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:

33 thoughts on “Gesture basics #3: Joints

  1. 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.

  2. 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 :)

    • 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. :)

  3. 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.

  4. 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 !

    • 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!

  5. 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.

    • 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. :)

      • 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 ^.^

        • 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. :)

          • 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.

          • 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. :)

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

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