Gesture Practice

A big part of my recovery is focused on doing things. I spent a lot of time trying to reset by taking time away from things, and just slowing down a bit. Now, part of my next steps are getting back into things, though I’m trying to do so without putting so much pressure on myself.

One of the things I really struggle with is feeling like a failure. I don’t know why I feel that way, but I do. And it’s important to point out I am not saying that I think I am a failure – I know that I am not. I have a family, friends, a house, a good job, I am intelligent, I am educated, I am fun to be around, etcetera. But I still feel like a failure. I don’t know why I feel that way when every bit of truth around me argues against it. There’s no thinking my way out of that slump, it’s there, and it won’t listen to reason.

According to the things I learned in my IOP program, I might not be able to change how I feel by saying things to myself. Sometimes that might work, but sometimes it won’t. In cases where saying different things doesn’t help, I can do different things. If my thoughts aren’t impacting my emotions, try actions – maybe actions will impact my emotions.

It makes sense when I write it out, but it seems counterintuitive at the same time. I feel like a failure because I constantly tell myself that I’m not good enough. When I do something, I evaluate the end result as a failure, which makes me feel worse. So, I stop doing things in an attempt to escape thet feedback loop.

So my emotions and my behaviors are polluted by these persistent pernicious thoughts. You’d think the solution is easy – just stop the thoughts. Just tell myself something true when a negative thought shows up. But for me, that’s not helpful. I tell myself something positive, and it feels disingenuous. It doesn’t take root.

So, this step in my recovery is to say fuck it when it comes to the thought-world – that place is fucking exhausting anyway – and start doing something different in the action-world. Start doing something, even something that I will fail at, and just keep on going. When the thoughts show up telling me that its a failure, well – fuck it. Just keep going.

With that in mind, I practiced gesture drawing. This is a great way to try this skill because gesture drawings aren’t supposed to look like finished drawings. A gesture drawing is supposed to capture the movement of the subject more than accurately capture its mass or likeness. This is very hard for me. My gesture drawings feel very stiff and restricted, out of proportion and amateurish. They feel that way because they are. And they are because I don’t practice them enough.

So, I’m practicing them. Here are some attempts I made today at gesture drawings from the Proko course I’m taking on figure drawing. I have a lot of room for improvement, and I want to try to commit to doing these a lot, since that is the only way to improve.

There are a few drawings in there from the structure lesson as well, you’ll see how different the gestural work os from the drawings that try to understand the structure of the subject.

One more thing: I notice that I have a horrible habbit of scratching lines on the paper, hunting around for the right line. This results in a muddy, jerky, confusing tangle. I need to slow down a bit and draw with purpose. Just because I’m doing a 30 second gesture drawing doesn’t mean I have to be in a panic. I should take my time and draw one confident wrong line instead of a dozen jerky attempts to find the correct line.

Here are the drawing I did this morning in order:

This was my first gesture drawing after not doing any for several months. You can see how unsure and ragged all my lines are.
I tried again, the lines are all still rigid and tight – I was focused on being accurate, more than on being confident.
Here I gave myself more time on the left, and less time on the right, but I still drew in a hurried, unsure manner. Most of the time, I was looking at the screen while drawing on the paper, instead I should look at the source, decide on a line, study the line on the source, then look at the paper and draw that line confidently on the paper.
Still too stiff and unsure, I hadn’t yet really thought through drawing with more confidence yet.
Here I’m going for 30 second drawings, but I’m too rigid. The lines pinch too much, they should be more graceful, they should more accurately reflect the motion of the core mass of the subject through to the extremities.
This is one of those drawings from the structure lesson.
These are from the structure drawing as well. I drew the one on the right first (I usually do because I’m left-handed). Then I looked at Proko’s drawing and saw how much more he pushed the gesture of the pose, so I did it again (left) trying to really exaggerste the pose. The lines are still too stiff, but its getting better.
These were more like notes from rewatching the gestural lesson again.
Here I tried to be more confident and intentional with the strokes, but still found myself drawing contour more than gesture a lot of the time. When I drew the rib cage on the drawing on the left, I think I actually drew the gesture there.
This time I took 2 minutes to draw the gesture. One thing I noticed was how drawing from the inside of the calf to the outside of the pinky toe resulted in a much better foot than trying to draw the foot as a separate object.
This was my first gesture drawing during my evening practice. I am very stiff starting out, but here I was trying very hard to ghost lines until I felt like I had the right movement, and only then touch the pencil to the paper to register a single confident stroke. The gesture isn’t good, but the line quality is much better.
I tried the same drawing again, this is a two minute gesture drawing. I spent so much time ghosting lines that I didn’t get much on the paper.
This time I focused very hard on only making one line each time.
These were my first attempts at a new pose.
Here I focused less on line quality and more on capturing the correct shapes in the two minute timeline.
There were points here where I started focusing too closely on contours, and not enough on motion.
I think this was the best one of the day.
These were the last two in the exercise, and thank goodness, I’m tired. This is really kind of tiring… I know this will help me improve eventually, but man… it’s hard to push through such a big plateau.

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