Stripping Nude Gives a Writer Vision

Rembrandt, gesture drawing
Rembrandt, gesture drawing

Last week Rachel Howard wrote, “Gesture Writing,” a thought provoking article in the New York Times about how her experience being a nude art model helped her writing. She found the process of gesture drawing transferred to her work.

“‘Find the gesture!’ the instructor would shout, as the would-be artists sketched. ‘What is the essence of that pose? How does that pose feel to the model? The whole pose–quick, quick! No, not the arm or the leg. The line of the energy. What is that pose about? Step back and see it–really see it–whole.’ And then, my timer beeped, I moved to a new pose and the students furiously flipped to a clean page.” (article cited above)

M.C. Escher Drawing Hands
M.C. Escher
Drawing Hands

“The line of the energy,” part intrigues me. It makes sense. When I watch people interacting I can see and feel energy between them.

People Watching

So I went to a local coffee bar and watched a table of three bikers chowing down on bacon, eggs and hashbrowns. I tried not to be obvious about watching them. Noted the HA insignia on one of their shirts. Guessed they wouldn’t like that much. Through my too-long bangs I watched as they ate.

Medium built men with muscles. Smooth body movements. Nothing sudden or sharp. One would tilt his head, then another, then the third. Not bobble heading it, but like it was an ante they were willing to pay for the conversation. Their shoulders remained relaxed. They leaned in. Smiled and nodded.Bushy eyebrows on one. Not close enough to smell them. I’d guess–manly. Could have been a ladies book club though. Just had to add whiskers, bandannas and leather. Yup, they were three friends having a Saturday breakfast together feasting on the camaraderie as much as the food.

Did the idea of gesture drawing help me? Not yet. It still seems a bit academic to me, like an extra sweater I don’t necessarily need. But appealing. I like the idea of trying to get the whole picture first in a couple of lines and then going in for the details. I like the idea of focusing on “the essence” and the lines of energy.

And I love people watching.

Thanks to S for passing Rachel Howard’s article along to me.

Do you have a favorite place to people watch?

Author: Jo-Ann Carson

About Jo-Ann Carson Where magic happens … Reports of Jo-Ann Carson’s death on a Gulf Island are greatly exaggerated or, at the very least, premature. The eclectic crew of ghosts that haunt her head spill onto the page in two series: The Gambling Ghosts and The Ghost & Abby Mysteries. A Viking with existential issues, a broken hearted Highlander, a Casanova man-witch and a Pirate with a secret are just a few of the males her strong heroines encounter in tales of fantasy, adventure and romance. A firm believer in the magic of our everyday lives, Jo-Ann loves watching sunrises, walking beaches near her home in the Pacific Northwest and reading by the fire. You can visit her on social media: Website * Blog * Twitter * Facebook

8 thoughts on “Stripping Nude Gives a Writer Vision”

  1. I love to people watch. My granddaughter and I play a game when just the two of us are out to eat. We’ll create stories about people at tables or as they enter the room. I write suspense so we always pick out the good guys and bad guys. Or we’ll try to figure out what they do for a living by how they dress or move. Great fun.


    1. Hi Jerrie
      What fun.
      On our way to the Nationals in Anaheim last year the group of women I traveled with played the same game. Each story of course got wilder or more funny.
      But it would be really special to make up the stories with a granddaughter. I wonder if she’ll turn out to be a writer too?
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


  2. Yes, people watching, in a restaurant, coffee shop or even in the grocery line up is fascinating. I’m always trying to pick up snippets of conversation as well. Once, for a writing course, we were asked to visit a busy restaurant and write down bits of conversation. It was totally intriguing. Thanks for the post.


    1. Hi Jodie
      It’s one of the part about writing I love.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I never thought of writing down the conversations. That would be fun.


  3. Hey, Jo-Ann. Off yesterday hunting for a location for our chapter’s writing conference next spring. And line edits came in last night! Still busy with those. Exciting. Getting one step closer. I love to people watch too. Need to remind myself to take time to do that.
    “It still seems a bit academic to me, like an extra sweater I don’t necessarily need.” What a lovely line! You do have a way with words. 🙂


    1. Hi Marsha
      I’m touched that you emerged out of your editing cave to check out my blog. Sheesh, that’s nice. Thanks for the compliment too. So nice to hear.
      I hope you found a good location for the conference. We’re putting our local one at the university.
      Best Wishes on those last edits


  4. One of my previous jobs was as an animator for video games and TV shows. The “line of energy” or “line of action” is always talked about in animation. One place where I find this concept definitely transfers over to a writer’s life is in their book covers. Good covers include a strong and easily definable “line of energy/action.” That line/arc tells a story in itself and sets the mood.Remember all of this for when you get your book covers, Jo-Ann, as I’m sure you will be published soon!


    1. Hi Jacqui
      I’m always learning new things about you. An animator! OM goodness, how cool is that.
      I’d love to be contemplating covers. I knew they were vital to sales, but I had no idea about looking for the “line of action” on them. Now I’ll start thinking about that when I look at one. I hope you bring this up at our meeting on Saturday when we’re looking at one sheets.
      And thank you so much, dear friend, for your kind words about my writing. It means a lot coming from you.
      Best always


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