Gesture: I don't know what I'm doing

Home Forums Critique Gesture: I don't know what I'm doing

This topic contains 3 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by Sugar Llama 1 year ago.

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    I try, but since I'm not exactly sure what you're supposed to accomplish while gesture drawing, I have no Idea if I'm doing it or just scribbling.

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    Hey Carl, some nice sketches you have here! I'm Siv, and I'm a total beginner, so please please take everything I say with a grain of salt.

    As far as I can tell / understand, gesture drawing can sort of be considered the opposite of contour drawing. Contour drawing involves drawing the edge of an object in order to create a precise, well defined shape (for example, when you see a geometry teacher draw a cube, this is contour drawing). Gesture drawing, on the other hand, uses more flowing and relaxed curves to capture the basic proportions and actions of a subject (for example, the stick figures that many children draw could be considered gesture drawings).

    A lot of artists like to focus on the gesture before they move on to the anatomical details, because it gives them a very fast way to see how the drawing 'feels'. If it doesn't feel right, scrap it and move on. You've wasted all of thirty seconds. If, on the other hand, you spend a lot of time putting in all the details and contours of the body first, and then take a step back and realize that the pose feels dead, uninteresting, or downright innacurate, it's easy to get bogged down and loose motivation.

    I would start off trying to represent whatever it is you're trying to draw using one line (either a straight line, a C curve, or an S curve). Do 30 sec or one minute poses, and really think about the pose. What is the person doing? Why are they doing that? How can I communicate what they are doing with only one line? Be sure to take a bit of time to study the model before you put your pencil to the paper. You want to do quite a few of these (I'd say at least a dozen) in a session. Once you're finished, go back over your drawings. Can you remember the poses? Do the curves accurately represent the poses? Do some of the curves stand out to you more than others?

    Remember contour drawings are supposed to look like their subject and accurately represent their shape. Gesture drawings are supposed to demonstrate the flow or action of the subject, often leaving the shape ambiguous. While using a single gesture line to capture an entire figure is a good exercise to get you thinking about the flow of objects, you can really use gesture lines in any subject you draw, for example you could have a gesture line for just an arm, or one for just a foot, or one for a mouse, or a horse, or a mountain or a tree. Anything that has a form will have a gesture, the trouble is finding it and putting it on a piece of paper.

    Once you have your main gesture line, you can either begin adding in some contours (head, chest, pelvis, etc) or, you can move on to describe smaller gestures to describe more detailed relationships (relationship between head and shoulders, shoulders and arms, shoulders and torso, torso and hips, legs and hips, feet and legs, etc). The more you focus on gesture, the more natural your drawing will feel. The more you focus on contour, the more solid and real your drawing will feel.

    I wouldn't say what you're doing is just scribbling, but it's not quite gesture drawing either, I'd say it's more on the contour drawing side of things. There's nothing wrong with contour drawing, in fact I would highly encourage you to continue practicing contour drawing, but usually you want to start off with very basic shapes for that (boxes, cylinders, etc) before moving on to a complex shape like the human body. It's a little bit counter intuitive to use the method that can show a lot of detail on simple shapes, and the method that aims to simplify things on the complicated shapes, but think of it as flexing your artistic muscles in order to diversify your capabilities.

    You may also find this video helpful, as it contains a pretty good explanation of gesture, as well answers to a few questions somewhat similar to yours.

    Again, I'm a total beginner, but here is an example of a few of the practice styles I like to use. Once you're able to combine the flow of the gestures with the geometry of the contours, you can create a pose that is both fluid/dynamic and believable. The more you practice gesture, the more fluid your pose will be. The more you practice contour geometry, the more real your pose will look. I look forward to seeing more art from you, keep up the good work!

    Stay creative,


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    Hello! I'm a beginner too!

    Have you tried Line of Actions tutorial yet? It was a great help to me, and still is. Found here: Learn how to draw - Using reference tools | Line of Action (

    The article goes into the very basics of gesture drawing, and it's a great place to start when you don't know what you're doing. The tutorial itself is 15mins. I think going through the tutorial a few times is good, just to get a hang of what it is you're trying to accomplish with gesture drawing. And then trying to do gestures on your own, taking as much or as little time as you need. Make sure you take the time to observe the figure/pose first before identifying the line of action. Think about the time you have to draw. For example, if you have 30secs on each pose, take 15secs to observe the pose, and then 15secs to draw your lines of action. If you have more time, you can take more time to observe, and use the extra time to add more detail, like drawing the main masses, drawing the joints, drawing the gestures in the other limbs and in the hands and feet.

    Ideally, gestures should be quick, and capture the essence of a pose. A "glorified stick figure" is a term I've heard a lot. What I like to think of as the "motion" of a dynamic pose, or the "weight" of a stationary pose. (It helps me to think about how the body is moving in a dynamic pose, and where the weight/balance/or center of gravity is in stationary pose, to figure out what the line of action is.)

    There's a lot that goes into drawing anatomy, form, proportions, perspective, and gesture... and more! There's a lot of drawing tutorials online about drawing anatomy. I like this one from Marc Brunet: 🦵 HOW TO PRACTICE DRAWING ANATOMY (beginner to pro | tutorial) - YouTube . It's a fun and comprehensive video, that goes through the different steps, the purpose and the end goal of drawing anatomy. There's a lot of drawing tutorials out there if you look, many going into a lot more detail than Marc Brunet does. You'll also see different and sometimes conflicting ideas about what is more important in figure drawing, gesture or construction. More advanced artists often will draw both gesture and construction at the same time. Lurking on the forums and seeing what other people's practice looks like also helps.

    Watching other people's tutorials, or looking at other people's gestures can give you a good idea of what you're trying to achieve. But just remember: your gesture drawings do not need to look like anyone else's gesture drawings, and it does not need to look like the drawings in the tutorial. The point is that you draw the gesture so you best understand the pose. (And there can be a lot hidden in a pose; force, motion, intentions, emotions, expression, etc.) As you continue practicing gesture drawings, and if you take the time to observe a pose, it will become easier to identify what is really important in a pose, how to draw it, and details that you can include in your gesture drawing, and other details that you leave for another step in drawing anatomy (construction or perspective or muscles or skin or line art etc. etc.)

    • Sugar Llama edited this post on September 4, 2022 1:40am. Reason: HYPERLINKS

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