Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Gesture and Pose

By Jesper Ejsing

I am going to teach drawing in a couple of days, and it got me thinking about the importance of gestures. I always think of Walt Stansfields Drawn To Life lectures. His words about feeling gestures and implying them to every step of a sketch has stuck to me as if they were chiselled into the inside of my skull. I might not be good at implying clear and strong gestures to all of my figures, but I do think about it, and I do try to. That is the most important part. You cannot make a figure convey any feelings without a conscience choice of, who the figure is, and what it is doing.

Practical speaking, what I do is, I try to push the pose out of the ordinary by twisting small things like hands knees and especially head tilts. I am only talking about figure posing and not facial expression or what ever comes after the staging of the figure. only the gesture and the posing of the figure. I have talked about this before, but I think it could never be discussed enough or be exemplified to many times.

I looked through my files and found a couple of sketches some used, some unused, that has a strong posing gesture. The first one, a demon lord was going to be a menacing yet regal pose. I chose to make his legs stand apart to anchor him solid to the ground. The chest pushed forward as if he has nothing to hide and the head turned in a way that makes it look like he is only turning his head and not the rest of the body. This guy will not bother with hasty movements unless they are in battle. he wouldn´t waise a full turn of the torso towards you. The hand gripping the sword is tilted slightly towards us as compared to beeing off to the side, and the wrist bents instead of gripping hard like the shield hand. to me these small adjustments and twists pulls the pose out of "just standing" to conveying attitude, and it is what make sit fun and interesting to draw it. It is also the reason I find it equally fun to do, yet another demon drawing since the details makes every threatening devil a new one.

The second sketch, the elf paladin, is tilting his head up, baring the neck area, thus showing that he is not affraid and that we, the spectators, are bellow him.

The third sketch I like because it has a powerful stance even with the foot furthest away raised. She is being a bit aggressive the way she bents forward even if she is still standing solidly grounded.
last one is The Spider Queen, striding towards us brushing pet spiders away with her right hand. The brushing hand, I confess, is not very good, but the gesture of the left hand implies refineness and graze even if she is walking towards us like she owns the world and would trample us down.

My point in all of this is that the small twists in posing is the most important part. Most times it helps you, to stand up, and take on the pose yourself. Just to feel the pose on you own body. Having someone take photos while you "feel" the pose might be either helpful or revealing. But having to feel a gesture is the only way you can pull the drawing away from being too theatrical and becoming more convincing.

The colour pieces I picked because I think it has a very solid and clear gesture or pose. The priest
has a simple gesture with his hand made very strong by being the only forward movement. The face enhance it with the direction he is looking and the clenched fist make him look like he means it. I wanted him to stay poised and noble, so the body is not following the hand gesture as a marvel superhero pose would. Simplicity can be strong if it is deliberate. This pose could just as well have been boring, since nothing much is happening.

If you think the pose IS boring, look at the cool book he has. It is a diary telling the tale of a young boy, abandoned by his parents to be raised amongst the wild animals in the desserts only to be caught and trained as a pit fighter, each day a battle for life against opponents no other fighter could best...wait, I am sorry. that is my own childhood. The priest is just a stand up guy doing good in the name of the lord.


  1. Hahahahahaha! I really like your sense of humour!

    Thank you for this post, a lot of people seems to forget (including me!) that a strong pose sometimes isn't all about dynamism, but clarity and the character him/herself. This post reminded me of that.

  2. Thank you for recommending Walt Stanchfield's books. I'm almost done with the first volume, and I think it's going to be the most important book I've read so far.

    I saw was at the Fredagsbar at Pinligt Selskab last week (it was very nice!), but didn't get a chance to say hello - your new paintings are awesome! Where are you teaching, and is there still a chance to join?

    1. hey Benjamin
      I think there is still room. The teaching is by me and Eva Wiedermann. it takes place in Stockholm friday to sunday.
      check it out if you want to go: It would be nice to have some danes around.


  3. Damn, I thought I had a hard childhood in Nam, but your Spartacus story is breathtaking :P Good article as always, informative and useful, ty!