I was asked to write about my process. So I picked one part of my process I get particularly excited about, Gesture.
Why are gestures so important? Because they clearly express what the character is feeling and/or doing. A great gesture creates empathy, you can feel what the character is feeling.
What is the secret to a great gesture?….silhouette! If the action is clear in silhouette... (and yes, I mean if you draw an outline around it and fill it in with black.) ...Then it will read clearly, and clarity is key to empathy. How cool is that?
(Silhouette is something I also consider when designing a character. All iconic character designs have a unique silhouette, which reflects their personality, and makes them immediately identifiable.)
Now it takes sometime to get used to, but if you look for it, you will see gesture everywhere. In animation an action is a series of gestures. Below are boards I did for an animation project.
So this is how I chase great gestures: I draw things moving. This is not an easy thing to do, but if you’ve been keeping up on your life drawing it can be done. I teach life drawing at Calarts, and every semester I will bring in a dancer and have her dance continuously for the entire six hour class, well almost continuously. Dancing is a series of gestures, even though it is not a conscious consideration of the dancer.
Here is the trick: Just watch for awhile, get the feel of it, embody what you are seeing. Then you take a mental snapshot, and get it down on that paper as fast as you can.
This is fantastic for drawing children.
I’ve found that the faster you draw, the better you will draw. Get out of your edit head, and just focus on what you see. When you stop trying to find your style and just draw what you see, your style emerges. It comes in the way you abbreviate a face, hands, an expression. Layer that with the principles of design an Whala!, You have a unique style that is all yours.
In my classes, the length of poses (when not a dancer) are 1, 2, 3, and 5 minutes, with a few 10 minutes at the end of the day. The day ends with a big stack of fabulous art.
These may seem like crude scribbles to a layman, but they are precious, they honesty capture life in a style that is unique to me. They convert nicely into characters, and in this process I am filling my mind with information that I can call on when there is no model in front of me.-
I will also photograph myself to reference a gesture, but this is primarily for a rough reference and most importantly to feel out the emotion of the moment.
Thank you for reading. Drawing is bliss, keep at it and be happy.