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When you draw a figure it looks too stiff, or the proportions are way off?
Or do you tend to focus on one part of the body, forgetting the rest and end up with a distorted image?
I bet the problems you have now are because you didn’t practice enough of gesture drawings!
Then, let’s see what is gesture drawing, why such practice is important, what it will give you, what to avoid and where to start :
What is gesture drawing?
A gesture drawing is a laying in of the action, form, and pose of a model/figure. Typical situations involve an artist drawing a series of poses taken by a model in a short amount of time, often as little as 10 seconds, or as long as 5 minutes.
Why is it important to practice gesture drawing?
Gesture drawing lets you practice new positions and new ways of drawing a person by focusing on one pose during a very short period of time. While practicing figure drawing, you don’t have the time to measure the exact amount of inches there are from one landmark to the other. Instead, you must quickly see the overall “emotion” a body is trying to communicate and then put it down on the paper.
Of course, you still must preserve realistic proportions to make those short 1-minute poses believable. And the more you practice – the faster you will start understanding subconsciously how body parts relate to each other.
Another perk of doing quick gesture studies is the diversity:
It gets so easy to only draw a person standing upright straight on and sideways, as well as just one body type…
These are the drawing you see in beginner artist’s art pieces all the time, because it is what they’ve been practicing from books, and so when the time comes to draw from imagination – these are the only poses that can be done right! But by practicing gesture drawing and figure drawing your brain learns to adapt and understand all the extensions, bends and rotations body parts make possible. And then drawings from your head become much more interesting and dynamic!
What You Need To Start Practicing
The “traditional” way of doing these studies are with pencils or charcoal. However, you can practice gesture drawing/figure drawing with any medium you like using, want to experiment with or have close by – paints, pens, digital, markers, pastels, inks etc.
The reason why big pads of paper and charcoal are used the most is because they let you work bold, and use your shoulders to make the lines instead of just using your wrist.
So, if you want to start off with them, go ahead to your closest art store and get a big drawing pad filled with cheap sheets of paper (you don’t need anything expensive because you will use A LOT of paper with your gesture exercises, and you are not doing them for sale, but for practice). And as for the drawing tool, you get to pick amongst charcoal pencils, charcoal sticks, graphite pencils and vine charcoal. If you are not sure which one you would like the most out of them, I recommend this very affordable Charcoal Drawing Set that includes all of the items mentioned above.
You spent less than 10$, have all your tools ready – now it’s time to look for a model.
The best option is to go ahead and search “life drawing session near me” and I’m sure you will find a few going on nearby!
If not, then you can always ask one of your friends or family members to pose for you! They won’t have to do much but set a timer somewhere between 10sec.-5min. and change position every time it “beeps”. In return, they get your love and maybe some food after.
Last option could also be to go to some crowded place like a mall or a coffee place, and just sketch people around you. They won’t pose, but some of them will hold a position for a couple of sessions-minutes. Just enough time for you to get the “feel” for their body movements!
Figure Drawing Websites
There are a plenty of websites that can provide you with a variety of photographs for your drawing practices! The best part? They include a timer you can set to your liking! Also, they have many other options to play around with: male/female/both; nude or clothed; some of them even ask you what type of pose you want to practice, and if you want to focus on a specific body part!
So here are my Top 5 Free Go-To Resources For Everyday Gesture Drawing Practices:
- Line Of Action
- Sketch Daily
- CharacterDesigns (the only one without a timer, but with a variety of poses per model)
- CroquisCafe (a YouTube Channel)
- here is an example of quickly sketching in a 2-minute pose:
5 Things To Avoid
As a beginner and advanced artists alike, we all need to remember a couple of things while practicing gesture drawing! There are a couple of things that shouldn’t be done, and here is why:
1. Undecisive Strokes
A lot of unnecessary strokes take up precious time that we can’t afford to lose in such short sessions. Also, they simply look unprofessional as though the artist doesn’t know what they are doing.
Instead, try to actually LOOK at the model and think of the angles, lengths and then put it down on paper.
2. Bold Strokes Right Away
Don’t get me wrong here, you should work boldly. However, if your first few strokes are super dark and massive – it will be really hard for you to build on them. At the end, your sketch will look like a complete mess, and you won’t be able to “cover” your mistakes with bolder lines.
Instead, start by applying confident lines without using your medium to it’s darkest potential, and then build on top with stronger and more accurate strokes.
3. All The Straight Lines
Most of our bones have specific curves to them, even humerus (the top(and only) bone of your arm) has just a TINY bit of a curve! I won’t get into anatomy here, but the point is this – don’t force everything to be straight because it’s not.
Instead, free up your movements and add some dynamic to the posture!
4. Focus on details
If you focus on one part of the body, like a head for example, then you simply won’t have enough time to put anything else on the paper. Overall, it’s a gesture drawing! So, you must work with the whole figure.
Instead, start big and then slowly zoom in, and you will see that you have no time to even think of details because you are so busy trying to get the whole figure onto the paper.
5. Measuring EVERYTHING
When we draw from life, we tend to try our best to capture the likeness of the person. To do that, we often use our pencil as a measuring tool. And that takes TIME. By the time you measure everything – (at least) half the time will be gone.
Instead, don’t waste your precious time on measuring. Remember, you are not doing it to practice capturing a likeness, but to practice capturing the FLOW.
* If you really can’t stay away from measuring, then the only thing I would recommend is to hold up your pencil horizontally to see which body landmarks meet and where. But then, back to work! 😉
Here is an example and a BONUS TIP just for you guys from a character design artist/illustrator Fatima Camiloza:
Try not to limit yourself to what you see. The model is meant to be a reference that helps you portray what you have in your imagination. You can inject personality, style, fashion of your own liking to take what you see and make it your own.
5 Things To Focus On
As well as previously mentioned DON’Ts, there are also a couple of DO’s that will help you achieve better results while practicing gesture drawing:
1. Action Line
Always start your gesture drawing with an action line – a line that goes from the top of the head down to the feet. It’s like a curve the body forms while in different poses. Action line will help you get a more dynamic pose and overall flow of the figure. It also provides you with a roadmap to use while placing in body parts.
2. Fit The Figure on The Page
This tip works well with the “focus on detail” thing you must avoid. If you focus “big” but still only work mostly on the upper/lower half of the body then you are risking having to fit the other part into the page with funny proportions. Therefore, after placing in your action line, I suggest to also mark the top of the head and the bottom of the feet in order to have ‘boundaries’ to work within.
A very simple tip that will save you from figures that look stiff and unnatural. Remember, our body is asymmetrical. So, if your arms and shoulders angle tilts up on the right side, then your torso and legs will tilt down at the right side. It’s just this useful thing out body does to keep balance 🙂
4. Negative Shapes
Look for negative shapes in your model! Sometimes we think we “know” what we see, but it ends up looking awkward. But, by looking at negative shapes, our brain works differently and actually sees the right shapes that then become landmarks for the placement of body parts.
You don’t have to work in the super realistic constraints. Gesture drawing practices are done to learn gestures, and what’s better than exaggerating them (within reason) to understand how every part of the body works with another in all sorts of the different position.
- Here is an example of a process and a BONUS TIP by Orfenn Schuller a preproduction artist/storyboard artist/animator just for YourArtPath.com :
When working on gesture, keep drawing. You should spend a lot of time working on them. Drawing real people, drawing everyday people around you. For beginners gesture drawing can be frustrating, but just keep doing it till you get better. Don’t worry how crappy your drawings look like at first. Never focus at drawing clean lines, just draw without a care in the world.
Free Resources To Get You Started
- Sycra on YouTube “Some Figure Drawing Tips” Video:
- “How to Improve Your Figure Drawing – Step by Step” on Skillshare by Robert Marzullo.
* Skillshare is a paid platform, however by following my link you get 2 months for FREE, so you can watch this course and many others for free in those months 🙂
Premium Resources To Make You A Pro
- Check out our blog post on “14 Best Figure Drawing Books For Beginners”.
- “Figure Drawing Fundamentals” Course by Proko.
- Great for beginners and advanced artists alike;
- 15 hours and 30 minutes worth of video;
- It’s fun and therefore easy to learn;
- They teach everything from gesture, landmarks, measuring proportions, shading and much more;
- You get Extended Lessons, Demos & Examples, Critique Videos and Assignments & Answers.
- Warning: videos are uncensored.
“Anatomy for Figure Drawing: Mastering the Human Figure” by Neil Fontaine.
- Taking your gesture drawing to the next step;
- Learn the skeleton, muscles, skin, fat;
- Learn how breasts attach, squish and their overall mechanics;
- Learn how to draw head, hands, feet and faces.
That’s all on the gesture drawing tips and things to avoid! Hope you learned something from this blog post, or at least got inspired to go check out some courses and practice some exercises 🙂
- Grab supplies;
- Learn from Free or Premium Source;
- Start Practicing!
- Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe to our email list and follow us on social media if you would like to read our future posts!
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Good luck on Your Art Path,
– Anna, Your Art Bud 😉
Blog Posts to check out next → “How To Practice Drawing Effectively”