Gesture drawing: Basic Shapes help

  • I’m loving the gesture drawing class but I’m kind of hung up on the exercise where we have to draw people based off a basic shape (circle, square, triangle).
    Unless I’m drawing someone just standing straight it seems very tricky to apply a basic shape to a pose. I’m always trying to make these poses interesting with bending and stretching but if I make someone a square for example I don’t really see how that can be done.
    I think my main question is, how does simplifying someone into a basic shape help or make the pose interesting?

  • I haven't taken that class, and I'm at a very beginner level & not good at drawing people. BUT I think it might help to start with a more sketchy or cartoony style, and not a super realistic style.

    Another thing to think about is the "bean" shape for the body that they talk about. Maybe you could start with that one. For a square shape, it could be a short, squat man or dwarf character. A circle could be a cubby baby. Also, I don't think they mean for the character to take up those shapes precisely. You could try drawing a light sketch of the shape, and use it as a rough outline for the character. It could be the whole character or it could be the body shape. There's also clothing and props / accessories that could help create that overall shape, so you could have a woman or girl in an A-line dress or skirt to create a triangle.

    Does the class show examples of drawing from the basic shapes? If so, try rewatching that part, then try some sketches, then watch it again. I remember Lee mentioning that the classes contain the amount of info you'd get in a full college semester, so it's good to go slowly, practice, do the 'homework', and rewatch to soak it all in.

  • @Griff
    Hmm, re-reading your post—it sounds like you don't have a problem drawing a character in a shape—the difficulty comes from changing the character to an expressive pose while trying to create a shape. Can you just have a bent square shape? You could make a circle with a baby reaching to grab its own toes.

    I guess I'd still say—rewatch to see their examples.

    Also, Carlianne posted a few days ago about taking this class, so you could check out her post & help each other out:

  • Hi griff
    have you tried reilly rhythms,1438137518758.jpg



    i have shared some images hope it helps

  • @Shyam-Sailus
    This is great for learning to draw the figure but that isn’t really what I’m struggling with. The issue is that I don’t see how you can draw someone based off a basic shape and still make a dynamic and interesting pose. There are a couple examples given but even those look very stiff to me. They’re essentially just a person standing straight and they’re a rectangle shape or a triangle shape but as soon as a figure is shifting their weight and there is more contrapposto I don’t see how basic shapes can be a practical application.

  • @Griff
    The female figure kneeling and leaning back (on the first page) makes kind of a triangle shape.

  • Hi Griff. I haven't taken this class yet, so I may be off base with what the teacher is trying to get at, but I'll take a stab at answering.

    I think simplifying people into basic shapes help you get character designs that are interesting and have variety, and make you design characters you might not have thought of otherwise.

    Different body shapes can make a pose read differently. It can help play into stereotypes or play against them. What would a fierce kung fu pose look like with a fit man, based on triangle shapes, where his design language is angular and sharp- wide shoulders with a tapered waist? How would that same pose work for a really skinny, tall, gangly person based on cylinder, noodly shapes? What would the same pose look like if it was a bulky dude with squared muscular arms and shoulders with a round belly?

    Some things to consider:

    1. Know what the shape is from the front and the side, especially the torso. A character may look like a square from the front, but from the side, he may have a bulging belly, or a belly that cinches in. He could have a flat butt or a big booty. Etc, etc. Knowing the shape from the front and side, will help you when you have to angle the body in different angles.

    2. Once you can visualize what the overall shape of the torso is from the front and side, make sure you know what it would look like in simple 3d shape form, then you can manipulate that 3d form to bend and stretch. It will follow the same concepts as the bean and flour sack. Some torso shapes will be more expressive, like those with cinched waists. Bulkier shapes can sometimes be more subtle in the bend and stretch area. Knowing the center and side lines of the torso shape will be very important to conveying the gesture.

    3. You can design your character with certain shapes in mind, while they are in neutral positions, in front or 3/4 position. Accept that their overall shape, may not read as that shape as you start to manipulate them into dynamic poses, in different angles.

    4. For bulkier torsos, the way the head, limbs, and shoulders angle in relation to the torso will convey the gesture pretty well. Google "Po Kung Fu Panda" and you will see how the placement of the head, shoulders, and limbs can make very dynamic poses, even with a bulky torso that doesn't show off bends like other torsos can.

    Here's some examples of gestures with a square dominant character, since you specifically mentioned squares. Notice that when the pose is shifted, you don't necessarily keep that square dominant shape. Art by Carter Goodrich



    Another "squarish" character. His design seemed like it could well have started keeping solid, blocky shapes in mind. This time his legs are included in the over all square/rectangle shape. Once he is posed differently, he doesn't necessarily keep the overall square impression.


  • my mistake, deleted 🙂

  • @TessaW
    Very thorough! Thanks for the tips. I think you helped me realize I’m just being too strict with myself on the shapes and need to learn to define a basic shape and then manipulate that shape in a way that allows for a dynamic flow while still maintaining the core shape. Thanks a bunch!

  • @Griffin Sorry to pull up an old thread, but I've finally gotten around to taking this class, and I think I'm sympathizing with your confusion a little! When she gave the shape demonstration, she demonstrated making a shape to help identify the overall composition of the gesture itself. When it comes to the actual assignment, the examples she gives looks like she is designing the character itself with certain shapes in mind and not necessarily the composition of the gesture. She says to try and see people as shapes and to also streamline the gesture into the shape, when she didn't demonstrate how to design the actual character as a shape- just the gesture. I'm finding it a bit confusing as well.

  • Hi @TessaW Have you gotten any further with this? I had the same confusion with this assignment because the focus isn’t uber clear and it’s not really the same as shape in character design because we have to look at the reference and what we are seeing. I took 3 approaches in order to be able to complete 20 gestures: using the shape of the body in space to show shape through pose, using different body types to show shape or using clothing to show shape. I exaggerated a lot from references I found in magazines.

  • @Lovsey I've done 7 gestures for assignment 2. I kept trying to design the actual character (not the pose) to a shape, but they all pretty much looked like the same gangling body type, so I decided to stop there and come back at a different time to reset my mentality

    Gestures Shapes 2.jpg .

    I like how you approached the assignment and will probably do the same!

    I've made a post for my exercises and assignments if you want to check it out. Someone else is posting some of their gestures there too. You are welcome to post your stuff there as well if you'd like!

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