A Bow to Gesture Drawing


John Singer Sargent, Sketch of a Spanish Dancer, 1879
Pencil on paper, 11 1/2 x 9 ”
(Gardner Museum, Boston)

If you must, blame this afternoon’s post-ette (pitifully short by normal VR standards) on Diane Olivier, who is keeping me busy figure drawing in my sketchbook during the hours I’m not in her class. Diane is a teacher of the best kind—enthusiastic, relentless, inspirational, entertaining, and just plain over the top about drawing. (No painting for Diane; drawing is what she does.) I have no doubt that she will push me to miraculous places, if I let her.

In a few short weeks, Diane has taught me much about seeing beyond a pose to the essence of a gesture. And, as Sargent so skillfully demonstrates in his Sketch of a Spanish Dancer, the effect of a gestural drawing can go beyond the visual to penetrate our other senses. In the great whoosh of his pencil around the page, I feel the flamenco dance. In those few frenzied lines, I hear the quirky rhythm of the palo, the staccatto of the dancer’s feet, the clip-clip of the castanets.

In that bow, Sargent has captured the whole experience of her performance. Bravo!

5 Responses to “A Bow to Gesture Drawing”

  1. Hurray! Love Sargent. Got to see the Whitney Show on Sargent and loved how he even paints like that, though his watercolors are all gesture, too. I used to think, as a kid, that watercolors and drawings were light-weights, but now they are some of the most ethereal and gorgeous things I remember. I never enjoyed drawing human figures in gestures, but for me it’s really fun to do animals that way. Some of the greatest gestural art is also done in Sumi ink. Picasso had it down to a fine art, too. It captures an exact moment so perfectly!

  2. Hi VR,
    So now your readers know why you’ve been seldom posting here at the moment, Liz ! Learning times are so wonderful times too. Enjoy!
    It’s true that one could hear the castanets when looking at this sketch. I was in Southern Spain last autumn and I can bear witness !
    From France, All the best.

  3. Nice to see you’re getting into the spirit!! The Sargent drawing makes my jaw drop, wouldn’t mind living with it day after day…

  4. Hello, Liz! I hope you don’t mind that I featured your blog in my post for The Next Great Generation:


    Thanks for the valuable read!

  5. Sargent certainly knew how to create beauty from simplifying forms. I enjoy the gestures as much as his paintings.
    Recently came across a Sargent tutorial – a little more detailed than gesture alone, but works roughly on the same principals : http://www.artgraphica.net/free-art-lessons/pen-and-ink/john-singer-sargent-drawing.html

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: