Where Gesture Is King

Comics, of course! Back in college I got a little bit obsessed with the history of comics, mostly as an art appreciator, although I was also fascinated by how much social commentary was injected into the narratives and stories. But my interest in comics is where I really seized on the pen and ink artwork techniques that I still can’t get enough of. The most lasting lesson I learned from comics, however, has to do with gesture in figure drawing.

One of Neal Adams' depictions of Robin from the Batman comic book.
One of Neal Adams’ depictions of Robin
from the Batman comic book.

When you look at a really good comic illustration, it reads like a really good gesture drawing. The same rules apply in how to draw both–a strong angle of implied movement that is articulated through a figure’s entire body. The expressiveness of the body can almost read abstractly and seem to impact the figure’s surroundings. That is how powerfully it is presented. Comic book artists reinforce this with the use of cropping and light and dark patterning to emphasize the action of their figure sketches and call attention to what they want to say about the body.

Feelings of femininity, softness, sleep, and languidness in comic figure drawings are often accomplished with a gesture drawing that features long, fluid pen strokes and a predominance of curvilinear lines. Limbs are extended. Figures expressing stress, anxiety, guilt, remorse, or shiftiness are often depicted with sharper “edges” and angles. The body’s limbs are more drawn in and joints poke out, or the body is bent over or contorted. The figure’s stance can look closed off and guarded.

Panels from Bernie Krigstein's Master Race.
Panels from Bernie Krigstein’s Master Race.

A comic illustration in its final form is a far cry from a gesture drawing, yet I think there’s a strong possibility that a lot of them start as gesture drawings. Both are rooted in the expressiveness and language of the human body. Looking at gesture during a human figure drawing session is the first step to making a believable figure drawing, no matter where you want to take it–whether inset into a comic book panel or a fine art drawing or painting. And that’s where Drawing Secrets Revealed with Sarah Parks comes into play for me. I’m not quite ready for a public figure drawing session, but Sarah’s resource collection gives me everything a top notch figure workshop could without any pressure to perform. And I can “take” the class at my leisure and explore the areas of the human body that interest me most as an artist. Enjoy!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

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