During a recent class, one of my students approached me with a very common concern. In her mind, she could visualize her figures and how these fell within the composition of her illustration. Once drawn on paper though, these looked nothing like they did in her thoughts. On the other side, her attention to detail was impeccable. This made me realize that I had been ignoring the basis of her problem. We found out she was paying plenty of attention to detail but ignoring the base gestures to build upon. It is a problem that I had neglected to see, as most of my students have already acquired this knowledge and put it to good practice through their foundation classes. After a few lessons on gesturing and its importance, the student reached a control over her figures she hadn't grasped before.
The information here is amply discussed on hundreds of books and websites. This doesn't make it any less relevant. So I'll take the chance and explain how I use gestures in my process through this project done for Euroman and art directed by Sune Ehlers, who is also a phenomenal artist.
During thumbnail stage, I don't normally bother with correcting the figures. The main concern here is gesturing the right compositions. Keeping them as simple as possible makes them easier to read.
After moving to sketch level, the real figure gesturing starts. At this point, the main concern is to get the right proportions and motion. Getting into proportions, my concern isn't really making the figure look correct as much as believable. Sure, the proportions might not be those of a real human, but if it looks alright and makes the illustration interesting, then that's good enough for me. I also keep the figures undressed at this point... or at least most of them. The ones in the back I don't care for as much as the one in the front, so I roughly gesture them clothed.
And then they get dressed, keeping in mind that every added clothing detail will seriously affect the composition.
Once the inking begins, a couple of details may shift here and there, but the main idea remains. Remember that thing I just mentioned about elements seriously affecting the composition? Well, say hello to that unwrapped turban. Nonetheless, the gesture underneath dictates almost everything. This may sound constricting, but it's a really good safety net to fall upon once the illustration starts getting complicated.
Oh yeah... and there's that thing about the background. After that, what remains are a few layers to color this number up.