Life Drawing foci: Centre of Gravity & Gesture

In Life Drawing class last week, I decided in advance to focus on drawing more balanced figures, such that they had a correctly placed centre of gravity.  Also, after reading Kimon Nicolaides book “The Natural Way to Draw” over the previous weekend, I wanted to try using gesture drawings as a way of capturing the main action of a pose before developing a drawing over a longer time span.

For each of the drawings that I drew that evening, I drew a gesture drawing first.  These mainly accumulated on a couple of pages in my sketchbook.  In the case of one drawing, what started as a gesture drawing became more developed and got a bit out of hand….

The pages below are all from an A4 sketchbook, with the exception of the drawing on black photo paper, which is A3.

Gesture drawings, according to various sources, should never take more than 2 minutes or cannot be classified as such.  I found the initial letting go in the sketchbook difficult but it became easier as I warmed up.


The gesture drawings for the poses below are on the page above.  Each of these must have taken between 5-7 minutes.  I was aiming to place the centre of gravity correctly, which I think that I have managed to do.  The figures appear balanced.  The figure carrying a basket at the bottom of the page was the first of three quick (5-7 minute) poses, each with the basket in a different position.  Again, the initial gesture drawing is on the page above; since both gesture sketches were drawn within 5 minutes, the sketch below is likely to have taken 3 or 4 minutes.  Again, it is reasonably balanced.


Here is the second quick pose with the basket.  The gesture drawing for this pose is on the first page, above.  I focused on main shapes and centre of gravity.   I like this drawing – it is quite expressive.  The drawing was made with a sanguine pencil and a wash was applied to achieve a quick impression of tone. The overall proportions are not bad.


In the final quick drawing of three, the model held the basket on her shoulder.  What began as a gesture drawing (top left on the page below), turned into a scribble drawing with a fineliner that lasted the 6 or 7 minutes of the pose. The model’s centre of gravity lies between her feet, vertically below the centre base of her neck.

For the next pose, I began with a 20 second, or thereabouts, gesture drawing, followed by another fine line sketch that took 2-3 minutes.  I then drew a carbon pencil drawing which took 10-12 minutes (below).


In the drawing, the model’s feet are possibly too small but the pose is overall quite balanced, and I am pleased with the line of her jacket.  There is movement in the pose.


The gesture drawings for the next drawing are on the first page. I drew a 20 second drawing and another of 1-2 minutes before beginning the drawing below.  I drew fairly freely with Derwent’s Artbars on black A3 paper. I am quite pleased with the overall form although the head does not fit on to the page!  The scribbles at the bottom of the page are just that – I was trying out the colours but they help to ground the figure on the floor.


What began as a larger gesture drawing (the green reclining figure below) became a longer drawing of about 10 minutes.  It began to get messy so I abandoned it and drew the pencil figure below left.  It still surprises me how quickly one can draw a “repeated” image after drawing it once. Each of the drawings took about 10 minutes, but the pencil drawing is the better of the two – the angle at which the model is situated is more accurate.  The model was wearing a scarf.  I found this difficult to render accurately without recourse to colour – a naked woman dozing while wearing a scarf around her neck seems somewhat incongruous!


The last pose: I prefer the gesture drawing and am now sorry that I didn’t begin the second pencil drawing on a separate page because it was not as good, even though it took considerably longer.  The upper and lower halves of her body do not match in the drawing.  I have tried to remedy this with some looser contour lines, particularly around the thinner upper half, but it hasn’t worked, and is not helped by the way I have depicted her head & face – egg-shaped!  In the gesture drawing, rough as it is, there is much more of a sense of a real person.

Overall, I was pleased with this session. The drawings show better awareness of proportion, particularly in regard to the head in relation to overall body size, and the figures are more balanced, with more accurate centres of gravity. I have also begun to get into gesture drawing and will now consider ways to develop this skill, such that I can use it spontaneously to depict anything at all. The drawings in this session had more energy and movement than many of my earlier attempts and I wondered how much of that was due to the preliminary gesture drawing which helped me get an overall sense of the action of the pose. This is beginning to feel like progress…

Where to go from here?

  • I still need to work on foreshortening – I will aim to do this in the next class, moving my position in relation to the model so that I consciously set up foreshortened perspective.
  • Focus on hands and feet – I have been avoiding these!


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