Gesture drawing with children creates an open and accepting classroom environment. It allows students to loosen up their drawing style and helps them to view the “gestalt” of the figure or the big picture.
When beginning this activity, students may feel like every mark is final and may feel self-conscious. I emphasize that gesture drawing is about capturing the flow and movement of the figure and an abundance of moving and energetic lines are necessary for capturing a gesture. Ask students to embrace the process of drawing and enjoy the flow of the moving marker across the page. After a few poses, students begin to feel comfortable with modifying their drawings and using the page to explore their technique. When reflecting back on the school year, gesture drawing is often shared by students as the top favorite art experience/activity. I think it is connected to the emotional experience of learning to loosen up and enjoy working outside of a controlled “pretty” drawing. Students start off self-conscious, then see and feel progress in the process and, in the end, feel proud about having a realistic human figure on their page. Empowerment through perseverance.
Motivation: To help students understand gesture, I have them all stand and pose in a gesture. Ask them to look at the movement of their body, noticing the placement and angles of their appendages and try and feel where their weight is placed. This kinesthetic activity will help students actually “feel” the gesture while drawing later in the activity.
Lesson Development: I talk about the core, or torso, and ask students to draw the core first. Be sure to emphasize the use of the entire page. You may have a few students who tend to focus at the bottom, but because gesture is focused around loosening up, students should be directed to branch out and use the entire space of the page.
Materials: As said above, offering a variety of materials will help students explore what works best for them. Offer markers, pencil, oil pastels, charcoal, and paint. Cheap paper that is at least 12×18 in size is necessary for capturing movement. If working with older students, ink and eye droppers allow much freedom because of the fluidity of the material. This was actually my favorite life drawing material in high school (and I do recall being accepted to Pratt with two gestural figure drawings done in ink).
Skill Level: Third Grade and up
Lesson Extension View Mini Me Self-Portraits