Exercises for Figure Drawing - Gesture

In this post, I'll be giving an exercise demonstration for gesture drawing, showing how to apply the key concepts I mentioned in the previous post: movement, balance, exaggeration, asymmetry, and tension. At the end of the post, you'll see a form for you to submit your own gesture drawings and I'll be giving some feedback!

I'll be adding images in this post to better explain the exercises, but, I do think watching the video will help you the most, as you can see exactly how I'm drawing. So, I recommend watching the video first and then using this post as a reference and to submit your drawings!

Table of Contents


Disclaimer: I just wanted to say that these exercises are meant to help anyone who's feeling lost on how to learn Figure Drawing or frustrated with their art like I was. This is simply a suggestion on how you can study, but you can adapt it however you want.

1. Recap of the Key Concepts

When you're doing the exercises, it's very important to have in mind what their purpose is, what you want to achieve by doing them. I mentioned that, usually, the purpose of an exercise is to help you grasp the concepts you are trying to learn. In gesture drawing, we saw that there were five main concepts. Movement or Rhythm is your highest goal, if you can show the essence of the pose in a dynamic way, you're already doing gesture drawings well. The other concepts will assist you in achieving that. Balance will ensure your poses don't look wonky and have good weight distribution, while exaggeration will help with dynamism. Asymmetry and tension will add variety and maintain the movement by letting the eye run through the drawing. I highly recommend taking a quick read at the summary I wrote here for each concept so you have them fresh in your mind before you start doing the exercises.

The second thing I want you to remember is that we're going to study smart, that means we are being intentional and focused, we have a clear goal, and that will analyse our drawings. I cannot stress enough how important this is to learn anything well, again, if you need a review, you can find it here.

2. The Demonstration

These methods are mainly to help you understand the concepts and get you started, but as you develop, you can do gesture drawings however you like it. You also don't need to use each method in the way I suggest, you could do all the concepts or steps using just the FORCE method for example. However, I think each method has its strength and I don't think that using all three would make things confusing. Still, you know yourself best, so study how you think is better for you.


I'll be using a black pencil and regular printer paper. You can, however, do it in whatever medium you want, be it digital, charcoal or even paint. The only thing I recommend is to stick to one medium throughout all your studies. Changing mediums will only make things harder for you, even if it's to change printer paper to another paper, or a certain pencil to another type of pencil. I fell into this trap too many times and it only brought me unnecessary frustration.

All the poses I use come from the posespace / Art Models website. It's an amazing place where you can buy 360ยบ poses or you can use their pose tool for free! You can input what kind of pose, model, light, etc. You can find any reference you want with proper lighting for you to use. There really is no better place, so make sure to check it out!


Step 1 - Movement and Exaggeration (Stick Method)

I'm going to call it Stick Method but it's not exactly stick figures. I's a commonly used style of gesture that breaks a pose down to its simplest form. I think this style is best suited to find the movement, as you have no other distractions. Since finding the movement or rhythm line is our top priority, that's where we'll start. After we get more comfortable with finding the rhythm, we can play with some exaggeration too.

Try to identify the longest / most basic line that shows the motion or rhythm of the pose, this is usually the line that connects the top of the head to the tip of the toe (though not always). Don't be too tight when drawing, really let your arm flow and feel free to go over the line a few times, just don't do chicken scratching.



After, it's a game of trying to identify what else is necessary for the pose to show through. The legs are always important and, if necessary, I'll draw a curve for the hips. The same thing for the arms and I tend to always indicate the shoulders with a curve. I also show the neck with just one line and the head with a few more or a circle. You can see how the curves are very flowy and smooth because I really want to be able to show that rhythm.

So, all you have to do at first, is identify the main rhythm, and what else is necessary for the pose, but only the bare minimum. If your drawings don't look stiff and you're not adding too much detail, then you're doing it right! If you're not though, try drawing the same pose again to see if you can improve or fix your mistakes. Though remember to move on to the other steps anyway because it's all a cycle of going through these exercises over and over again.