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2.1 Line of Action

The line of action is the foundation from which you build your drawing. Think of it as the spine of a person or the support beams of a building. The line of action is what your drawing is supported by. Although drawing a single line sounds easy, it takes practice not only to find the line in a subject's pose but to apply it to your drawing with confidence.

2.1 Line of Action

Hi, my name's Brian Lee and welcome back to Dynamic Gesture Drawing. In this lesson, we'll talk about one of the best tools in quickly capturing a pose or a gesture. Lines of action is the foundation of your drawing. Think of it as the spine of a person, or the trunk of a tree. The line of action is what captures your drawing's movement and action, and is with the rest of the drawing is built from. Some other key words to use to describe the line of action is emotion, attitude, personality, feeling. Now, your goal in trying to draw the line of action is to capture the essence of the movement and tell a story. Lines of action are in everything. Although not everything may have an interesting or expressive line of action, everything does still carry a single line that summarizes its movement. I've found some of the most interesting things to study the line of action are within people, animals, water, trees and plants, and clouds. So now that we know the line of action is how do we find it? Check out this wave, for example, has a beautiful motion to it. And the most expressive part of this motion, I would say, is the center curl right in the middle. It kind of summarizes the personality of everything we have here, and everything is built from a single line. And check out this image of the dog. The line of action in most humans and animals, typically goes from the tip of the head down to the base of the pelvis. But this can vary depending on the pose. And there are usually supporting lines that help tell the story, but we'll cover that in the upcoming examples. When drawing clouds, line of action is huge. Clouds are the kings of motion and emotion. Think about it, clouds are so effective in conveying emotion that they even affect our emotions from day to day. In drawing clouds, I like to find the single line that can best describe the emotion. Waterfalls, one of my favorite subjects to study because they have an awesome fluid line of action that changes, based on the structure underneath them. So this one in particular has an awesome fluid line with a nice bend right in the middle. Now this line doesn't express the waterfall perfectly, as far as anatomically, but it does give a nice fluid line that we can follow and work from. Trees are riddled with many lines of action within each branch. But if you stand back, there's usually one dominant line that carries the shape and feeling of the tree. So let's give this one a nice arching line. That should be a nice one to build from. So here's a nice dynamic pose that has a ton of motion involved. Now it's easy to get overwhelmed, so let's try to keep it simple. Look at the body, we can see that it's all kind of flowing in one direction as a whole. So let's not focus on the arms and the legs and the limbs, and let's just kind of squint our eyes a little bit and figure out what the main motion of the pose is. Surfer, in some cases such as this kind of crazy pose, it may work best to try to see the human as movement, rather than a structure. So rather than the usual head to pelvis, I'm gonna capture the overall movement of the image as one, not just thinking about the human flying in the air, but also the wave and the water flying with him. So with a very loose motion, just letting your pencil glide across the paper, just rip it across. The more fluid you are with your with your pencil on paper, the better result you're gonna get, the more emotion you're gonna convey. All right, so check out this wakeboarder. It's a pretty simple pose and most of his motion comes from the sideways tilt. And for that reason, I'm not gonna be too concerned with drawing the straight line from the tip of the head to the pelvis. So, let's go ahead and do that, we'll just draw it out. Head down to the pelvis. So again, that'll be our building block to build from in the coming example. And here's this graceful pose. This one is a little tricky. If we were to go on the idea of the head to pelvis and this example, we would almost have a straight line, which we want to avoid, usually all the time. This is a good time to add, if the line of action is straight, it conveys no real action at all. It makes for stiff drawing, which is why in this case I want to focus more on the feeling of the pose rather than the true anatomy. So the feeling is a little bit more arched. Everything about this pose is kind of arching back, leaning back. The contrapposto pose, for these straight on poses or counterposes, I like to start with the head before drawing in the line of action. It helps me identify the scale and proportion, and gives me a point of reference to build from. These head-on poses are a little tricky. So you wanna use whatever tools you can, to simplify them as much as possible. Which brings me to our next topic, dynamic, supporting, or multiple lines of action. In most cases, only one line of action does not fully summarize the motion. However, you wanna do your best to use as few lines as possible to effectively summarize each pose before diving into the detail. So going back to the water example. We can see although there is one major line of action, there are other lines that help to summarize the movement. Let's quickly sketch these in. I recorded this at double time, just so I can give you a quick example of the kind of lines I would draw, without having you sit through hours of recorded tape. So there you go, these supporting lines really helped to sell a story and allow us to be able to walk away from this drawing and fill it in later. And then the dog again. Although there is one leading line, there are several others that we can add to help tell a story. Especially noticeable in the paws, you really wanna get those in before leaving the pose. Clouds have tons of movement within their main structure, and therefore need several lines to explain the series of movements taking place. Again, we wanna use a few lines as needed to tell the story. So, I'm looking for which lines really help to describe the motion, and even the direction of different parts of the cloud. And here again, the waterfall. Revealing the line of action of the water alone won't give us the pieces of the puzzle we need to capture the image. We need the supporting action line to help explain why the water is doing what it is doing. Again, this helps us to be able to walk away, eventually, from this, after we get these few lines in, and be able to fill it in later. Okay, so we've captured the main movement of the tree with this major action line. But what about all the lines of action within it? Before we can get into the detail of the tree, we need to summarize the movements of the branches. And hey, while we're there, let's get in the environment as well. In this pose, the model's performing a super dynamic movement, which is very hard to capture with just one line. Almost every part of her is twisting in a different direction. So to summarize the pose well enough to begin detailing, we need to add multiple lines of action to support the first line. There we go. I think that should do it. Again, we have kind of the main lines of action now supporting our first line, so we could always walk away from this drawing and fill it in later. Back to the wakeboarder. Although the major line of action is straight, it's the supporting lines of action that give this pose interest and end up completing the story. So let's get those in. Our goal here is to be able to walk away from these lines and be able to complete the rest of the drawing from memory. I think we've done that here. All right, back to our wild surfer man. Our current line in this post tells us very little, if anything, about the surfer. And although it does capture the movement of the scene itself, we'll need a few more action lines to tell the whole story. We'll see if we can draw those in. Starting with the board, and then the main action line of the body, getting in the legs, the arms, and the head. And just a couple splashes for the water trajectory, if you will. These are all great telltales for us to work from later on. All right, back to this dynamic and awkward pose with multiple balance points. All these different points, they contain different movements. And again, it's not a pose that we can build from and so we apply a few more supporting lines. So I'm going to look for different lines of action or movement that help to make the pose. Just quickly rough in the major lines of movement within her body, the hair, the arms, the legs, the body, and even a little bit of the feet. All right, so back to the head-on, or contrapposto pose. For those of you who have never heard of the contrapposto, it's a classic pose used to describe a human figure standing with most of its weight on one foot, so that its shoulders and arms twist off-axis from the hips and legs. It's also a very tricky pose to get right. As you can see, the major line of action captures only a small area of motion. You'll notice that each area that is jointed, like the elbows and knees, has a separate motion. If we were to attempt to build this pose with straight lines, we would miss the entire emotion in the piece. Another example showing us that most poses in the natural world do need supporting lines to be able to tell a story, spark emotion, and attitude of the pose we're trying to capture. All right, so your homework, or exercise for this lesson, is to find the line of action in 20 different poses, people, cats, dogs, trees, whatever you have around. You can even use a picture, but I'm telling you it's more fun and challenging to draw from life. If you're feeling even more ambitious, want a challenge, or you're more experienced artist, go to a public place with a sketchpad and draw like crazy. Try to push yourself to get faster and faster, you can time yourself with a stopwatch. My favorite place to go when I was in school was a public beach or the mall. In the unlikely scenario that you live in a cabin in the woods all alone, you may not have any people around, and that's okay. Remember, lines of action can be found in everything. In the next lesson, we'll talk about another technique that can be used in conjunction with this one to help you capture gestures even faster and more efficiently. As you move along, try not to think of these lessons as steps, think of them as a melting pot. When you add them all up, they become complete gesture drawing. You're not obligated to have the same process for every pose. Sometimes I will use one technique over the other, rather than combining them. It just all depends on the pose and what you like to do. So thanks for listening and I'll see you in the next lesson.

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