OCAD Studio: Gesture Drawing


Gesture lines describe the movement and feeling of a figure. They are a way to quickly capture the essence of a pose without focusing on the details of the contour (the specific shape of the forms that make up the figure). To see how gesture drawings are made, check out the accompanying video.



  1. Limit your lines to straight lines, C curves and S curves, to keep things simple.
  2. Look for the motion not the contour.
  3. Draw what you feel rather than what you see.
  4. You can use combinations of lines, but always try to use as few lines as possible.
  5. Tighter curves have more tension than gradual curves, this will affect the sense of energy in your drawing. A coiled figure will feel more tense than a relaxed flowing figure.
  6. Think about the relationship between the head, feet, shoulders and hips.
  7. The head will usually sit above the centre of gravity.
  8. It is common for the hips and shoulders to counter one another.
  9. I often talk about the importance of straight lines when constructing forms, but with gesture we are using curves to encapsulate tension, energy and movement.


Life Drawing Groups

Quick sketching is common at life drawing groups because the limited time forces you to focus on the general relationships and feel of the subject rather than the detail. Most groups will begin a session with a lot of very short poses, which are ideal for practicing gesture drawing. If you are able, I recommend finding a local life drawing group to practice, as working from life is a great way to get a real sense of the different types of energy and mood that different poses convey.


Other Uses of Gesture Drawing

The concept of gesture isn’t limited to figure drawing and painting, it can be applied to any subject or group of subjects as it is an integral part of composition. The relationship between objects in a still life or the elements in a landscape can also be described with gestural lines.



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