When Did Gesture Drawing Become So Hard?

I’m reminded again of that quote from Degas about how easy painting is when we don’t know how to do it. The same is true, I think, for any element of art. The less we know, the easier it is to do. In our ignorance, we have no qualms about jumping in and doing whatever we can. We’re more inclined to see the fun in what we’re doing rather than concern ourselves with all the potential problems. In short, when we don’t know enough to understand all we’re doing wrong, yes, art can be very easy, indeed.

My first gesture drawings were made in May, 2016, a little more than four years ago. I’d been drawing for nearly a year, had done a few brief gesture drawings as part of my “basic training” in drawing skills, but I hadn’t understood the purpose behind making quick, almost nonsensical scribbles that were supposed to represent the human form.

That changed when I discovered the Quick Poses website and saw how simple lines could transform a drawing into something alive and energetic. I fell in love with gesture drawing. It was so much fun!

Of course, as with other areas of art study, I eventually moved on to other things. For a long time, gesture drawing remained on the periphery of my studies. It was something there, something I would come back to sooner or later, something I had pleasant memories of learning.

Until recently, that is, when I did come back to gesture drawing. All of a sudden, those pleasant memories faded quickly. How had I ever found it fun? In fact, how had I even managed to do any gesture drawings? I was lost, bewildered, and very frustrated.

Gesture drawing is an important skill for any figurative artist, and that’s an art form I want to explore. In the past I was fairly good at drawing the body. Painting proved to be a different story, of course. One has only to look at that poor girl slouched in her chair to see the problems I have.  As my husband says each time he sees her, “Bless her heart.”

When I visited Quick Poses and tried doing gesture drawings, I couldn’t believe how difficult they were to do. Where in the past I didn’t care how my drawings looked, I was now very critical of my results. My gesture drawings were cartoonish. Some were barely more than stick figures. Most of the time I found myself getting so caught up in proportion and detail that — even with a 90- or 120-second time — I couldn’t complete an entire figure!

Obviously I was doing something wrong. Actually, it might be closer to the truth to admit I was doing everything wrong. I was worried about the results. I was tensing up. I was focusing on all that gesture-drawing is NOT and forgetting all that it IS.

So, back to basics. I started reading more about gesture drawings, trying to get the proper sense of it in my head. But I already knew all of those things. I knew what to do, but not how to do it! 

Next, I browsed for videos, and I did find a lot on the topic of gesture drawing. It’s reassuring to see that I’m not the only one who has struggled here.  If you’re struggling, too, you might find one or more of these videos helpful.

Figure Drawing – Gesture – The Virtual Instructor

Beginner Gesture Drawing (3 Video Series)

How to Draw Gesture

The Seven L’s of Gesture Drawing

In case you’re curious about those “seven L’s”, they are:

  • Loose
  • Lightly
  • Lines of Action
  • Lines of Rhythm
  • Long
  • Large
  • Lively
Chris Warren explains gesture drawing

The two videos that I found most helpful were from Otis College, featuring Chris Warren as the instructor:

Gesture Drawing I

Gesture Drawing II


From watching these different videos, I learned — and tried — many different methods or approaches to gesture drawing, wondering all the while just when and how gesture drawing had become so difficult!

Finally, I relaxed. I started loosening up a bit. Instead of trying to draw cramped little figures in my sketchbook with pen or pencil, I grabbed that pad of newsprint and picked up a piece of vine charcoal. I started drawing large. I focused on lines of movement, lines of action, lines of rhythm. I exaggerated those lines. I didn’t hold my charcoal like a pencil; I held it with a loose, artistic grip.

Now, I’m once again in love with gesture drawing and the Quick Poses site. I look forward to my daily gesture drawing practice. At times, working with 30- or 45-second poses, I might not capture everything, but I try to get the essential movement or the basic feeling of the pose. I’ve developed my own approach based on what I learned from all those videos, and I’m seeing good results. I’m definitely seeing improvement each day, so I know my practice time is paying off.

PivotsWhat I’m really pleased with is that I’m loosening up, following that dictate about drawing from the shoulder, not from the elbow or the wrist.

I know that what I’m learning through gesture drawing and the skills I’m developing will not only be helpful as I work on figure-drawing and figure-painting, but will also be useful skills in many other areas of art.

And so it is that I’m once again singing the praises of Quick Poses and highly recommending daily gesture drawing as a sure way to improve our art abilities.

If you’ve tried gesture drawing in the past but, like me, have gotten away from it, go give it a try again. And if you’ve never attempted gesture drawing… why not? Go ahead, give it a try. It’s really not so hard, you see, and yes, it really can be fun.




I'd Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s