Jillian Tamaki

Drawing Action

Mar 24th, 2011

I sent my students to the National History Museum (or Bronx Zoo) to draw animals this week. I wish I had the resources to bring camels and baby tigers into the studio à la Disney, but alas. The results were varied but an interesting pattern emerged. Even though most kids were drawing from taxidermy animals, some were really able to make the drawings feel alive. As if they captured a moment in time, instead of simply drawing a stuffed animal.

To my mind, gesture is really paramount. If the gesture is wrong, the story is wrong, then what’s the point of making the drawing? It’s important to draw action, not just record the form, particularly if it’s a living thing, but the same can and does apply to even inanimate objects. In many cases of the best animal drawings I saw today, you could almost sense the animal’s next movement… a thrust forward, a lazy flick of a tail, or dash off into the bushes. As if even the past and future was captured in the single image.

This is where the idea of empathy in drawing comes from… I think many of us have had the experience of drawing an angry face, for example, then found we were scowling/furrowing our brow while we drew.

I’m not really talking about dynamic motion here. More like “potentiality”. Even solemn, quiet images have energy.

[Top image: “High Fascism”, NYTimes Op-Ed, AD Alexandra Zsigmond)