How to Study Figure Drawing - Gesture

After the previous post talking about how to study smart and the step-by-step guide I used, we can finally see how to apply all these concepts to studying how to draw the human figure.

I'll be doing a summary of the key concepts, sharing the best resources I've found and some exercises to put everything into practice.

Table of Contents

If you want to watch the video where I talk about this topic, I'll be adding more example pictures there. However, I'll also keep updating this post with new resources and ideas, so you might want to do both!

1. What is Gesture and Why Learn It?

Figure Drawing is usually divided into three main parts: gesture, form, and anatomy. I'll do the same here, though anatomy is a bit more complicated of a topic that will require a lot more diving into later. So, let's start with gesture, going through a basic explanation, then an overview of the key concepts, how to practice it and, finally, some problems you might encounter.

What is gesture? Gesture describes the movement, the flow, the rhythm line of an object or group of objects. Gesture is not about the contour of objects, the little bumps and lines that make an object. It's used more often in relation to figure drawing, but you can find gesture in anything, even landscapes or still life.

As for why study it, there are two main reasons. The first one is that it helps you not get lost in the details. We all hear about how it's important to see the bigger picture, and gesture is just that. If you forget about it, your drawings can look stiff or wonky, like each part isn't connected. The other main reason is to be able to show flow and movement. This is an important skill in drawing because it elevates any piece, you can sometimes make it look even livelier than the original. You can see some examples from Michael Hampton and how this flow can be seen with just a few strokes.

From Michael Hampton's "Figure Drawing Design and Invention"

From Michael Hampton's "Figure Drawing Design and Invention"

Before we start, remember that we're studying smart and doing active learning. The four principles were: make a plan by setting a time frame, study in cycles, focus on learning not the result, and analyse your drawings. You can read about it here if you skipped it or if you want to recap it to have it fresh in your mind.

2. Learn

The first step of the guide is to learn, and the main thing I mentioned is to have a variety of sources (but not too many to overwhelm you), and to watch/read it multiple times so you can really grasp everything.

Summary of Key Concepts

In all the resources I'm going to be mentioning below, there are a few key concepts that are often mentioned and that are important to keep in mind when doing gesture drawings: movement, balance, exaggeration, asymmetry, and tension. Once you watch or read the resources below, these will make more sense. This summary is just that, a quick cheat sheet.