As far as I know, most art schools have exercises or even whole classes focusing on making gesture drawings. But actually, I'm wondering, why bother with it?

While it probably has some merits, but most of the reasoning for it provided by blogs and various teachers is quite silly. All the talk about "capturing the essence of the pose" or "catching the most important part of the drawing" seems just like some kung-fu mysticism or drawing-religion.

The closest thing to answering my question was a video I found on


by Matt Kohr, and I would summarize it in three points:

  • you get well warmed up
  • you focus on drawing
  • you do a lot of drawings that way (so called pencil mileage)

But frankly, I don't really have the time for such explicit "warming up" and I'd much rather warm up during actual work - drawing studies, studying anatomy, texture, proper shading and so on. Drawing gets me in the mood for drawing and well, it increases your pencil mileage too. Matt suggests to always do gesture drawings, even if it's the only drawing you do that day, but that would probably make me do gesture drawings ONLY!

So what exactly is so cool about gesture drawings? What do they have that other exercises don't? They're fast and sloppy, and for me they don't seem to bring much to the table if skill improvement is concerned. Am I missing something here?

  • 2
    I see it as an exercise to improve instinctive drawing as opposed to deliberate, laboured drawing - not that one is better than the other, both are important, but it's easier to deliberately be deliberate than it is to deliberately be non-deliberate. Just a thought Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 23:05
  • Are you asking for a scientific, objective justification of some practice in art? :)
    – Kaz
    Commented Feb 23, 2013 at 1:42
  • 2
    As crazy as it might sound - yes :) All in all, I believe that programming is art too, and there is a lot of objective (pun not intended) stuff to be told about it :)
    – K.L.
    Commented Feb 23, 2013 at 10:00

9 Answers 9


There is absolutely nothing cool about them. But they are also not mysticism.

Life drawing is about starting with a scaffold and hanging more and more detail on it--through time and effort--until you decide to give up.

If your scaffold is not correct, it will have long-lasting effects on the final product.

Gesture drawing is a way to focus training on this crucial first step. All the hand waving is a way to distract the non-analytically minded students.

  • I disagree with your statement that there is "nothing cool about them." Check out artist Ryan Woodward and tell me that's not cool.
    – TCDesigner
    Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 23:35
  • Yea... not cool... Unless you are Picasso or a cool inventive guy: google.com/search?q=picasso+light+draw
    – Rafael
    Commented May 24, 2017 at 19:02

Every artist's process and goals are so individual that it's hard to say if gesture drawing holds much value for you. But in my personal experience it has been a very useful tool.

My introduction to gesture drawing at school was part of a program to develop coordination and speed. I thought my instructors were crazy, but it worked. We spent countless hours on gesture, practiced in conjunction with blind contour drawing - incredibly slow, methodical work. When you think about it, the body mechanics and mental state involved with gesture vs blind contour are at two extreme ends of a spectrum. At one end you're practically moving like the model and at the other end your hand is just an extension of your eye.

Between those two extremes, you'll find the range of normal day-to-day drawing and illustration work that most of us practice professionally. I don't find that the day-to-day work tests the limits of my skills - I find that the real challenge and progress comes from continuing to practice gesture and blind contour. And it shows in my work when I slack off on my practice ;) I hope that helps.


Often one can get so caught up in drawing that you lose expression due to focus. What I see as the primary benefit to gesture drawing is the exercise to free yourself of restraints and learn to be less focused and critical as you draw.

It seems, especially with digital creation, that the tool itself can often force drawing into a very defined, focused, area rather than thinking of the "whole". With gesture drawing you back off and look at the "whole" much more than the minute details. In this way it trains the eye, and hand, to see things differently. And in this respect there's a great deal of value to it.

I don't buy into the perhaps metaphysical aspects which some try to explain. I think it's far more about blurring the vision and seeing form rather than detail. So often I get caught up on detail when the form isn't correct to begin with. Gesture drawings are exercises in form creation, and to this end critical to practice.


I graduated animation and I must say, gesture drawing improved our skills dramatically. I now do gestures everyday. Don't skip on the warm up of gestures. I was drawing stiff and having trouble drawing what I wanted until I started doing gestures, and when I stop doing them, I stiffen up again.

We focused more on gestures than any other way of drawing when I was in animation college. We got REALLY great at drawing.

Gestures are incredibly important.

Look at this fantastic artist who uses gestures to the best of his ability. http://www.pinterest.com/rafaeljonny/nargyle/ -- looking at his art made me realize what my art was missing.

Gestures will make your art come alive, make it more dynamic. Gestures teach you to draw the action, to draw with feeling/emotion and get a story across before you even put on detail. Why skip this crucial step? Your art will be stiff and lifeless. All great artists should be doing it.

Source: 3 years of intensive, 15 hours a day (Monday-Sunday, no breaks) animation college. We did a whole ton of gestures, I hated them, but now I do them everyday even after I've graduated. I do at least one of these videos a day, too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDF7IoFlAPA

If you draw without gestures, I promise you will be drawing stiff poses. When we animated, we animated in gestures, and for my main pose I did a gesture, my professor looked at it and said, "Don't lose this gesture. It's extremely important you don't lose your gestures after you put your construction on them." It made the pose flow, made it have feeling. We have to be careful when we put construction on top of them, because the more construction we use, the stiffer they often became.

If you draw without gestures, I promise that you will be drawing stiff poses.

  • nica answer! Could you please add an example of a piece with fine structure, proportions etc but a stiff pose? I'd like to see what are the effects of skipping gestures
    – K.L.
    Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 8:45
  • KL I think you should focus on learning how to recognize what "life" in a drawing is first. Otherwise you won't know what it isn't. And if you learn to recognize it, you'll understand why gestures are critical.
    – TCDesigner
    Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 23:37

I don't have anything concrete, but when I think of gesture drawing I think of this animated video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBk3ynRbtsw (Thought of You by Ryan Woodward)

To me, gesture drawing conveys emotion, lets the character speak without words or fine detail or even color. I think this animation brings those benefits out. I also think it's a great way to come up with more exciting postures for your character.

enter image description here

  • A bit unrelated, but I really love the animation! :)
    – K.L.
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 23:51

Humans see gesture first, anatomy second. Gesture trumps anatomy. Think about it, you can tell someone is depressed by the way they walk. You can tell a woman from aan by how they stand, how they gesture. Don't be foolish, gesture is core to drawing convincing, expressive jar characters. Ask Glen Keane.


It's good if you have to do creative works and you have to come up with your own pose - learning to exaggerate gestures is especially good. I feel like it trains you to eyeball better, so you can feel the flow of the movement and can detect flaws without measuring. It also forces you to improve your line quality. It can be hard to draw a long, confident line from the shoulder and still capture the gesture of the model. I believe it's a very good exercise overall.


It improves your visual instincts: by doing gesture drawing, you "grasp" the scene in a way that slow technical drawing often loses. There seems to be an emotional honesty in such drawings. This is not a religious/metaphysical concept, and one that perhaps you'd only understand by doing it on a regular basis for a while. It WILL improve your drawing, whether you believe it or not. Just sayin...


I know what is going on:

He practices the gestures and when it comes to drawing the actual drawing - the main long pose, he completely does some thing different in his initial strokes. That is why he thinks that the two are not related .

The idea is that a good gesture captures the flow and naturalness of a good interesting pose. A person looking at it should immediately be able to tell what the pose is doing, even though they are a bunch of seemingly "random lines" - than when you draw the main pose you take the same approach initially and THAT IS THE BASE OF YOUR DRAWING. Than you measure (and adjust) and refine all the while not drifting off too much from that original gesture (not easy to do).

Of course this all takes time and it is not an over night thing. Getting in a good gesture....adjusting and adding details without compromising too much on the original gesture....all this takes time.

Look at a very good gesture drawing....the best you made or have seen. Now imagine that all the details are on it ....would it not look better than if that initial gesture was not there to add details to !

I wrestled with this same question but I have met some of the best USA figure drawing artists and there is a very good reason that they almost worship the importance of gesture drawing.

I know I am on the right track even though it will still take a lot of time to get it,.....

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