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Schoolism’s Gesture Drawing class and My thoughts

Last weekend I finished up my Gesture drawing class at Schoolism.com with Alex Woo. This is the second class I’ve taken at this site and so far I’ve found both classes to be very helpful. The first class I took at Schoolism was character design (Read my review of that class here). When I took my first class I took it as the Video Feedback option where you take the course, watch the videos, do the homework and then the instructor gives you a 5 to 10 minute review of your work. I found the video feedback very helpful but it was double the price. This time trying to save a few bucks I took the class as a Self-Taught. Self-Taught classes let you work at your own pace and take the lessons whenever you want with in a 3 month window. My thoughts on the Self-Taught version vs the Video Feedback classes in a bit. First lets talk a little about Gesture drawing with Alex Woo. 

Alex is an award-winning story artist and one of the instructors at Pixar, teaching gesture drawing to their artists and animators. Alex has adapted his Pixar class into an 8 lesson curriculum. In this course, the video version of Alex walked me through breaking down the fundamentals of gesture drawing into 7 foundational topics. The foundational topics went as follows: Lesson 1: Line – Distilling the pose to its essence, Lesson 2: Shape – Abstracting the pose, Lesson 3: Silhouette – A clear read, Lesson 4; Space – Creating depth and dynamics, Lesson 5: Exaggeration – Pushing and pulling a drawing, Lesson 6: Extrapolation – Seeing beyond the surface, and Lesson 7: Story – Giving your drawings context. Each lesson consisted of Alex talking for 5 to 10 minutes about this session’s approach and then a 20 minutes of Alex drawing and talking about his philosophy. One side of the screen was a video of a model doing 30 second poses (the pose length changed with the topics) and the other half was of him drawing. Once the first half was completed Alex would give you a 5 minute break and then the class would continue with another 20 minute session, but this time you would just draw on your own applying what you had learned in the first 20 minutes. Each lesson followed this same structure. A small nit pick I had was that they reused the same videos of the model quite a bit. Which didn’t really matter all that much because each time you saw the same video you would be looking at it for a different reason, but at the same time I kept having the feeling like I had already drawn this before. After the last session Alex would assign homework which normally consisted of 2 hours of cafe drawing (drawing people on public places) applying what you had learned and a few other assignment sprinkled in. Here are a few of my drawings for the course. Please don’t mind my scribbles I only had 30 seconds to get each pose and some of the poses felt really quick.

One of the things Alex wanted us to do was to find the story in every pose and not just to copy what we saw. When I took figure drawing in college I remember someone saying about one of my drawings “thats a great drawing, but it doesn’t look anything like the model.” I was never very good at photo realism and thats why this approach resonated with me. I’ve got to say I found Alex’s approach on gesture very refreshing. The sessions I found most eye-opening were distilling the gestures into a single line of action and finding stories in your gesture drawing. I never thought about applying these processes to my images, now I find myself doing it all the time.

About the two different approaches to the classes. First off the self-taught class was a fine way to take the course. I feel I got most of the information, but I think it would’ve been great to receive feedback on my drawings. Then again the self-taught class was half the price and there was no time limit, so I could just take the class at my leisure. I did find the three month time limit a little short. I would have liked to have gone back through these courses one more time before my time ran out. After the three months you cannot view the videos again, whereas with the instructor led courses the videos stay around for the length of your account, I’m assuming. As for the instructor led courses I think this would be the preferred way to take the class. It was great to get feedback and I found the instructors comments very helpful. I did find that with the self-taught classes you could watch previous students feedback videos, so you did get to see a little bit of feedback just not on your work.

Gesture drawing with Alex Woo was an amazing class and I was astonished by how much I learned and now apply to my everyday drawings. If you’ve ever considered taking a class with Schoolism I would recommend both of the classes I’ve taken so far. Personally, I might start with gesture drawing but that’s completely up to your own tastes. Since I’m a Schoolism Alumni I can get you a small discount. If you’re interested follow the link here to get the discount code.

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