Life Drawing
Lesson I
Gesture -- The Foundation of Figurative Art

Compare the "contour" method to the stick-start method

In a way, I am throwing you a curve here: I am introducing a comparison to this "contour drawing" to make a point. The important point I am pushing is that a loose approach to drawing increases options. Handled deftly, the stick method, above others, may lead to more options.

This gesture drawing is produced by a common, fairly standardized method known as "contour drawing." The approach is to observe and directly delineate the external contours of the form. In short order, you have a very satisfying, complete drawing.

Although apparently loose, I assert that this kind of drawing is rigid, in that it offers little fodder for further development. As a style, it is an end in itself.

But is there anything wrong with contour drawing?

Chances are, if you are a beginner, the contour drawing style feels more natural for you to do.

Knowing this, many art teachers show you this technique since they want you to feel comfortable while you learn. This technique may be advisable and enjoyable, but it can be a trap if you want to learn to build a drawing concept beyond this crystalline outline.

...It is important to caution beginners that, although less likely, rigid adherence to the stick figure method can also block your freedom to move forward after the gesture start...

Compare this drawing to the drawing above. Which drawing do you think leads to the most ideas for the next step, whatever that step may be? See how this drawing is taken beyond the short gesture and on is more "fleshed out" development.

Students trying the stick figure method for the first time might follow the stick figure technique strictly, as you see in this drawing.





As you get more comfortable with thinking in this technique, you can loosen up. This drawing and the one below are variations on the looser theme.











Finally, you can do a blend of approaches, like blending the contour and the stick approaches for example:




Gesture Intro Page Skeletal Foundation
Stick: The following are the key elements for organizing a "stick" figure:
The line of action Three ovals -- Head, Ribcage, Pelvis Pivot points Long bones Tilts and angles Contour center lines of front and back torso, and face
Projection and volume augmentations: While good as a foundation, the stick figure does not adequately express projection of form, volume, or relative position in space. There is more you can do to express these important factors in the posing model:
The shortcomings of the stick figure Showing projection Application of the projection concept to the stick figure Simple volume solutions Relative position in space
Loosen up: Using the stick figure foundation with the projection and volume augmentations, you can loosely organize an expressive gesture sketch:
Compare the "contour" method to the stick-start method Importance of the free-going mark The line of action and stick are construction lines Adding relationship and rhythm



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This page modified July 10, 2000
1998 by Rebecca Alzofon. All rights reserved.