Figure Gestures in Clay

gesture: the essential movement or action of a figure

Wax figures by Degas

Why study gesture?

Gestures studies will teach you how to find the essential movement and energy in the pose of the figure. 

A figure with an incomplete gesture is unconvincing, dull, and lifeless.

Master drawing with main forms

How do you practice gesture studies?

Sculpting with a model in short poses, you focus only on:

-the volume of the main forms (head, ribcage, pelvis, limbs)

-the orientation of the main forms (tilts and angles)

-the big lines of movement connecting those forms

-the essential line of gravity (how is weight distributed)

As you progress, you can also look at:

-correct proportions

-accurate contours (to find likeness of the model)

How long does the model pose?

In sculpture, gesture poses encompass poses ranging from 10 mins to 2 hours. The model is turned every few mins so you can study from all angles.

(In drawing the poses are shorter as there is only on angle to capture: artists often use short poses of 30 seconds to 5 mins in length to sketch gesture studies.)

50 min study from life

What materials do you need?

Here are 2 common options when using clay, along with their pros and cons:

1) clay on a wire figure armature. 

- if you want to turn one of these studies into a finished work you must make a mold and cast it in a different material.

+ proportions already built into the figure

+ can do standing positions with ease

+ can alter the pose easily throughout the process by manipulating the wire

2) clay without a wire armature

+ can be fired into a finished work 

- can only do standing poses with structural support (ie: column)

- harder to adjust positioning partway through the process

From the Musee d'Orsay

How much do I need to practice?

The more often you practice, the faster you will develop. If you are new, it will take some time to train your perception. It takes discipline to focus just on the big shapes and ignore the all too alluring details of the figure. However, as you improve in your ability to see, the practice will become its own reward. It will become very fun and inspiring.

Once you feel adept at seeing and creating figures with gesture, you must keep up the practice! It is an excellent way to keep your eye sharp and develop new ideas for longer projects.

*To learn more about gestures in sculpture, you can join the 3 day workshop with Melanie:

details here