Why Less is More?

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by Sanne 5 years ago.

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    I've been hearing that using lines such as 5-7 or even as few as 3-4 lines during 30 second gesture drawing is a good idea. I heard it makes you think about each line more carefully. What do you think? Does this work for you or do you need to use more than 5-7 lines?

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    It does work! One of the biggest reasons to draw gestures is to train your brain to recognize what you see better and faster, and to be able to put it down more confidently to capture the essence of a pose.

    If you're scritchy scratchy with your gestures, you get lost in details and your drawings are not likely to look confident and fluent. Fewer lines means you're more boldly expressing the flow of the figure because you're trying to capture more in a single line. That's why it's called 'less is more' in this context!

    I noticed an almost immediate improvement when I focused on using fewer lines. These animal gestures are a day apart but you can tell the difference fewer strokes made:


    or do you need to use more than 5-7 lines?

    My question about this is: "need to" for what purpose? It depends very much on what you're trying to achieve in your practice and with the end product of your drawing. However, for 30 second gestures, the usual "point" is to help warm up your brain and get it ready to see and make decisions about what is most essential to a pose, what will convery the feeling or energy of what you're seeing as quickly as possible. That's why the length of time is so very short - you're not really supposed to be able to capture an entire figure in that length of time, you're supposed to have to make hard decisions about what to capture and what to leave out. The idea of limiting how many lines you use is a great one for this same sort of training. For most people, the short length of time just naturally limits the number of lines they can make anyway. For others, adding this second layer of restriction helps to sharpen their thoughts and learning process even further.

    Of course, if you are making a finished piece of art that is meant for display, it's entirely up to the artist how many lines they want to include. But when it comes to exercises that are meant to teach you something, push you out of your comfort zone, and don't necessarily need to be finished pieces you hang on a wall -- I think this can be a useful exercise for a lot of people. :) Depends on what you're working on learning right now though!

    • Kim edited this post on September 16, 2018 8:16pm.

    @Kim, that's a good question. Let's say I want to have a clear pose, what would I need to do? Would that help? I want to push further out of my comfort zone and fewer lines seem like a great tool for that!

    @Sanne That's a good point! Fewer lines help capture more in a more concise, clear manner. I'm also curious if you have any other tips that you would suggest to prove more of a challenge and push me to learn more about pose.


    @Sanne That's a good point! Fewer lines help capture more in a more concise, clear manner. I'm also curious if you have any other tips that you would suggest to prove more of a challenge and push me to learn more about pose.

    There are a few things that I've personally found useful!

    Don't skip pictures in the tools even if you don't like them. Pushing yourself to draw figures that are hard or unappealing to draw can actually improve your skills dramatically, because you're likely avoiding them for reasons related to what you currently can and can't draw. AKA I'm terrible at reptiles but if I don't draw them, I can't learn how to draw them. So every time a reference makes me want to skip, I don't and just try.

    I also try to keep in mind that repetition is key. Setting a realistic goal that is attainable but does challenge you a bit is a good way to go. Right now I have a modest goal of '15m per day, 4 days per week' but I actually started with '10m per day, 2 days per week'. I bumped it up because it was too easy, but with my health issues and schedule I don't want to commit to overdoing it and then feel bad for not meeting my goal. 4 times a week at 15 minutes is time I can spare where it's a bit challenging but still doable. AKA don't set yourself up for failure, stay realistic about what your limits are, but do try to push it just a bit into the challenging zone.

    While it's a good idea to stick to a tool and practice something consistently for 1-2 weeks before moving on to a new tool and goals, I also remind myself it's okay to do something else. Even if I want to focus on making my drawings more fluid and capturing motion, if I can't be bothered doing figure gestures today I will just spend 15 minutes on a single animal drawing instead, or drawing a bunch of 30 second hand gestures and so forth. The goal for me is to keep drawing something, even if it's not specifically what I had in mind to work on. Because of my health and personality traits, it's tempting for me to just do nothing at all if I can't get myself to do the thing I set myself out to do. (If I can't get it just right, I get terribly demotivated and if I don't draw today, the hurdle to draw tomorrow is taller than it is today.)

    So for me it's overriding to keep doing something to stay in motion. I can still practice this specific thing tomorrow or later this week, but for now I'm still in the motion and habit of drawing 4 times a week no matter what. Continuing to draw even if it's not a huge challenge and even if it's not in my scope of training goals is better than to not draw at all. That by itself can be a huge challenge!

    • Sanne edited this post on September 17, 2018 9:27am. Reason: Fixed up phrasing

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