Figurative Artist Handbook: The Standing Figure

Drawing New York is thrilled to partner with artist Rob Zeller, author of The Figurative Artist’s Handbook to offer our members a ‘serialized digest’ of his extremely popular and beautiful book. Each week we will bring you new topics and techniques relating to figure drawing so check back often.

The Standing Figure - Finding The Gesture

Tynisha 2015, graphite on paper, Rob Zeller

What is gesture and why is it necessary to study? Gesture is a river of movement, energy, and rhythm that flows through the figure in any given pose. It is the path of alignment through all of the muscles, bones, and areas of soft tissue that allow the pose to happen. It takes some training and practice to see gesture. If you are having trouble, it is sometimes helpful to mimic the model’s pose yourself, to see what the inner workings are.

Begin by scanning the entire figure for gestures that flow through the various forms, learning to see how all of the parts of the figure are connected. In any standing figure, there is a rhythmic line that traverses the figure vertically, from head to toe, smoothly following a path through the anatomy, connecting the musculature of the model’s body. Learn to see this axis of energy first so that when you draw, you will be able to forge greater unity among the various parts of the figure.

Tip: When I am doing a long-pose, refined drawing, I don’t ever actually draw these lines. I look for them in the beginning, then I look for them periodically the entire time I’m drawing.

In the image above, I demonstrate the concept with red, curving lines. When you are looking for gesture, you want to practice running your eyes up and down the model as if you were a current of some sort, water or perhaps electricity. Think of the process as a scan, like one done by a medical device, as you quickly make your way through the body.

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Author Details
ROBERT ZELLER is an artist, writer and teacher who lives and works in Oyster Bay, New York. Zeller, is also the director and founder of the Teaching Studios of Art in Oyster Bay, New York.
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Rob Zeller Author
ROBERT ZELLER is an artist, writer and teacher who lives and works in Oyster Bay, New York. Zeller, is also the director and founder of the Teaching Studios of Art in Oyster Bay, New York.
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