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Gesture Drawing

January 20, 2010

gesture drawingOn this blog I’ve focused a lot on tight realistic drawing, but there’s another style of drawing that I encourage you to try every once in awhile. Gesture drawing is a very quick, free style that encourages you to loosen up. Think of gesture drawing as the stretches that you do before exercise. It can get you out of that “must create art” frame of mind that can actually stifle your creativity. In fact, when you’re starting a new drawing, you should include a few gesture drawings in your preprations to let you get familiar with the subject matter.

If you’ve done any kind of life drawing, you’re probably familiar with the gesture. Life drawing sessions usually start with a series of very short poses (think 10-30 seconds). Your job is to try and capture the “gesture” of the model in a few quick strokes. This is a great exercise because it forces you to evaluate the shapes you see and simplify it to only the most important elements.

If you’re thinking that gesture drawings are only exercises, think again. Some of my best figure drawings were gestures! A gesture drawing is far more likely to capture the tension and movement in a body than a tightly controlled, realistic rendition. Canadian artist, Julia Trops, draws and sells some gorgeous, gestural figure drawings. These can be very powerful artworks.

Tips for gesture drawings:

  • use a large pad of cartridge paper or news print and fill the whole page; the bigger the paper the freer your drawings
  • use a big piece of charcoal or a graphite stick; using larger materials will keep you from getting too detailed
  • limit yourself to a very short period of time to capture the essential “gesture” (no more than a minute or two)


gesture drawing figure drawing

When doing gesture drawing, try to experiment with different techniques. You can draw the linear elements of your subject, you could scribble the movement of the form, or you could use the flat edge of the charcoal to fill in the mass. Just remember that your goal isn’t to outline the subject, or to render any detail; you want to capture the essence of the form, its movement, tension or weight.


From → Drawing

  1. Wayne permalink

    Nice, sounds fun. I am going to give it a shot tonight.

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