Virtual Art Academy
gesture drawing by Rembrandt

Three Techniques for Gesture Drawing

An important part of your life as an artist is to regularly create gesture drawings from your daily life. This way you can use them as inspiration or reference material for a painting. 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, there are two other techniques you can use to quickly capture the gesture of a figure in a drawing: the scribble line gesture and the mass gesture.

Three Techniques for Gesture Drawing 1

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. 

Three Techniques for Gesture Drawing 2

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.

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. 

Three Techniques for Gesture Drawing 3
  • Work from the inside of the shape outwards. 
  • Work from large to small. 

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.

Three Techniques for Gesture Drawing 4

Old master example of gesture drawing 

This gesture drawing: ‘A young manleaning on a stick’ by Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, a 5.75 x 3.5in (14 x 9cm) using pen and brown ink was estimated at £250,000-350,000 at a Christie’s auction.

Three Techniques for Gesture Drawing 5
‘A young man leaning on a stick’ by Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, a 5.75 x 3.5in (14 x 9cm) pen and brown ink drawing

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

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