Gesture Writing

How do we get students to start drafting their papers with energy and imagination?  How can we encourage those students to start writing a draft who are timid to put words on the page or overly worried about “getting it correct”?  Perhaps we should take a lesson from art classes, namely the “gesture drawing.”

I first learned of the practice of “gesture drawing” from my own recent experience taking Kelly Vanderbrug’s drawing class.  The link below  has a helpful reflection on the practice from the NYT writer’s blog.  Here is a quick preview:

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“This “gesture” idea was fundamental. In painting classes, where I held the same pose for three hours (with frequent five-minute breaks, thank God), the paintings that looked most alive were built on top of a good gesture sketch, a first-step, quick-and-dirty drawing in which many crucial decisions about placement, perspective and emphasis were made intuitively.

In a gesture drawing, a whole arm that didn’t matter much might be just a smudgy slash, while a line that captured the twist of a spine might stand in sharp, carefully observed relief. The “gesture” was the line of organic connection within the body, the trace of kinetic cause-and-effect that made the figure a live human being rather than a corpse of stitched-together parts. If you “found the gesture,” you found life.

I was, during those early days of art modeling, struggling to find the life in my stylistically choppy novel. At home alone, I heard the drawing instructors’ voices.

Find the gesture. Don’t worry about the details. What is the essence of that pose?”

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To make the analog to writing, just an an “r” to the last question:  What is the essence of that prose?

The full article is here:  “Gesture Writing”

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