G.R.A.V.I.T.Y. (Gestalt)

In figure drawing, GRAVITY and weight are the universal forces that control our sense of balance, rhythm, and harmony. Every living thing in the universe is in constant movement. That movement has one thing as a central theme–the force/line of gravity. How the body reacts to this force is what we are trying to capture. ” These few lines place the figure, they give its general proportions indicating its active and inactive sides, its balance, unity, and rhythm.’ – GEORGE BRANDT BRIDGMAN
BALANCE + UNITY + RHYTHM = WHOLE (Not Some Parts)

GESTALT • We are concentrating on the German to English translation where Gestalt translates as Shape, form, or figure, or more broadly Gesture. We commonly think of Gestalt as it relates to the famous phrase of Gestalt psychologist Kurt Koffka, ‘the whole is something else than the sum of its parts‘  Often misquoted as ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’ The latter totally distorts the original intent.

Koffka did not mean that all to the parts add up to something much better. He meant the identity of the parts and the identity of the whole are totally separate entities. In layman’s terms, ‘Some of the parts are utilized to create the illusion of something else.’

GESTURE • This helps us to understand Gestalt/Gesture as a ‘whole’ that eludes to some of the parts. More importantly, it isn’t about drawing or scribbling really fast, it is not about warming up or loosening up, it is not about wasting time and paper before we get to a longer pose and can really start drawing. nor is it about expressing anything pertinent to the human condition.

There is actually a huge misconception that gesture and drawing are two separate things. In the universe of the Master Draughtsman they are one and the same. At the point a drawing looses its gestural quality it has found its way to the graveyard of overwought renderings. Once your sensibilities have left the room and your brain has shut down. Once the tonal trancing and shape aping has set in you are adding nails to the coffin. If you think that gesture and long pose sessions serve a different purpose you need to re-think your drink.

The gesture is the beginning of the drawing process, the most important part and needs to be understood as such. If you don’t get the gesture the drawing is doomed. Beginners, and those who have succumbed to the Darkside, always want death knell long poses. Were not talking twenty or thirty minutes here, we are talking 20 or 30 hours and counting. This is not drawing, its rendering and the two need not be confused. The Finish, if there is such a thing, is only going to be as good as the start. Gestures or beginnings should be a never-ending part of one’s journey. The beginning draughtsman doesn’t possess enough knowledge or skill-sets to even think about long poses. If one is laboring under the misconception that we draw what we see, in other words, copy it, and it takes a long time to copy something alas the long-pose. To quote Mr. T ‘I pity the fool’

Hawthorne had it right, do thousands of starts before you start to a finish.

It needs to be put forth, that the Old Masters very rarely did drawings that took other a couple of hours. And that every master drawing began with a masterful gesture.

In the beginning, understanding the Gesture or Gestalt of the pose is about emphasizing dare we say ‘exaggerate’ what the figure is doing, creating a dialogue with the pose. This can be handled intuitively in a number of different ways. The three basic approaches are the: Armature, Volumetric, and Massing or Ghosting. In other words, Line, Form, or Mass or in combination.

As we gain experience the spine will be our gestural road-map and spirit guide, with the juxtaposition of the Rib-Cage and Pelvis telling us almost everything we need to know about the pose. But for now, concentrate on understanding and emphasizing what the model is doing and how the form units are projecting in space. Create your own storyline about the pose so you can complete the rest of the story without the model. Remember the goal here is to be able to design and construct the figure from life or imagination. The objective here is to think structurally and building figures that process character and attitude. (Impossible with excessively long poses. Until one understands Figure Structure, its Function, Form, and Design. and is capable of creating believable figures from imagination there is still a lot more to the journey.

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