Capturing movement in your artworks with mixed media.

These notes were from a handout of a workshop/demonstration I gave at a local art group.
 I thought they may be of use to beginners who would like to "free up" their drawing and painting.

Capturing movement in your artworks.

Drawing a still life and observational drawing is essential to build skill and confidence. However, I often hear people saying that they would love to “free up” their drawings and paintings and be able to achieve a more impressionistic or semi-abstract style.

Impressionists such as Degas worked to capture a moment in time, in an era where there was no such thing as an instant camera. They used sketches, memory and life models to achieve this. As with Degas, they also used techniques such as having figures half in the frame as if captured by a quick camera snap.

Today most of us have access to cameras, smart phones and tablets. We have a wealth of images at our fingertips. I have nothing against using photographs for reference providing that you use them for an inspiration and aid and don't copy them slavishly.

(Remember, you must not use photographs without the permission of the photographer. Using pictures from magazines and the internet without permission is breaking copyright law. There are websites like where you can download free photos and be confident that they are licence free and don't infringe on copyright. Or use your own photos.)

Begin every work you do with putting time into deciding on composition. Draw several thumbnail sketches.

For me, a sense of movement or drama is most often achieved by the use of expressive lines. Vary the lines in width and shape and add imaginary and directional lines. Look at the lines in the artwork below (leaving aside the colour added later) see how the imaginary lines follow where the figure may have been a few moments before.

I draw in ink, but the principle is the same if you are drawing in pencil or paint etc. When drawing people and animals, pay attention to their posture. Looking at the painting above, as well as the lines, the posture of the figure tells us that she is moving.

When capturing movement and speed, try not to get bogged down in drawing detail, if someone is flying past you at speed you will not see every small detail of their face etc. Drawing and painting is as much about what you leave out than what you put in!

Watercolours really lend themselves to these techniques, I enjoy using a lot of water and use a hot pressed Arches paper for the water to move easily across. However, you can use the same principles in oil etc. as long as you don't “overwork” your painting and loose the spontaneity.

Finally, a sense of speed is best achieved when you work quickly and without inhibition. When drawing, keep your arm loose and use your whole arm. Sitting in a stiff position and drawing from the wrist will not help you loosen up your work. Try setting a timer and doing a series of ten minute or five minute sketches.

When half way into your painting, throw your reference photo away and concentrate on creating your own unique artwork. Stand back and asses what needs adding or altering to achieve this.
With your drawing in place, adding the paint is the fun part. Again try to work quickly with bold brushstrokes. In the image below I used the colour to enhance the sense of speed. See how all the colour is behind the horse where it has been previously and not in front of it.

Again, look at the lack of detail in the drawing and the posture of the jockey. In this particular painting, the colour was added when the ink was still wet.

From time to time I will continue to share worksheets from my classes and workshops, please feel free to comment below and let me know if you find these worksheets useful. Thanks.


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