Hello all! Would appreciate a critique & some advice on my gesture drawing!

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    Hello! You can call me Syd-o :) I've been using this site for years now but finally decided to stop creating in a vacuum and get some real feedback from a community.

    I've been attempting gesture drawing for years but even though I've seen slight improvements I still can't get to where I want to be. When I do quick gestures, my lines are scribbly, messy, shaky--even with pen. I have trouble not only SEEING the whole gesture but translating what I see into a drawing on a page. All I can see is the figure as parts of a whole ("Head...neck...arm...other arm..."), and not one single form, and with time constraints I suppose I freak myself out a bit and wind up with those scribbly and unsure lines in my haste to get something down. When I try to slow down to give myself time to see, I default into figure drawing, putting in uneccesary details and shapes *again* without being able to feel or record the emotion of the whole gesture.

    Figure drawing I am halfway decent at. I've proven to myself that I CAN draw a human body, but I've yet to be able to capture the essence of a human body in gesture.

    I'm currently reading Walt Stanchfield's "Gesture Drawing for Animation", as a career in animation is my endgame, but although the great Walt gives incredible advice and tips I'm having so much trouble applying it. I understand that gesture drawing is about "feeling the pose", but I just can't seem to switch into that kind of thinking--or if I do, I can't get my drawing hand to "feel the pose" either and scribbles come out no matter what.

    It's a small sample, but here are some 30 sec-1 min gestures I've done today and yesterday. Any sort of critique, tips, or tricks would be greatly appreciated!

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    Hi Syd,

    You should read 'Drawing on the right side of the brain' by Betty Edwards.

    There are PDF copies available if you google it.

    Your line quality is interesting and your own, but your analytical thinking is getting in the way of actually seeing what you are trying to draw.

    Just read the first chapter of that book and see if the ideas seem relevant.

    Good luck.

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    I actually do have a PDF copy of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, I got pretty far through it but now that you mention it I do seem to be in need of a re-read. The problem of the analytical brain overpowering the creative brain is exactly what's going on here. Thank you so much for the insight, I'm definitely due for a refresher course.


    Good evening, Syd-O, and welcome aboard, and OK, your looser poses are absolutely, positively are all on the righter-tighter track in getting exaggeration and expression in your graphic mark-making. Please keep those things going!

    Still, those lines of action, balance, rhythm, and tempo could use a bit far more distortion and exaggeration. How would you like to push the lines a lot more faster, looser, lighter, and free-er with 30 minutes of 29 second quicker figure pictures? As a result, your quicker doodles and drawings will be the most boiled down and distilled in terms of the organic pictures and flow. It's OK if your lines are a lot more messier and shakier, because, you'll loose those things with even more time, practice, and progress. For more and even more details, be sure to look into some Classic Cartoon animators reels on YouTube for most inspiration for studying the mechanics and performance combined. But the point is, we're all learning about the quick sketching techniques for animators, cartoonists, and artists alike.

    My hat's off to you, and let's hope these have been absolutely, positively, and totally helpful and informative! ;)

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    Hi! Thank you, it's very encouraging to hear I'm on the right track. I've definitely noted some progress recently but I get into the double-edged sword habit of comparing my work to others' & then I get unsure if there really was progress at all.

    I always shy away from 30 second gestures, trying to avoid them at all costs, because as you mentioned my lines DO get a lot messier and shakier as I panic a bit racing against the clock and it gets discouraging for me to look at. But if you say it's ok and that sloppiness will get phased out with time I suppose I'd better finally get those infamous 1000 bad drawings out of the way sooner rather than later :)

    Thank you again, my outlook is brighter now!



    Consider trying the 'Slow Gesture' exercise as one of your warmups before you draw your intended image.

    In this exercise, you use the photos and put the clock on for 5 minutes for each gesture. You take a lot of time to read the model as to where the motion is coming from and what muscles they are using.

    When doing this exercise, some artists will stand up and repeat the stance the model is in and how the model got into that stance multiple times before they sit down to draw the figure. They will focus inwardly on each muscle it took in their body to get into that position.

    If you have a model, have them repeat getting into that stance as slowly as possible, stay in the pose for a few seconds, and then repeat until another pose is chosen.

    The main idea of this exercise is to understand the kinetic energy flowing through the body while in that position. The other is weight. Most weight comes from the line. Changing your pencil pressure and/or your pencil pigment levels from H-B helps a lot.

    Lastly, do not have so many figures on the page. It's tempting because it feels frugal to save paper. I mean, after all, it's just a gesture. Right? Wrong! The moment you have more than one figure on the page you are composing. If you want to bring up your gesture game, don't compose, it's a distraction you don't need because it will get in the way of your goals. One gesture per page. you can always use the paper later for grocery lists, clean-up and other studio needs. Give yourself the space to learn.

    I hope this helps.

    All the best,

    JCML Fine Art

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    That's really helpful advice! I have been trying to do some slower gestures lately to give myself time to actually see and feel what I'm drawing, and I didn't even realize I'd been composing until you mentioned it but yes, I'm doing exactly that trying to fit all the figures onto one page. That was very insightful, thank you!


    Hi.Syd O!

    Jcmlfineart had some really good advice.

    I would also like to add that you should try to use fewer strokes. An arm can be done with just one or maybe two long lines. Get rid of those short scratchy lines and do long and confident flowing lines, especially when you are drawing quick sketches like one or two minute poses.

    Use a lead pencil because it will let you put down very light strokes or very dark if you want to.

    I would not recommend the book "drawing on the right side of the brain" for gesture drawing like someone said though. Gesture is not about s not about depicting exactly what you see with all the details and bumps of the shape. It's more describing the way a pose "feels" using with simple shapes.

    Good Luck!


    Howdy, Sid O!!

    Try speed drills!!

    Make the gesture drawings, 20 min at a time, 2 min each. Focus on just getting the basics down and getting comfortable with repitition!

    Don't try to get the details, start with literal stick figures and build from there. Also study the human body/anatomy!

    I know you might think "how will this help with shakey line work?" 4 things!!

    1. Muscle familiarity - Jus like in martial arts and sports, the more you do an activity, the more your muscle memory will kick in. Your muscles will get used to drawing smoothly, and it'll make the art look better!!

    2. Study! - Do slow and intentional drawings of the human body. Without worrying about the line quality, focus in on how the body is structured, where basic muscles are, how body parts transition from section to section (i.e limbs to torso to hips to legs to feet.) As you gain knowledge, you'll gain flow and confidence. Also, drawing from your shoulder and not the hand/wrist helpled me quite a bit.

    3. Experience - As you grow familliar, your brain will start to recognize and connect the dots artistically. After drawing a bunch of arms, you'll generally know how arms work and it'll become more automatic from a mental stand point on how to draw them. After drawing a bunch of eyes, you'll know what they look like and what you'll need to draw in order for it to "look" like an eye!

    4. "Finished not perfect," is my artistic motto. Dont aim for perfection. You will literally never reach it. Focus on improvement. After you finish an art piece, write down what you liked about it, what you did well, and what you wish to impove upon. If you do this, it will be less discouraging over time, you'll be able to track growth, and the growth WILL happen.

    4.5 Embrace it. Make the wiggly lines an intentional choice and styling about you art. Make that part of what makes your art YOUR art.

    TLDR; Speed drills, Study human anatomy, consistency over time, relax /or embrace it as an artistic choice.

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    That's great advice! Lately I actually have been thinking about the muscle memory aspect of it, and how a study of anatomy would help me fill in the blanks and maybe stop me from those scratchy lines that I make because I'm just not sure how the body would move. It's good to hear from someone else that the practice and repetition will help make it second nature in time. Thank you!


    Well you've already got so much excellent advice here! I want to say that you've actually done so well with a lot of the trickier poses/perspectives here! Your foreshortening skills are very strong.

    Something that really helped me was taking the initial tutorial here on the site, because it tells you that for the 30 second poses, you are not supposed to even try to draw the figure--just find the line of action. So you are only drawing ONE line (and maybe placing the head if you're feeling ambitious) for each 30 second segment! I had been trying to draw the whole figure, and had such an aha moment because of that. I found that staring at the pose, and trying to sum it up in one confident curve, made all the difference when it came to really capturing the gesture. Its like it laid a foundation and ran a cohesive thread through all my lines thereafter, tying the whole figure together instead of it just feeling like a splatter of random hastily drawn limbs. An important thing to remember is that while the line of action OFTEN follows along at least one limb, it doesnt need to line up with more than one or any at all. Its all in the tutorial there. As you start get the muscle memory for this line of action, you can try drawing whole figures in 30 seconds again, and you will find it so much easier. :)

    As you embrace that moment of one-line zen, you'll grow your felt sense of the gesture for all future drawings. Studying anatomy is a great idea as well. The human body has a natural rhythm to it. Repeating angles and shapes. Getting more familiar with those will naturally influence your gesture drawing lines. Because any segment of the body can be expressed simply with 2 or 3 lines. So you will naturally start to make lines that resemble the real human body. Enjoy your journey!


    Hi syd o I think you better check out mike mattesi's force drawing method. That helped me a lot with gestures!

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    I've been working on my gestures ever since first making this post and I had that aha moment myself just yesterday! I watched a video where the instructor was rendering the gesture in lines and I easily saw the difference in quality between just a few lines & me trying to scrape together a full figure. I remembered that identifying the action lines was actually how I started out with gesture drawing years and years ago, but I soon got discouraged that I couldn't bring out the form enough with just lines and that's how I fell into trying to make a whole figure. I'd gone through the tutorial on this site before but after that aha moment and now your post I believe I need a refresher course. Thank you for the advice!


    Yes, that is it! I sometimes go back and do 10 second poses where I do ONLY one stroke to describe the whole pose. Then maybe add a very simple head shape but nothing more. This can be a great way to get back to the basic shape that is so important. Sketch loosely and keep the same approach in longer studies.


    If you're interested in improving line quality, I suggest checking out www.drawabox.com and drawing in pen. It can be pretty heart-stopping at first, but I kind if weened myself off pencils by using Frixion erasable pens to start. Chommang on YouTube is also a good artist to follow. He does quick figure drawing with a focus on line quality.

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