Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Morning Reading: "Find the gesture!"

 A young woman posed for an art class in 1934.

In last Sunday's New York Times, Rachel Howard's essay, "Gesture Writing,"  chronicles how her experience as a nude model for life drawing classes influenced her writing - as well as paid her bills.

“Find the gesture!” the instructor would shout, as the would-be artists sketched. “What is the essence of that pose? How does that pose feel to the model? The whole pose — quick, quick! No, not the arm or the leg. The line of the energy. What is that pose about? Step back and see it — really see it — whole.” And then, my timer beeped, I moved to a new pose and the students furiously flipped to a clean page.
This “gesture” idea was fundamental. In painting classes, where I held the same pose for three hours (with frequent five-minute breaks, thank God), the paintings that looked most alive were built on top of a good gesture sketch, a first-step, quick-and-dirty drawing in which many crucial decisions about placement, perspective and emphasis were made intuitively.
In a gesture drawing, a whole arm that didn’t matter much might be just a smudgy slash, while a line that captured the twist of a spine might stand in sharp, carefully observed relief. The “gesture” was the line of organic connection within the body, the trace of kinetic cause-and-effect that made the figure a live human being rather than a corpse of stitched-together parts. If you “found the gesture,” you found life.
I was, during those early days of art modeling, struggling to find the life in my stylistically choppy novel. At home alone, I heard the drawing instructors’ voices...

To read the rest, click here.


This is one in a New York Times series entitled DRAFT.  According to the Times, "Draft features essays by grammarians, historians, linguists, journalists, novelists and others on the art of writing — from the comma to the tweet to the novel — and why a well-crafted sentence matters more than ever in the digital age."  To read more in the series, click here.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yep, those very words could be my own while teaching Life Drawing!

Thanks for this post...and love the photo!

the other L

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