Where Gesture Is King

13 May 2012

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 Dan Thompson's latest DVD, Figure Drawing II: The Gesture, comes into play for me. I'm not quite ready for a public figure drawing session, but The Gesture gives me everything a top notch figure workshop could without any pressure to perform. And I can "take" the class as many times as I want. Just hit replay. Enjoy!



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Figure Drawing II: The Gesture with Dan Thompson DVD

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Decode the body with dynamic short poses and the essential instruction found here!


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