Good gesture is crucial to life drawing; without it even the best constructed, most beautifully rendered drawing is stiff and soulless.

So, what is gesture in drawing?


A gesture is a form of non-verbal communication in which visible bodily actions communicate particular messages…. Gestures allow individuals to communicate a variety of feelings and thoughts, from contempt and hostility to approval and affection, often together with body language in addition to words when they speak.

In drawing gesture also expresses the qualitative aspects of a model’s pose. For example; are the fingers of a hand softly extended with open angles spiralling up their arm, or tensed and sharp with acu

Gesture and movement.

To my mind gesture is closely related to movement; it reflects the model’s habitual stance/s and patterns of movement.

In any pose, especially a long pose, there will be some movement as the model adjusts to the pose or adopts a subtly different position after breaks.

This can make it tricky to draw a coherent gesture but it also provides a great opportunity to push the gesture.

Analysing this movement within the pose can be a good way to gain a better understanding of the structure of the pose.

I’ve tried making quick sketches of a pose to establish the range of gestures the model is holding.

They also provide a useful start to pushing the gesture.

Pushing the gesture

Pushing the gesture means slightly exaggerating the gesture of a pose. This can be done by using the most extreme of the range of postures that the model adopts, or observing the variations and relationships within the series of postures and adding another at the most extreme end of the range.

There are many aspects and combinations of a pose that can be developed like this.

Analysis of the gesture

Gesture studies

There are many different approaches to this but their aim is the same; to capture the expression of the gesture, usually as economically as possible.

These can be so much fun; I love to do big, fast sketches with really expressive marks.

Gesture sketch

Written by Metadrawer

Metadrawer is me, Helen Frost: Artist/Architect/Fire dancer/Freelancer. Metadrawer is a blog of my reflections on drawing and my current studies at LARA. I draw to think, to explain, to communicate, to record, to understand and to express myself. I hope that you will find more questions here than answers and...
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