Gesture Drawing 101: How to Gesture Draw Like a Professional!

gesture drawing 101

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Are your figure drawings too stiff? Is it too difficult to introduce movement into your artwork?

Well … Learning gesture drawing is the solution to your problems!

Whether it’s capturing a particularly exaggerated pose or adding a sense of movement that will perfect your composition, it’s nothing that a steady practice of gesture drawing can’t fix.

As for why this is the case, you can learn more about it below:

What is a Gesture Drawing?

Gesture drawing is a fundamental exercise for those studying the human figure. Most artists study gesture drawing so that they can draw exaggerated figure drawings and add a little bit of spice to their, perhaps, too-stiff compositions.

In the next section, to give you an idea of how gesture drawings usually work, let’s take a look at the process of creating a gesture drawing!

what is gesture drawing?
Gesture Drawing by Siobhan

Practice Gesture Drawing in 7-Quick Steps

For this lesson, we’ll be sharing the gesture drawing process of a professional artist! More specifically, we’ll be using examples from Proko’s “How to Draw Gesture” video course for this section.

If you want to follow along, you can watch the same video or challenge yourself by finding images of other poses that are more exaggerated.

Step 1. Drawing the Head

drawing the head
(Image Source)

When drawing Gesture, Proko prefers to start with the head. For this, just a simple oval will suffice. Ignore all superfluous details and focus on where the model’s chin is pointing or where the model is looking to get the right angle.

Notice that the tilt of the head in this photograph is much more exaggerated than the model in the photo. This is something many artists like to do when doing quick gestures — it’s great for loosening up for more fluid markmaking.

Step 2. Draw the Neck & Shoulders

draw the neck and shoulders

Next are the neck and shoulders. Again, ignore everything else. Just focus on the tilt of the shoulders and the line of the sternocleidomastoid muscle (which was highlighted by Proko with a backwards “C” curve in the photograph.)

When connecting the head with the shoulders, draw a small “v” to mark the collarbone. This should help you complete the next step easier.

Step 3. Drawing the Torso

drawing the torso

The torso consists of three lines. The most important is the center line, which starts from the collarbone, passes through the model’s belly button, and extends to the lower abdomen.

Once the center line is drawn, you can compare the distance of the other two lines of the torso more easily — which can be seen in the photograph above.

Step 4. Drawing the Lower Abdomen

drawing the lower abdomen

This next part looks a little more tricky, but in fact, it’s just a matter of following the curve of the human figure from the waist to the hip, then indicating the groin area.

If you’re lacking confidence with your familiarity with the human body, this is a good time to study models of different figures in order to get a sense of where to stop.

Step 5. Draw the Legs

draw the legs

As for the legs, the key points to pay attention to are the knees, calves, and ankles.

As you can see from Proko’s live drawing, he extended two curves and stopped at the knee area. As for the calves, he emphasized the curve to make it easier to fill in the muscles later before narrowing at the ankles.

There’s nothing too complicated about drawing the gestures of the legs, some artist even stop at just drawing two lines going straight down. The only difficulty is that it will test your ability to make fluid marks.

Step 6. Drawing the Arms

drawing the arms

For the arms, the key areas are the elbows and wrists. Be sure to compare it with other parts of the drawing gesture pose to make sure the proportions are correct!

Step 7. Add Details

Most gesture drawing exercises are limited in time, so this next step is optional!

If you have spare time, you can add some details to make the figure more complete. It doesn’t have to be too complicated. For example, adding the lines of the face is a good way to point out the line of sight of the figure.

add details

What Is the Use of Gesture in Art?

Most artists see gesture drawing as an exercise for improving their understanding of the human form. However, there are other benefits involved:

  • Helps Practice Observation: When one is learning how to practice gesture drawing, they also end up exercising their ability to observe the movement and action of their subject.
  • Improves Hand-Eye Coordination: Another skill you can practice when gesture drawing is hand-eye coordination — the ability to use your hands and your eyes simultaneously, which is helpful for improving the proficiency of your mark-making.
  • Warm-Up for the Finished-Drawing: If you’re working on a particularly important project that includes a figure in motion, doing some gestures beforehand can help you warm-up your brain and your muscles.
  • Adds Fun & Sparks Inspiration: If you’ve noticed that there’s a serious lack of spirit in your drawings, practicing gesture drawing is a good way to loosen up your body and mind so that you can draw with more confidence.

All in all, learning how to practice gesture drawing is a great method of improving both your figure drawing skills and your general drawing skills. So, there’s really no loss in learning how to do it. Only endless benefits~

Famous Gesture Drawings from Master Artists

Next, let’s take a look at some of the more famous gesture drawings out there so that you can see what a real gesture drawing is meant to be like:

1. Charioteer by Micco Spadaro (Domenico Gargiulo)

charioteer by micco spadaro
Charioteer by Micco Spadaro
  • Artist: Micco Spadaro (Domenico Gargiulo)
  • Date Painted: 1609-1675
  • Medium: Pen and Ink (Brown Ink)
  • Current Location: Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection

Domenico Garigiulo, also called Micco Spadaro, was a famous Italian painter during the Baroque Period (1600s to 1750s). His gesture drawing “Charioteer” is one of the best examples of expressive figure drawings in history.

Don’t look at it as a messy doodle with lines and curves. Each mark was created in order to embody the movement behind the action of the model. Just from this quick sketch, you can get a glimpse of the intense movement of the figure, which is one of the key characteristics of a great gesture drawing.

2. Study of Ignudo by Michelangelo

study of ignudo by michelangelo
Study of Ignudo by Michelangelo
  • Artist: Michelangelo
  • Date Painted: 1508
  • Medium: Chalk on Paper
  • Current Location: Teylers Museum, Haarlem, Netherlands

Michelangelo is a world renowned master sculptor, painter, and architect. The figure drawing “The Study of Ignudo” is just one of his better-known sketches.

In such a detailed drawing, it’s hard to see the essense of gesture beneath the perfect proportions and shading, but if you look closely, there are lighter chalk marks beneath the hard lines that hint at a light gesture drawing.

In fact, you don’t even need to investigate that far. Just look at the curve of the figure’s spine, then follow the neat curves of the model’s legs until you reach the bend of his toe. The lines define the figure perfectly, but Michelangelo also does not forget to express the magic of the body in motion with captivating curves.

3. Two Studies of a Seated Nude with Long Hair by Gustav Klimt

two studies of a seated nude with long hair by gustav klimt
Two Studies of a Seated Nude with Long Hair by Gustav Klimt

Two Studies of a Seated Nude with Long Hair by Gustav Klimt

  • Artist: Gustav Klimt
  • Date Painted: 1901-1902
  • Medium: Black Chalk
  • Current Location: J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles)

Gustav Klimt is a master artist from Austria, best known for his paintings, murals, and sketches. One such famous sketch is the chalk drawing titled “Two Studies of a Seated Nude with Long Hair.”

Two figure drawings of the same model on one page. The poses are similar, and yet the feelings evoked are completely different. Such contrast is a great example of how adding gesture drawing to your repertoire can help you improve your figure drawing abilities.

What Do You Use for Gesture Drawings?

As you’ve seen from the previous examples of gesture drawings, there’s no real hard-rule when it comes to the medium you use for gesture drawings.

what do you uuse for gesture drawings?

Whether its ink and brush, chalk, charcoal, or pencil, it can be done. This kind of exercise is not picky when it comes to surfaces either. Any kind of cheap art paper is fine!

Of course, that doesn’t mean that there are no recommendations. If you want to try out gesture drawing for yourself, the best mediums are soft charcoal or soft pencils (which glides across paper and is suitable for expressive markmaking). As for paper, cheap sketch paper or calligraphy paper in sizes of 9 x 12 or above are most suitable as larger drawing surfaces will allow you to make marks with your shoulders, which is best for gesture drawing.

Quick Tips for Improving Your Gesture Drawing Skills

To finish up, here are some extra tips to improve your gesture drawing abilities:

  • Keep Your Lines Fluid: The easiest way to improve a gesture drawing is to keep your lines fluid. If you’re not confident about drawing lines, follow the gesture of the pose with your pencil and practice the required movement of your shoulders before pressing your pen onto the paper.
  • Ignore the Details: One mistake beginners make when working on gesture drawings is to focus too closely on the details. Don’t make that mistake! Look at the pose and focus on the form. Don’t be too obsessed with right or wrong. Just go with the feeling.
  • Experiment with Time: The less time you have to draw the gesture of a pose, the more meaningful your marks have to be. Sometimes, increasing the pressure by limiting your time to draw is the best way to make progress.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Difference Between a Gesture Drawing and a Figure Drawing?

Gesture drawing is a fundamental exercise wherein an artist draws a quick and simple sketch of a human figure. Based on this, it can be inferred that gesture drawing is a type of figure drawing! The difference between the two lies in the fact that gesture drawing is usually more free and easy — the point is to exaggerate.

what si the difference between a gesture drawing and a figure drawing?
Artwork by Siobhan

Should I Learn Gesture Drawing Before Figure Drawing?

I t doesn’t really matter when you start learning. Some artists may benefit from starting with gesture drawing because the quick sketches are relatively simple to do. Also, gesture can help beginners see the big picture without having to worry about the details.

However, there are also artists who find it more useful to learn figure drawing rigorously before loosening up their drawings with gesture.

What Is the Most Important Thing to Remember While Gesture Drawing?

Keep your lines fluid! A gesture is meant to be free and easy, accuracy is not as important as expressing the essence of the pose of the model.

How Long Should I Practice Gesture Drawing?

Several sessions of 1-2 minute long poses is the best choice if you’re starting out. It’s neither too long nor too short, allowing you to get a good grasp of the pose and sketch it freely.

how long should I practice gesture drawing?
(Image Source)

Gesture Draw Today!

Gesture drawing is a great way for beginners and professionals alike to fuel their creative fire. As a drawing exercise, it also does a good job of introducing crucial fundamental skills that all artists should have.

If you’re really serious about stepping up your figure drawing skills, enroll in Proko’s course today!

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