Little Girls and Gesture Sketches
Recently, I've begun working on the second chapter of 7" Kara. Scripting and thumbnails takes awhile for me, especially since I'm trying to be vigilant about common compositional errors like stacking heads and overly repetitive shot choices. When I'm not working on the comic, I'm probably doodling Kara in my sketchbook, mostly as a fun exercise and to try out different outfits from her style morgue. Drawing a miniature person like Kara is a lot of fun, as there's a lot of neat props and scenarios I can put her in. Some of the things I thought about while making these sketches were things like "what would Kara do if she found an egg? Do Lilliputians usually eat wild bird eggs? Or do they raise them as pets?" The answer would be that Lilliputians do indeed eat bird eggs, but Kara would probably try to raise a few, particularly robins, crows, and magpies. If it were a crow's egg, the resultant bird would probably be large enough to carry Kara, a thought that wouldn't be far from her mind.
I've also been trying to find more time for gesture drawing, an exercise I heartily recommend but don't practice enough. I utilize Pixelovely's human and animal image generators, and even managed to go to Forsythe Park twice this week for some real sketching. I love to sketch from life, but I don't always like the attention it garners, so I try to be secretive about it. Sometimes your audience doesn't understand that a gesture drawing is a loose, quick sketch that's intended to capture the emotion or the action, not a fine portrait. I'd love to find (and make) more time for drawing from life, particularly gesture drawing.
I'm a big fan of gesture drawing when it comes to drawing figures, especially figures in motion. I've spent the past few years studying figure drawing, and I find that when I don't do enough gesture sketches, my comics become very stiff, and I have a hard time thinking up poses. Going somewhere, like a cafe, a park, or even just sitting in class, provides me with ample reference to sketch. By drawing people behaving naturally, the people in my comics come off as more realistic. When capturing motion, the correctness that's encouraged in figure drawing classes may actually be a burden, so you may wish to simplify forms. You can always redraw your favorites later if the gestures you draw spur of the moment don't meet your standards.
When gesture sketching, I skip the non photo blue leads and the mechaincal pencils for china markers, black color pencils, and sometimes ink. I find that the loose nature of these materials makes for particularly powerful gesture drawings, and for me, they're easier to draw with. When I utilize non photo blue and graphite, I'm thinking more along the lines of traditional figure drawing, or drawing for comics, and less about the action that's in front of me. China markers and black color pencils allow me to quickly capture the gesture expressively, without worrying about my lead snapping. They're also well suited for outdoor conditions, like hazy damp days, since China markers will draw on just about anything.
If you're looking for gesture sketch inspiration, two of my favorite artists are Glen Vilppu and Walt Stanchfield. Stanchfield's collected lecture notes, Drawn to Life volumes 1 and 2 are full of fantastic advice for getting past mental roadblock. Glen Vilppu's figure drawing method is a fantastic way to learn how to draw the human body, starting with simple blocks and becoming progressively more complex.
On to the sketches!
Sometimes, if I like an article of clothing (like a cape) but can't quite make it work on the first go, I'll keep rehashing it.
Some of my favorite human poses on Pixelovely. Pixelovely is a fantastic resource for human and animal figure drawing, with plenty of options to suit your drawing needs. If you only spend ten minutes a day doing gesture drawing, your art will improve immensely. Drawing from life is always your best option, but if you're stuck at a desk or looking to kill some time, Pixelovely is a great solution.
I should use this embarrassingly short sketch dump as inspiration to draw more, particularly gesture drawings. I usually cull the herd when it comes to gesture drawings, as posting too many can get really boring fast, but I enjoy doing them. Gesture drawings are useful for loosening up, improving your mental pose vocabulary, and help train your eyes to see. It's commonly said that we have 10,000 hours of bad drawing in us, and I think gesture drawings are a great way to burn that 10k fast. There's little time or emotional investment, there's no pressure for them to be good, and you don't have to show anyone. Some of the best gesture drawings are very simple, sometimes as little as a skeletal sketch, but they can provide invaluable reference.
My criteria for a successful gesture drawing is pretty simple to meet: Does it convey the action or emotion I intended to capture? Sometimes (often) the first pass doesn't quite meet that requirement, so I give it several goes. Even if none of them quite hit the bullseye, the collection is often effective at conveying my intention. The more you practice, the better you'll become.