Virtual Art Academy

Two Quick Techniques for Gesture Drawing

gesture drawing by Rembrandt

An important part of your life as an artist is to create gesture drawings from your daily life. Here are two techniques you should know about.

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When you are out sketching from life, you need to capture the key aspects of an object, scene or person on paper very quickly. This applies to both objects and people. Apart from the line drawing technique shown below, which can take a long time to complete, there are two techniques you can use to quickly capture the gesture of a figure in a drawing: the scribble line gesture and the mass gesture.

Scribble line gesture drawing

The scribble line gesture drawing is used to quickly establish the size and placement of the major shapes. You can use this technique both as a learning tool to help you see shapes better, and also as part of a longer process of creating a finished drawing. 

You can use any drawing tool with a point. You can use:

  • a pen
  • a pencil
  • a stick of charcoal

Tips

  • Work from the inside of the shape outwards, avoiding the outline. Think of yourself as building the form as if you were modelling it out of clay. 
  • Make more scribbles in the center of the shape where you are confident of its position, and less scribbles near the outline where you are not so sure of the position.
  • Use a circling motion that starts at the center of the shape and works its way outwards towards the outside contours.
  • Work freely and loosely.
  • Finish these sketches quickly, in 30 seconds, or one or two minutes.
Scribble Line Gesture
scribble line gesture drawing

Mass gesture drawing

In a mass gesture drawing you use a drawing tool that creates a two dimensional shape directly, without the use of line. You can use the flat side of a short stick of conte crayon or charcoal, a brush and paint, or a brush and ink. 

  • Work from the inside of the shape outwards. 
  • Work from large to small. 
mass gesture brush pen

You can also combine both techniques like I did below. Here I am playing around creating an abstract design from my one minute gesture drawings superimposed on each other.

Old master examples of gesture drawing 

This gesture drawing Rembrandt van Rijn, using pen and brown ink achieved £205,000 at a Christie’s auction recently.

‘A Young Man Leaning On A Stick’ by Rembrandt van Rijn
St Sebastian by Leonardo da Vinci
St Sebastian by Leonardo da Vinci

To learn how to do gesture drawing successfully, see my procedure: how to do a gesture drawing.

Thank You

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. If you are interested in a structured approach for learning how to paint, and want to learn more about my Visual Music & Poetry® model, take a look at my online painting classes.

Happy painting!

Barry John Raybould
Virtual Art Academy

What The Students Are Saying

Thank You

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. If you are interested in a structured approach for learning how to paint, and want to learn more about my Visual Music & Poetry® model, take a look at my online painting classes.

Happy painting!

Barry John Raybould
Virtual Art Academy

What The Students Are Saying

Two Quick Techniques for Gesture Drawing
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1 comment

  • I remember how exciting and fun it was to learn gesture drawing which I remember doing as part of my Virtual Academy Course work. You reminded me that I should do more of this kind of drawing! Thanks, Barry!

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