Two minutes and counting! Today’s tutorial is all about creating quick gesture sketches—these are timed, but not just for the sake of speed. There’s usually not a “duel” to see who will be able to draw a subject faster than another person…but there’s plenty of good reason to consider these sketches anyway.

Tutorial: Cats! 2-Minute Gesture Drawings

Watch the video below and scroll to the end to leave comments or questions — or click HERE to watch it on YouTube and leave comments over there. I read both dutifully!

Tips for learning to create gesture drawings

You can make gesture drawings in a variety of time segments; in college we did 10 second poses! But once you get to 10 minutes or more I think you’ve moved out of the “gesture” realm. The idea is to quickly capture the essence of the subject: the pose, the movement, the shape. It need not be perfect!

Aim for loose strokes made with not just your hand but your arm; try a large sketchbook (I usually use something that’s 20X24 or so) and sit or stand in a way that lets your have movement in your arm up through your shoulder.  Hunching over a sketchbook only tightens your hand and arm.

Draw from life if at all possible. Search your local meetups or community pages for Life Drawing Groups – sometimes you can join one at a college or university – just be aware that “Life drawing” typically means nude models. There are also online groups that meet over Zoom; one thing to remember is that most will tell you no screenshots or photos, and that’s important to follow for a variety of reasons.

For clothed models, you might find portrait groups, and I know near me there are “sip and draw” events too, and you can check with organizers to see if they have gesture drawing evenings or sections of evenings. (Anytime there is a model, please know they are being paid, so you likely will be paying to attend these events. You can also just sit in a park or a mall or a coffee shop and draw people anytime!

I recently discovered Line of Action, an online site that will help you in your gesture drawing discipline too. It’s not optimal since it’s not real life, and some of the photos aren’t high quality (I believe they’re sourced from their community)….but I do love that you have no idea what photo is comimg up next. You can certainly just set a timer and draw your dog or the lamp in the living room in 2 minutes—but there’s something energizing about not knowing what’s coming. 

Why try gesture drawing?

No matter the medium you select, the basic foundations of drawing undergird all you do. Yes, perhaps you’re at a stage where you still trace a picture you want to paint—but you are still drawing with the paint. If you’ve been unsatisfied with the results, consider that it could be that underlying skill that could use some polishing.

I find gesture drawing helps me see my subject as shapes. In 1-2 minutes I can’t get lost in anatomy, I can’t fully render the jacket and its pockets, and I am not able to think back to the last time I drew something similar. There’s not time for more than anything than observing what’s right in front of me, and looking for its shapes.

I’ve found that a circle for a head is okay but it’s not the shape it really is. That a torso often bends, and only some people have an hourglass shape. That each person’s hands at their sides come to a different place in comparison with their hips or thighs. I’ve learned that by getting quick with seeing shapes in their relation to each other, and those relationships help me see if I’m capturing the subject.

Some people get more focused on the line—creating contour line drawings around the edges. Others pay close attention to where the weight is being carried (left or right foot, leaning to one side or another.) Plenty of artists have their own focus, and you will find yours in time as you practice and begin to see your own style of calligraphy emerge – that’s your own “handwriting” as an artist with a pencil, pen, or brush! We’re each unique and yours is unlike anyone else’s. What better way to find it than to let yourself try it out!

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Supplies for gesture drawing

Gesture drawings can be in any style – just google the term and you’ll see that! Some people use a single elegant line. Others a bold stroke of chunky marker. Graphite, charcoal, paint – whatever medium works for you! The paper isn’t important either, though you’ll find different kinds may help you make smoother marks in your chosen medium.

The charcoal pencils shown in this video are ones I discovered about 6 weeks ago – I used compressed charcoal sticks for a while, vine charcoal for a season, pencil during another season. I seem to rotate between them. One friend uses watercolor and makes huge splashy paintings in minutes. Another uses gouache to create her sketches—I’ve tried that a few times but found that for this season I’m enjoying charcoal so much that I’m sticking with it til it outlives what it’s teaching me. 

Scroll down a little bit for links to the supplies I used for the cat sketches.

Let’s Draw Together 

As we get rolling on the 30 Days to More Confident Sketching on Feb 1 at Artventure, we’re going to be doing a lot of drawing. Come join us! I’ll be right there with ya.


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  1. Kathy

    This was just awesome! So much information that I’ve already watched it twice!

  2. Candy Miller

    Thank you so much for all of this information, Sandy! Charcoal fascinates me! The site looks so helpful and all of your tips are ones that I am going to run with!


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