As you know, my education has been largely self-directed. In choosing my mentors and teachers, a common denominator has always been their ability to capture life, energy, and emotion, causing me to ‘feel’ life in the work, as much as be visually entertained by it.
Producing art and paintings with life and energy has many challenges. There are guidelines and techniques, but there are no rules. No certainties.
Focusing heavily upon techniqueswill strangely cause ‘it’ to remain illusive. The artist must engage one’s body and spirit in the process, allowing the body to be more of the instrument/conduit for making the marks than the mind! Like the Japanese “shodo” calligraphy master, it is the energy of the artist that makes the mark present in the work that creates the life therein.
So many exceptional, remarkably talented painters produce the most beautiful images of life, but we, the viewer are often left somehow ‘wanting more’. Often, it is as if the exquisite craftsmanship/draughtsmanship that made the painting ‘perfect’ somehow removed the natural life force from it. Natural life is more random, less conforming than fine lines and details. Whilst I admire and have detailed paintings in our collection, it is the life energy that interests me as a painter, rather than the correctly rendered surface appearance of things.
Drawing the ‘life in the moment’ is somehow more intriguing to me…Sometimes it’s mere seconds – a few lines…
1. Without thinking, I look for a strong, dominant, energetic line that carries the moment. Often this line is on the inside, rather than outside of the figure, as in here.
2. One, long, continuous line is recommended for gestural drawing. However, pressure, changes in direction to emphasize energy over form is recommended.
3. At times, try to condense the line into the simplest form that remains recognizable with the barest details. By doing so, we learn to capture those elements that are important to us; The things one artist notices in a fleeting moment will be different from another. In this way, we discover our unique point of view and eventually, our style.
Wait to see if a gesture is repeating. You may feel worried at a concert, ..There’s so much going on… Relax. Everyone is enjoying the stage, and no one is watching you. Repeated. When you begin to draw life situations, you will soon begin to realize that people tend to favor leaning one way rather than the other, especially musicians that carry their instruments in one hand.
Many years ago, during my quest to capture expression and energy in my work, I came across one of the most wonderful books on drawing the world has ever known:
Kimon Nicolaides : The Natural Way To Draw: A Working Plan for Art Study.
(I have found the entire book, along with other great drawing lessons, online free of charge. Go to: http://beginningdrawing.wordpress.com/2010/08/16/kimon-nicolaides/)
I faithfully undertook all the lesson plans and exercises recommended therein, training and honing my ability to capture not only my life-drawing skills, but also enabling me to begin to understand the illusive “essence” of life, which I craved to capture and express in my work.
The following is what the Master, Kimon Nicolaides says about gesture drawing:
“You should draw, not what the thing looks like, not even what it is, but what it is DOING."
Feel how the figure lifts or droops, pushes forward here – pulls back there. In gesture drawing, you feel the movement of the whole. It is only the action, the gesture that you are trying to respond to here, not the details of the structure. You must discover – and feel- that the gesture is dynamic, moving, not static.
What the eye sees – that is, the various parts of the body in various actions and directions, is but the result of this inner impulse, and to understand one must use something more than eyes. It is necessary to ‘participate’ in what the model is doing; to identify yourself with it. Without a sympathetic emotional reaction in the artist, there can be no real, penetrating understanding.” Kimon Nicolaides.
My jazz gesture equipment
My husband can be described as a jazz fanatic, and whilst I do so love going to jazz concerts with him, I have come to realize that my enjoyment of jazz is doubled, in fact trebled, when I can watch the musicians and experience the music first-hand.
When I wish to paint musicians, I find it’s not enough to huddle up with a good photo in my studio, listening to a CD. It is the gesture of the musician, instrument, and rhythm of the music that contributes to the work, so I always carry:
- A small, retractable pencil.
- A water soluble pencil like ‘General’s Sketch And Wash’ or Aquarelle.
- A small sketch book that fits in my purse
- A small, portable brush. I have to say, the latter is not necessary since a finger dipped in your beverage works well too. (Make sure it’s clean!)
Sometimes you may be lucky to see them all sitting and sharing stories. You may have more than a few minutes more to develop your gesture into a sketch..
And sometimes, you may even be able to take your small paintbox into the concert and make a painting! (Thanks to Smooth Jazz Cruise.)
When you don’t have your sketchbook, or your paints, if you have an iPhone or iPad, and a finger, you can always do gesture sketches from life.…
The app is called “Brushes” and you can download it for just under $5.00 onto your iPhone. The iPad version is slightly more expensive at $7.99. I believe there are similar apps available for other smart phones. We now have no excuse not to be creative! You can always take a photo, insert the photo into the Brushes app, and play with the photo in Brushes, playing and creating to your heart’s content.
Want to see the process in action? Click below.
PAY IT FORWARD
My life is a living testament to the old statement “What comes around, goes around”’; or “What you do for others in an act of generosity, comes back tenfold”. In honor of this code, I began writing down everything I know in these lessons in 2011 and began to offer them out, for free…. But it’s very valuable information. The lessons constitute a lifetime of learning, and are lent to you as an act of generosity to help you on your artistic journey. If you find this material helpful, continue to ‘pay it forward’ by sharing this website with others so that they too can be inspired with Art through "Lessons With Lesley."
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