This lesson will explain how to go about adding more detail to a figure gesture by breaking the simple curved lines into more complex articulations. You do not need to make it extremely detailed, it should be enough to break a long line into 2-4 sections.
I recommend watching the accompanying video while reading through this lesson as a lot of the concepts will be clearer if you watch me demonstrate them. Click here for the video.
Sighting Angles and Alignments to Improve Accuracy
Even if you’re using you eye to copy, it is useful to pay attention to relative angles and alignments while working. This will stop you from getting tunnel vision about any single aspect of the drawing and keep you thinking about the big relationships that govern the overall proportions.
You can compare angles by flicking your eyes between your drawing and the subject. Your eyes will spot if an angle is different because there will be a shift as your eyes move back and forth (like how an animation works). The same is true for lengths of lines between the angles.
Alignments are even simpler, imagine a straight horizontal (or vertical line) lying across your subject (you can also use any straight implement, like a ruler or knitting needle) and see what point in the subject line up. If they don’t line up in your drawing, you know that something is off and you can correct the mistake.
If you can get the alignments and angles right, the drawing will naturally fall into place without too much effort.
High Point and Low Points
When looking at natural forms you will find that most are made of gradual curves. These curves make it difficult to break down a form into simpler construct lines (or articulations). An important aspect of producing an effective line drawing that captures the essence of the subject is an ability to pick high points and low points effectively.
A high/low point is essentially the point at which the curve turns back on itself in a noticeable manner. While a curve is (by nature) always changing direction you will tend to find that there are specific point along the curve where this change in direction is more pronounced. Thing of a parabolic curve, it is gradual changing direction until suddenly reversing rapidly before becoming more gradual again. It is these marked changes of direction that we refer to as high and low points.
When beginning to articulate a gesture drawing, start by finding these high/low points along the curved lines. Only find one or two points to begin with, otherwise it will become over complicated quickly and it will be difficult to make corrections where necessary.
Any representational drawing (or painting) is a 2D interpretation of 3D reality, so there will be aspects of your drawing that omit parts of the subject that are hidden from view. In complex subjects (like the human figure), this results in a number of overlaps. Places where one form partially blocks another form. These overlaps usually result in a angle change and placing them accurately will help to give a sense of all the forms relating to one another accurately. They are also crucial when trying to capture foreshortening (a form of perspective that is caused by the aspects of the subject closer to the viewer appearing bigger).
Naturalistic Rhythm and Avoiding Repetition
The final consideration when producing an articulated drawing from a simpler gesture is to ensure that you keep a naturalistic rhythm when adding more lines. There is a tendency for humans to make things regular and repetitive, which makes for a dull (and unrealistic) drawing. Nature is full of ordered irregularity which is inherently beautiful, so an important aspect of producing an effective representational drawing is to appreciate and translate these natural rhythms into your drawing. If you notice yourself adding identical lengths of lines or identical angles it probably means you’re drawing automatically and not looking at your subject enough.