• The Adventuring Artist

Do you struggle with figure drawing? Try Gesture Drawing

I got to tell you, drawing people is hard. There are so many bumps and bends and contours. Hands are my enemy, and getting the eyes to look both the same and normal is just about the equivalent of hell. But then you see people make these beautiful, realistic drawings of humans and think...how? what? why can't I do that?

Well as the saying goes, practice makes perfect...or slightly better at least.

That is why I, and a large number of artist, suggest gesture drawing.

My reference photo

A gesture is the movement of a part of the body than is used to express an idea, meaning or emotion. And gesture drawing is the laying down of that movement. The goal is to get down the movement in as few lines as possible and to better understand the way the body works. You want to understand the flow of the body so that you can see how the body works without getting caught up in the features. This can help you prevent your drawing from look stiff as well as help you understand the way the limbs connect and move. This improves you basic understanding of anatomy as well as proportions.

And the best part about gesture drawing is you can do it however you want.

Do you want to draw figures that are just lines showing where the arms and legs are in relation to the torso? Then go ahead and do that.

Understand where the spine is and how the shoulders and hips fall. Then place the arms and legs and just pay close attention to proportions.


Do you want some more depth to your drawing because you want to see more form in your image. Go ahead. Just follow the same rules as above.

This is how I usually do my gesture drawings

This is how I generally do my gesture drawings. I include the shape of the head, with something that shows where the chin is so I know what direction the head is facing. The torso is this type of bubbly X that I use to understand the hips and ribs. I also give the legs and arms a bit of definition because I like to see how the muscles may be working. And the hands and feet are just very basic shapes.

While it may seem like a lot due to the large chunk of text above me it is actually very simple. It usually takes me less than 30 seconds to get this down.

My suggestion is that if you want to get better at drawing people do this exercise at least once a day drawing at least 10 figures. And time yourself, say you will only spend 90 seconds, then 30 seconds then 10 seconds on each drawing. Or whatever you are comfortable with. But once that time has passed start on your next drawing. This way you do not get caught up in making the drawing "perfect" or too detailed. Remember the focus is few lines and just basic gestures. You don't have to show these to anybody so don't worry about making them beautiful and amazing.

If you are not sure where to start then I highly suggest using QuickPoses.com. I absolutely love this site. It is free to use and you can have it show you random images of a bunch of different things such as people, animals and landscapes. And if you want to work on a specific body part you also have the option to only see images of hands, feet or faces.

There is also timed practice option so you can have it automatically move to the next image after a set amount of time.

Your main takeaway from this post should be to draw the gesture before the anatomy. By doing this you can ensure a fluid, realistic and lively looking drawing. And don't be afraid to exaggerate.

Rebecca Adams

The Adventuring Artist

Do you struggle with drawing people? Have you tried gesture drawing before? Let me know in the comments!

If you do any gesture drawing after reading this post let me know! You can post in the comments or post it on Instagram and tagging me @an_adventuring_artist

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