Gesture studies are quick drawings that capture the movement and rhythm of a figure. Gesture work is a lot like how athletes warm up. Gestures help an artist get loose.
These scribbles are not supposed to take a long time. I have practiced getting a figure down in thirty seconds to two minutes. The idea is to try to capture the motion of the figure. It trains the brain to see a rhythm to the body and stop analyzing the excess information.
When you let your brain take control before you find the rhythm, it can lead to stiff work. When you are working with a stiff piece and are already close to finishing your work, it is very difficult to go back and fix the mistake. This is why warming up with a gesture study is important.
Doing many gestures can help an artist develop a familiarity with the way the body is proportioned in various poses. So, while they may just seem like silly scribbles, they are actually training the artist to be better. It is also better to draw from real life than from a photo. This is because the camera lens can distort the figure.
There are many artists who not only use gestures as the first step to a drawing, but also use them as the complete drawing itself. Gesture work can be very aesthetically pleasing. To make sure that it’s indeed a gesture drawing, the artist must not render the drawing. This means that it needs to be put down fairly quickly, and that the artist cannot do any erasing or modifying to the figure. Some artists believe that measuring or adding shading is crossing over to a rendered piece.
Bring a small sketchbook with you to your next outing. Whether you are at a coffee shop or in the park, try out some thirty-second gestures and get a feel for the rhythm of the human body.