Recommended Drawing Exercise - Gesture Drawing


Gesture Drawing is an exercise where you try to capture the pure essence of something, usually a person, as quickly as you can. In my case, I focus on the female form, but everything has gesture, making this one exercise every Artist can, and should, practice.


There are so many reasons why Gesture Drawing should be part of your drawing practice. It’s a great way

  • to warm up
  • to loosen up
  • to build confidence
  • to get a feel for the medium you’re using
  • to improve your hand-eye coordination
  • to understand negative tendencies you may have
  • to improve your understanding of the subject

… honestly, the list could go on and on. It’s such an amazing exercise to practice.


The images below show some of my thirty and sixty second gesture drawings. First four produced with my favourite gesture drawing pencil, the 5.6mm KOH-I-NOOR HARDTMUTH MAGIC CLUTCH PENCIL and the other four produced digitally in Photoshop.


All you really need is a bunch of photos, a timer, some paper and a pencil, however, it’s much easier to use either an app, or a website. I use the excellent, which has hundreds of photos, settings and features, making gesture drawing a breeze. basically lets you select a few variables, such as female or male, length of pose and type of pose. The site will then throw a series of random photos at you, which you have to quickly capture the gesture of before the next one replaces it, it works perfectly on mobile devices via the browser. You can even log in to track your progress, save favourite photos to create sets and earn certificates.

My personal favourite settings

  • Mode | Challenges
  • Time | 30 or 60 seconds
  • Type | Female Silhouette
  • Upside Down Mode | no

A session at these settings will take either ten (30 second poses) or twenty (60 second poses) minutes. As you can tell, this exercise is fast and relentless. I recommend bigger sheets of paper for this exercise, it allows for more expressive pencil strokes. I’ve also found the MAGIC clutch pencil to be a gesture drawing dream, due to it’s ability to glide across the paper’s surface, producing a wide range of thick and thin multicoloured lines.


So much fun! When you hit that meditative state, you are so lost lost in the moment, you hand drawing on it’s own. It feels amazing, and the satisfaction when you look at a line you’ve placed down and it mimics what you where seeing and feeling in the image. It can’t be beaten. It’s addictive :)

The really cool thing about using, is that you will earn certificates along the way. I’ve achieved level three so far, which is achieved after 70 hours, but there are seven levels in total, with level seven being unlocked after 2000 hours. That’s a lot of gestures :)


At first you may struggle with gesture drawing. You may start out trying to capture too many details. It will take a while to get the hang of it; to understand this isn’t about pretty drawings. It’s about letting your eyes study, and your hands draw. No time for thinking Dr Jones :)

As Gesture Drawings are usually done in around thirty to sixty seconds, you have no time to get bogged down with details. You have to capture a lot of information, in a short amount of time, you are learning how to capture the essence of the subject, in as few lines as possible. The less time you have, the less lines you will be able to draw, so it’s worth playing around with the time limits, as they alter the challenges you’ll face.

It’s an amazing feeling when you’re in the zone, you hand drawing on it’s own, this is why it’s best to do this drawing exercise in chunks of around thirty minutes or more. At first you will have to unwind a little, but soon you’ll fall into the trance. Your best gestures will come when you hit this state, where you are no longer thinking. This is when your hand just seems to know what to do, it’s than that the connection between the brain and hand is growing.

I recommend reviewing your gestures and critiquing yourself at the end of each session. You will start to recognise tenancies you have, like I often make the upper arms of my female gestures too manly. What I do is, put a date on the page when I start, and then review my gestures from that date and write down a list of things I did good and things I need to improve. Then, the next day I’ll review this list at the start of the session and try to be aware of what I need to improve.

I adore gesture drawing, with some trance music on, I could get lost in this drawing exercise forever :)


– George Santayana