Gesture basics #3: Joints

The most mobile bones of the body attach to one another in a series of "ball and socket" joints, around which they can pivot and rotate. These joints are often deep inside the body, and not visible to the naked eye. For example, consider the thigh connecting to the hip.

A small protrusion of bone known as the "Femoral head" joins the femur to the hip socket. This socket is so ensconsed in muscle and fatty tissue that it can't be easily seen. And yet for most, once it's mentioned, it's easy to picture where that connection must be. Stand up. Walk around. Stand on one foot and lift and twist your free leg. It's easy to see that your leg is joined to your hip at a single connection point, from which all the positions your leg can take originate. This is true of all the mobile bones in your body. The range of motion allowed by each one's individual socket might differ, but the concept remains the same. When you've completed the line of action and the three ovals representing the head, rib cage and pelvis, try to quickly note down the major pivot points of the body. These are:

  • Shoulder
  • Elbow
  • Wrist
  • Hip socket
  • Knees
  • Ankles

Now connect the dots, and you've recorded the basic underlying anatomy required for a useful gesture study. From here, you can begin to work up the musculature of the body.

Mastering the basics of the skeletal underpinnings of the body will make all of your drawing faster, easier, and more convincing, whether from life or from your imagination. It is a crucial part of beginning to master perspective. Even if you intend to work in a "cartoony" style, knowing the rules will allow you to break them in effective, planned ways, rather than leaving you at the mercy of accident.

To learn more about joints, check out:


Ashley (unregistered visitor)

This helps a lot , Thanks

Dudeman (unregistered visitor)

Great info. Hopefully words get spread about this site. I'd love to see it expand

Dan (unregistered visitor)

This series is so useful! Thanks for the resources.

Kim - Site admin

I am so happy to know that it is helpful!


This series is super helpful. I'm a newbie at drawing and I learned a lot here. Thanks =)

Kim - Site admin

So glad to hear it! :)

Daniel (unregistered visitor)

This site is amazing, I will donate as soon as I get home, Thank you so much


just read all of the gesture basics, im going to put this into practice with the 1 min gesture drawings page. thank you for the insight.

Mo T (unregistered visitor)

Hey, an amazing, simple tutorial to get one on the right track. but interested to know if there's more about this? whats the next step after properly drawing the skeletal figure?

thanks for your work :)

Kim - Site admin

There's definitely much, much more to know about drawing, and dozens of techniques that could be used to carry a drawing to completion from this point. I will continue to post drawing related tutorials, and I'm on the lookout for people with more artistic credentials than I that I can convince to do guest posts for all of us. :)

JACQUIE TARR (unregistered visitor)

Many thanks once again ! have attended art workshops with 30 sec, 60 sec and one minute gestural drawings - but NO INFO WAS PROVIDED. This has been super helpful. I hope my donation has reached you.

Kim - Site admin

It did, along with your very sweet note. Thank you so much! I'm very excited the information here is so helpful to you.


this was the best site of this kind i found in the internet, congratz, keep up the good work.

Kim - Site admin

You're a peach!


I guess step 3 is the hardest, cause you have to be pretty fast and remember all the joints, and then not get mixed up in all of it.
But this should be quite rewarding to master, so again, thanks a lot !

Kim - Site admin

For sure! It is very, very, very challenging. I think it helps me to always start with the hip and should joints, as that lets you build off what you've already noted and extend bones out into space to find the other joints.

I'm so thrilled that these tutorials helped you!


this helps a lot, thank you so much!

Kim - Site admin

You're so welcome!

Ogechi Ike (unregistered visitor)

Thank you so much for the tips. I've been having trouble with action and limb gestures for awhile, and this site is the first one I understand.

I was wondering, do you have any tips on hands? Hands are my biggest struggle.

Kim - Site admin

Not yet, but I plan to release some articles on the topic along with the much-anticipated, much-delayed, I-swear-it's-definitely-still-happening-and-hopefully-VERY-soon hands & feet practice tool that we have in the works. :)

Taylor (unregistered visitor)

This helps me very much, thank you for making it easy to understand

dylstew (unregistered visitor)

Oh my god thank you so much! This helped me A LOT!
It's so much easier all of a sudden! Now I can finally practice well.
(The latest 4 drawings are the ones where I used this)

Kim - Site admin

I can see a noticeable improvement! Way to go! :D

dylstew (unregistered visitor)

Thank you! Yeah, they have shitloads of flaws, but just the fact that I can finally draw something that actually looks like the pose I'm trying to draw now, is awesome. Now I just have to do it over and over and over again to get better at it ^.^

Kim - Site admin

That's the ticket!! Remember to have a specific goal for what you're trying to improve every time you set pencil to paper, too, to focus your brain in. :)

dylstew (unregistered visitor)

I kept it in mind. Thanks for the advice.

My biggest problem at the moment is how messy my drawings are. I can't seem to correctly rease anything, and nothing ever becomes a clear , clean line. Eventually it becomes such a mess that my own drawing just, looks confusing to me.

Kim - Site admin

If you're using a nice fresh eraser, my first guess would be a problem with pencil pressure on earlier layers. I actually plan on writing an article about that soon, so hopefully it will have further usefulness for you. :)

Andy (unregistered visitor)

Extremely well explained. Many thanks.


This tutorial is awesome! Very simple but incredibly useful. Sometimes portraying things in such a simple way is best way of understanding the most complex things.

Thank you!

I hope you continue these.

BillyBratty (unregistered visitor)

Marking the hip *JOINT*, of course! It's so obvious now that it's been pointed out, but I'd been hung up on doing that one little thing wrong and wondering why everything got all messed up at the trunk.

Thanks so very much, this is truly invaluable information! Keep up the amazingness.


This tutorial is so helpful thanks so much!! <3

Estelle (unregistered visitor)

I have been to a number of life drawing sessions (without instruction) and only made a mess. Faced with a live model and absolutely no idea where to start was nerve wracking. I learned so much that could have helped me in the few minutes of your tutorials! What a fabulous site this is. I'm off to draw now and THANK YOU!

Kim - Site admin

I am thrilled that this has helped you, and sad that your first experiences with life drawing were so stressful!


Espectacular. ¡Muchas gracias!

Rob Briggs (unregistered visitor)

Gracias :D


What timing is meant here?
Given the 30 sec sketch, we use, say, 10 sec for line of action, pelvis, ribcage. It makes 20 secs for 24 dots+sticks?
Actually I can't make it so fast (forget about precise).
Not mentioning any contour. Should I switch to bit slower sketches first, e.g. 60 secs to make the whole work? Or keep doing this 30 sec run, trying to make it even faster?
What about contour? Should 30 sec sketches be just stick figures or a bit more realistic? Should I switch from sticks to the contour or try to do both in given time fast?
Would appreciate any advice.


This tutorial serie is amazing, i never felt understand so good and i was hella confused of number of different tutorials and ways to do smth, im completely fixed rn and can finally achieve my own art. Thank you

Add comment

Your email will not be published, sold, or distributed. This is just part of our record-keeping and anti-spam efforts.

As part of our anti-spam efforts, your IP address will be recorded for our records when you post your comment.