quickly than you normally would in a longer timed write? What was the difference between this and a longer practice?
–Arms Outstretched, drawing © 2007 by ybonesy. All