Drawing The Human Figure: Gestural Sketching

Gesture Drawing Intro

gesture drawing

Gestural sketching has long been one of the foremost and effective ways to solidify one’s ability to capture figure-based form and flow.

Not only does it train you to generate figures can concepts quickly, but it lets you see the weight dispersion at a glance too.

Whether you’re coming up with characters, populating a scene, or just sketching to relax, gesture drawing plays a crucial role for your artistic development.

Oftentimes, gesture drawing is done from life or photographs. A live modelĀ  is posed in intervals ranging from one minute to 5 minutes.

This is a fantastic way to force yourself to capture the most important aspects quickly and loosely.

It’s important to note that proportions can’t be done away with during this process. One of the foremost reasons to do gesture drawing (even as a warm-up) is to constantly improve your ability to sense and capture the relationships of the head, torso, pelvis, and limbs.

How to begin Gestural Sketching:

So now that you’ve had a brief introduction to gesture drawing (or even a quick refresher) why not adopt the habit?

set aside at least 30-45 minutes daily specifically for this purpose. It’s enough to warm up, learn, and see incremental improvements over time. The easiest way to do this is from your own reference folders, or any of these sites:

Figure Drawing Practice




If doing them daily isn’t your jam, then you may have to increase the time from 2-4 hours and aim for twice per week. Look for local figure drawing workshops and classes that meet weekly via google or the like.

As for the medium, you can use whatever you’d like – some prefer charcoal, others pencil; I’ve even seen artists do gesture drawings in acrylic or gouache before.

Applying your gesture drawing knowledge

One of the best things to do after a session is to work from your imagination to see just how much you’re able to retain and execute.

Working from imagination after you’ve taken a short break will permit you to test various things, and get a better sense of where your figures are at sans-reference.

It’s helpful to evaluate and take notes so that next time you approach your gesture drawing exercise, you’re ready to tackle the issues you’re facing, and not let them cement into habits. These could be things like making the head too big, avoiding hands, or having wonky proportions.

Plus, being able to quickly conceptualize various bases for your figures can be of great benefit to your overall artistic tool kit.


Using these simple exercises and cultivating the discipline to follow through on them will net you great artistic rewards. Even if you can only keep it up for a month or so, you’ll note the momentum and technical boost you get will fuel many areas of your craft.

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