A sense of purpose and direction is important in everything in life, and it's no different when it comes to gesture drawing. I got to monitor the gesture class today for 15 quick minutes, and walking around helping others draw really made it clear how important it is to be committed to a direction - to have each of your drawings make a statement. Draftsmanship is helpful, but if you aren't committed to a statement, your drawing will be nothing more than a pretty picture. If, however, you really commit to a statement (and that statement can be anything), your drawing will come alive.
As far as technique goes, these are some of the things that I think about when I do a gesture drawing:
After the model hits a pose, I try to find a line of action that best captures the essence of the pose. it's purely visual at this point. I haven't even begun to think about the story behind the pose.
Usually, the next step I take is to find the focus of the pose/drawing. Depending on the pose, it can be very obvious or it can be completely arbitrary. I try not to think about it too much, and I tend to let my instincts drive at this point.
After finding the focus, I start drawing the rest of the body. It's usually informed by the model in front of me, but I try to use that as more of a cheat sheet than an answer book (if that makes any sense). I start relating the rest of the body to this area of focus. This is where anatomy and draftsmanship can really be helpful. And as the drawing begins to take form, I then start thinking about the statement of the drawing. What is the character doing? Is she sad? Happy? Confused? Lonely? etc. It's almost as if I'm asking the drawing who it is, what it is about, where it wants to go, and really listening to what it needs.
The last step, which I usually don't get to, is to push and pull things in the drawing to strengthen the statement it's making. That can range from anything like coloring her hair, moving a leg or an arm to make a stronger silhouette, or drawing in a prop or two to really sell the statement.
Here are the drawings I did today. Hopefully they make a statement, and have life to them!