Gesture Drawing vs. Contour Drawing

Gestural drawing (The Figure) first then find the Contour of the subject.
(Quick tip or summary I wrote for a drawing class I taught in 2019.)

Drawing the Figure: Getting the joints and the major reference points in the right places is critical in the first minute. As you get more experience you will instinctively skip over steps, but at this point in most of your experiences, go slow and do every (baby) step in order. The more you draw you will develop your own style different than mine.

Gestural Drawing: To review a very important point. The first stages of a gestural drawing (of faces, figures, landscapes, any subject) is to look for and draw the motion and the rhythm and lightly and loosely indicate the placement of largest shapes. Draw the inside of the shapes in a scribbly flowing sort of motion, not the edges yet!!!!!  I showed you how I place circle symbols for the joints and large muscles. This initial step will take you about 1 min or so (don’t rush). After that, STOP, take a breath, stand back and confirm things are in the right places. I really mean that, you must back up and look, don’t rush to the next step. Only if/when things are where they belong do you start making darker lines on the “Contour” (the outside) of whatever you are drawing. This is the same process if you were drawing a lighthouse, a landscape, a bowl of fruit, a bird, or any subject. Get all the big pieces and shapes where they belong FIRST!!! If not you will be correcting errors in the drawing, not refining the drawing. 

Many instructors will teach drawing the Contour, or the edges of the object. I want you to be able to recognize the difference. In my opinion, Contour techniques slowly and carefully follow the edge of the subject. However, starting gesturally you get placements, angles, movement, large shapes, placed quickly and very loosely. Often in a minute or so. You are building or molding an object or scene with fine wire from the “Inside Out!!”. When things are lightly placed and you are happy, then find the line, yes the Contour line. Make the contour line interesting by making it thick, thin, light and dark.

Well there! That is the core lesson of drawing anything! If you get all that, it was worth your admission.

Shading: It looked like you all enjoyed developing the form. I like discussing all the little nuances in what we are drawing. Unfortunately we only have 3 hrs/week, I can’t show you all of them. You will find them as you go. This shading experience is what will help you most when you paint. Photos don’t show all the little subtleties that are there. Shading is like sculpting. When we drew with flat lighting it was about placement of the features. When you shade you are making the objects 3 dimensional.

For reference images of the figure check out my article titled
References, Drawing and Painting Links