Gesture basics #1: Line of action

Whether from life or from imagination, the first mark made in most figure drawings is the line of action. You can think of the line of action as an imaginary line that runs down the spine. The more curve you put into that line, the more attitude, force and/or movement the image will communicate to your viewers.

When drawing from life, begin by finding the line of action and noting it down. If you wish, you may even exaggerate the curve of the line to make the pose feel less stiff. You should be able to identify and record a pose’s line of action in the first 2 seconds of your drawing.

Here are some possible lines of action. Note that they are curves, but they are not S shaped or squiggles.

Some artists make two lines of action — one for the body, and one for the arms. Either way, it is an essential tool for starting your image with an overall assessment of the pose and direction you wish to communicate, before getting bogged down in other details.

Once you have established the line of action, it becomes easier to compose dynamic, expressive poses by “hanging” the torso and hips along this line.

Go to gesture drawing lesson #2

More on lines of action:

29 thoughts on “Gesture basics #1: Line of action

  1. Thanks for this!! I’m using the plan of study from Kimon Nicolaide’s The Natural Way to Draw, and I notice that I had the most success with gesture “scribble” drawings when I naturally started with the basic line of action of a pose. Squiggles, not so much. :,D

  2. I’ve just joined your website and I must say that it’s one of the best choices I’ve made. Although the regester thing made me do math it was worth it. Tips like this are just so helpful! And the class thing is amazing. Not being able to afford live figure drawing classes this is an amazing alternative! Thanks for being awesome!

  3. really interesting, thank you, because when you start trying to draw something in 30 seconds, you don’t know where to start.
    This sounds like a good starting point^^


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  7. Thank you SO much! I am reading a book on drawing poses and the author starting using the term and putting in the line. I did not understand its significance. You cleared it up for me in a couple of sentences and now everything is falling into place. .

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