Learning to draw is really a matter of learning to see. Kimon Nicolaides


Gesture drawing is a great way to warm up for a drawing session. It involves a loose kind of scribbling. But it is much more than that. For many artists gesture is at the core of their work. For some designers it is how they generate ideas. See the gesture drawings of world renowned architect, Frank Ghery.

For students, gesture drawing can seem like pointless scribbling but it is crucial to the way we see and draw.

gesture drawing gesture drawing Gesture drawing, five minutes

  1. Before you begin read pages 15-18 in Kimon Nicolaides’ book, The Natural Way to Draw.
  2. Next find a subject. This can be a friend or relative who is willing to pose for you. The model can sit or stand and is free to move in place. If necessary you can also draw a pet, work from a mirror or improvise by using an object or poseable figure.
  3. Set up the newsprint pad on a drawing board. Ideally it should be on an easel or propped up in front of you.
  4. Look at the subject and observe not just what it is but what it is doing. If the subject is a human or animal, notice how it is leaning, where the weight is, how it is moving or how it is about to move. What kind of energy is there?
  5. Pick up your pencil. You can experiment with different ways of holding it but keep it loose. Begin by “air drawing” in front of your paper. Then, as your hand is moving, apply it to the paper and draw. Move quickly from one area to the other, responding the the subject, trying to capture it in one minute or less. Do not try to outline the subject or to draw separate parts. Try to scale the figure to fit on the entire sheet.
  6. Have the subject change pose and repeat on a new sheet of paper. Or if you are using vine charcoal you can simply wipe it away with a rag and use the same sheet.
  7. Now vary your times up to 5 minutes per drawing. Continue the session for 30-60 minutes with breaks.
Journal work in gesture Journal work Journal work in gesture

  1. Find a location where people are gathered - a park, school, cafe or zoo (if you prefer to draw animals). Sit comfortably and make several quick gesture drawings. If they are sitting or standing still, try to capture the pose in 30 seconds or less. If they are walking or moving try to capture that movement.
  2. Remember the aim is not to make a realistic drawing but to capture the energy in the pose or movement. Continue for 30-60 minutes with breaks.

Rembrandt, Hendrickje schlafend Rembrandt.fallhut
A Young Woman Sleeping and Two women teaching a child to walk… by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669).