Gesture drawing differs from life drawing in that the goal is to capture the energy of a pose in a very short amount of time. In this article, I’m going to be explaining what the One Month Gesture Drawing Challenge is and how it helped me improve my drawing skills. This challenge is something I’ve created myself and I tested it out for a month, drawing in the format I’m about to explain to you. I believe this is an excellent way to get good at gesture drawing fast, so read on if you want a reliable and easy plan to follow.
In this article I’m introducing you to a challenge I made for myself called Gesture 31. It’s a one month gesture drawing challenge where the goal is to practice gesture drawing every day for 31 days. Further below you can read the program and drawing session information. If you finish this challenge please use this badge and link back here so more people can do the challenge!
To start off the post, here is my own progress from following the one month gesture drawing challenge. I made a video because there are 1503 drawings.
The Goal: Get better at gesture drawing and capture life drawing poses more quickly
Gesture drawing is a little bit different to life drawing in that its aim is to capture the energy and essence of a pose rather than to create a beautifully polished drawing. Being good at gesture drawing isn’t necessarily a gateway to creating beautifully rendered life drawing artworks, however my life drawing work is exponentially better now that I’m also better at gesture drawing.
I’m a feature film animator and while I animate in 3D, I sometimes work on projects where I plan my animation on paper first. Even when I don’t plan my animation with drawings, being good at capturing a pose is a transferable skill for any kind of character animation. Even though I work in 3D, my eyes are sharper than they would be if I hadn’t put effort into my gesture drawing. Having the ability to do gesture drawing allows me to pose characters faster and troubleshoot pose problems quicker.
Then there is the practice and aesthetic elements of gesture drawing. To do a fully fleshed out life drawing can take a long time. If you only ever do that kind of figure drawing, your practice output is far lower than someone who regularly blasts out 15 – 30 second gesture drawings. The person who mixes rapid gesture drawing with longer life drawing sessions is inevitably going to be better at drawing than a similar person who only does long drawings. It’s inevitable because the person mixing in rapid drawing sessions is practicing more poses and also practicing getting their thoughts onto paper more quickly.
As an example of why gesture drawing is so effective for drawing practice, consider this next thing. In thirty-one days, I did 1503 drawings of life models. Doing one and a half thousand drawings of people in one month is no joke and it really did massively improve my drawing skill (as you may have seen from the video above). If I had only been doing one very long life drawing pose per night, I wouldn’t have improved as much. I’m not saying that other ways of practicing life drawing are bad, yet polishing a drawing with bad foundations is a waste of time. For me, getting those foundational gesture drawings looking sharp is more important, because the more often I get the base drawings correct, the more worthwhile it is to do all the fine details on top.
Why not “the one month life drawing” challenge?
I decided to name this challenge with “gesture drawing” rather than “life drawing” because I believe that beginners and even intermediate artists focus too much on trying to perfect their practice drawings. I think of life drawing a little bit like I think of sport. It’s necessary for me to do it regularly so that my mind is sharp for when I need to animate or illustrate more finished art involving figure drawing.
The time limits in this drawing challenge start very low and gesture drawing is the only way you can successfully complete drawings in those times. Fifteen seconds isn’t enough time to do a nice life drawing. Five minutes, the longest time limit, isn’t very long to do a polished figure drawing either, so capturing the essence of the pose is what I wanted to push with this challenge. That’s why I’m calling this the one month gesture drawing challenge rather than the one month life drawing challenge.
Doing gesture drawing every day for one month
The goal of the one month gesture drawing challenge it to do a gesture drawing session every single day for one entire month. It may seem daunting but it’s not so bad. I created a plan that allows this challenge to fit into most people’s schedules. My own schedule is always very busy, so I needed something I’d be able to do without sacrificing my sanity or sleep too much. I’ve explain how to keep it manageable in the plan below.
The one month gesture drawing challenge plan
Drawing every day for one month isn’t easy but it’s doable with my plan. When I did this challenge myself, there were some days when I was really tired and didn’t want to draw. The short nature of the daily sessions is what keeps this plan feasible even for those who like me, don’t have a lot of time. Even when I wasn’t in the mood, I did it every day because I knew it was short.
To keep things simple, the daily session of gesture drawing is broken down into the following time limits:
- 15 second drawings
- 30 second drawings
- 1 minute drawings
- 2 minute drawings
- 5 minute drawings
Very quick guide to gesture drawing for beginners
Before we get started on the challenge itself, I’ve put together some quick guides. You can skip this section if you’re already experienced in gesture drawing. As some of you reading this may be complete beginners, I thought I’d include a step by step image for you to look at above. In that image you’ll see two methods for drawing the same pose. At school, I used mostly the first method. The first method is what you should start with as a beginner.
The school way
In the first method, you start off by drawing a line of action that follows the pose’s main directional line. In this pose, I decided to go with a C curve. Some people would use an S curve instead, which I’ll give an example of below. After drawing the line of action, you draw the line of the shoulders and the line of the hips. In the second stage, you draw lines to indicate where the arms and legs go. In stage three you draw the head on the figure, then in stage four you can finally work on the outline (if you have time).
The fun way
I sometimes still use the line of action, however I don’t use lines for either the shoulders, hips or leg/arm positions. My muscle memory now allows me to draw the outline of the character directly. I call this “the fun way”, because it’s faster, looks a bit better but it’s sometimes less precise. To make “the fun way” more precise, I can add a line of action or large circular shapes for the chest and hips before drawing the outline. Honestly, I usually just wing it if the drawing is only 15 or 30 seconds long.
The animator way
Animators often use basic shapes to build up their drawings. They do this because it’s easier to figure out movement with basic shapes than with complicated shapes. If animators work on a walk for example, they might draw the up and down motion of the hips before anything else, using only a simple shape to figure it out. The idea of the animator method is that you start basic and gradually build up those simple shapes to make the final form.
Using simple shapes to build up complicate ones isn’t only useful for animators, it’s useful for anyone to try. If it helps you draw better, then use it. Just keep in mind that for very short drawings like 15 – 30 seconds, you won’t have time to draw all the shapes like I did above.
About the line of action in this example – I’ve drawn the same pose as in my first examples but this time I used an S curve. The difference is that the S curve follows the left foot, while the C curve I did for the other examples were for the right foot. Technically the S curve is more correct… but sometimes it can be awkward.
Drawing the front of a body in gesture drawing
Here’s a quick example of how to draw the front of the body while gesture drawing. I’ve used the same line of action as the last example and the same shapes for the hips and chest. If I’m drawing a woman like in this example, I often draw the boobs early on because they actually help me figure out where the arms go. For the rest of the drawing I use the methods I did in my example above called “the fun way”. Don’t be afraid to put angles in your drawings, like I did for the hip here.
One last thing, for most short gesture drawing poses, you won’t have time to draw the face. Another thing I often borrow from the animator drawing method is putting a cross on the head to indicate direction and eye placement. The horizontal line shows where the eye line is and the vertical line shows the centre of the face and therefore where the head is pointing.
I use other tricks and methods but I’ll write a separate article on that another day. For now, you can get started by keeping the step by step image above in mind.
For the one month gesture drawing challenge, you’ll need…
Here’s a short explanation of the plan, for more detail you can read further down:
- Step 1 – Collect reference poses.
- Step 2 – Choose what materials you’ll use carefully.
- Step 3 – The daily session: 15 second, 30 second, 1 minute, 2 minute and 5 minute drawing sessions.
- Step 4 – Analyse your work objectively and ask others for feedback.
Step 1 – Collect reference pose photos
The first thing about this challenge is that you won’t be going to full on life drawing classes to do it. To keep this challenge manageable and to take away any excuses your brain may later throw at you, you will be using reference photos. There is some small amount of truth to the fact that photos are easier to draw from than life but you shouldn’t care about that. Your goal here should be practice and dedication, not the difficulty level. Getting good at drawing from photo reference will help you get good at drawing from real life models in any case. Also, we’re not living in the renaissance anymore… artists draw from photos a lot now instead of having people pose for hours in front of them.
There are free websites online that you can use to do timed life drawing sessions. If you want to use one of these, you can easily find them on Google. I personally prefer to pay for reference packs because doing that means I’m paying the photographers and models for the poses I’m using. It also isn’t very expensive and it means I have the photos whenever I need, even if I’m offline. Buying reference this way usually comes with a licence meaning that one can make commercial art from the photos without having to pay royalties, which is important for some too.
Where to buy life drawing poses
I’m not affiliated to any of these people or companies and I’m recommending them as life drawing pose resources simply because I find them good.
Here are some places I like buying life drawing reference poses from:
Of all those, Pose Archives has the most difficult poses to draw, because they often use different focal lengths on the camera to what our human eyes are used to. They also have a lot of intention and storytelling to their poses, which means that there is more information to capture. Despite their poses being the most difficult, they are my favourite resource at the moment for life drawing poses, because they do poses closest to those I’d put in my own art. Reference Pictures has some good poses full of intention too.
PoseSpace does more classical style life drawing poses and has a wider variety of models. Their poses are a little bit easier to draw because many of the poses are about showing the beauty of the human body rather than telling a story or showing an intention. The focal length used in PoseSpace is quite flat too, which makes the models easier to draw.
Software for timing your gesture drawing sessions
If you’re on a Mac or PC, use the free software XnViewMP to create timed slideshows of your life drawing sessions. There is no doubt other software that’ll do it but XnViewMP is the one I use. When you go to their download page you might notice they have licences. The licences are only necessary for those using the software within a company, so if you’re using it for personal use (ie this challenge) then it’s free.
Here’s a quick explanation on how to set up XnViewMP to do the one month gesture drawing challenge:
Next you need to click “Filelist” and then “Add folder” to add a folder of images from your computer. You can add individual files one by one if you need to with “Add files”.
Next click “Settings” up top and then set the number of seconds you want your session to be, before clicking “OK” to start the slideshow. Each image will stay on screen for the amount of seconds you specified. Make sure “Random Order” is selected to make your session less predictable.
Step 2 – Choose your materials carefully for this gesture drawing challenge
You can use whichever materials you like but you’d be wise to choose something that doesn’t involve too much preparation or cleaning. If you use watercolours every day for example, you have to clean the brushes, fill a water pot etc. Personally that would block me at some point if I tried to add that to my already busy schedule. Another important factor is cost. If you use watercolour or paint to do life drawing every day, you’ll be using quite a lot of expensive paper.
Whichever material you choose, try to stick with it throughout the one month gesture drawing challenge. It isn’t a requirement but if you keep changing your materials, it will be harder at the end for you to see your progression.
If you use graphite pencils like me
I personally chose graphite pencils to do my one month life drawing challenge. For me they are the ideal material for this because they’re easy to prepare, don’t require expensive paper and don’t cost that much themselves either. Using graphite kept things simple for me and allowed me to focus on the marks I made rather than the material I used. So if you want to keep things easy for yourself, I suggest you use graphite pencils.
If you use graphite pencils, choose a harder graphite pencil like Staedtler, Faber Castell or TomBow. Avoid using soft graphite pencils like Derwent or Conté à Paris for gesture drawing because the nibs will wear down too quickly. The brands that make harder graphite pencils usually lasted throughout my gesture drawing sessions. If you click the links to the brands in this paragraph it will take you to tests I did with them.
Sketchbook – get a cheap one for gesture drawing
Last thing you’ll need is a sketchbook. I suggest a cheap huge pad of A3 or A2 paper. You don’t need it to be anymore than 90gsm if you’re only using pencils. Use A4 paper if you have to but in my opinion you’re making life hard on yourself by choosing such small paper. You’ll be using 155 sheets of paper for this challenge if you do it as I did, so measure your cost accordingly.
The main sketchbook I used for this challenge was the Canson XL A3 Sketchbook, a book with 120 sheets. It’s inexpensive and it’s big enough to hold most of the drawings for the challenge. It has quite thin pages (90 g/m2 – 61 lb) and you can see dark marks on the other side, yet for the kind of practice you’ll be doing in this challenge it’s totally fine.
Careful if you use digital methods for this challenge
You can use digital means to do this one month gesture drawing challenge if you like but personally I think it’s better if you use traditional media. The reason is that there is always a temptation to use the digital tools to easily correct things you wouldn’t be able to on physical paper. Plus, part of this challenge is about filling two sides of A3 / A2 paper for every time limit, so if you’re using a digital drawing tool, you don’t have that physical link to those sheets of paper.
Step 3 – The daily gesture drawing challenge session
You’ll be doing five different quick gesture drawing sessions per day, ideally all in one go. It can take you anywhere from 30 minutes per day to one hour. It depends on how big you draw and how many drawings you feel like putting on the different sheets of paper.
Here’s how the daily gesture drawing challenge session is broken down:
- 2 sides of 15 second drawings
- 2 sides of 30 second drawings
- 2 sides of 1 minute drawings
- 2 sides of 2 minute drawings
- 2 sides of 5 minute drawings
As you can see, this challenge is broken down by how many sides of paper you have filled rather than by a specific period of time you must do each time limit. If you draw really big all the time, you can finish the challenge pretty quickly and if you draw small, you can draw it out for longer. The most important thing is that you do it every day.
Personally, my 15 – 30 second drawings were often small and filled the entire sheets of paper, because those time limits were really fun to do. My one minute drawing sheets were often quite full too. I usually did about six 2 minute drawings and then only two big 5 minute drawings. It changed day to day depending on my mood but I found the amount of drawing I did manageable.
Step 4 – Analysing your work and asking others for feedback
Self analysis during your one month gesture drawing challenge
After each daily gesture drawing session, take a look at your work and try to decide what you could try do better next time. Maybe you’ll look at your drawings right afterwards, maybe it’ll be the next day. Don’t just draw and never look objectively at your work though. To get better, you need to look at your drawings and decide if there are any specific things that you can realistically try to improve the next time you’re drawing.
For example, when I looked at my work, I sometimes thought things like:
- Ok I need to try to shape feet better next time.
- I need to make my lines more confident and less scratchy.
- I need to try to pay attention to the proportion of the torso.
- I need more sleep.
That last point is not a joke, sleep really is required! Us artists sometimes don’t sleep enough… and it shows. During my month of doing the one month gesture drawing challenge, I occasionally didn’t sleep several nights in a row. After one night of bad sleep, I can usually still draw well. If I have three days of bad sleep though, my drawings aren’t up to my usual standard. When I’m tired, I make errors I don’t usually in proportion, my lines lack energy and overall the drawing effort isn’t as interesting. So when my drawings weren’t up to scratch, I usually decided to go to bed a bit early the day after.
Stress is another killer for drawing. Whenever I’m stressed about something and can’t stop thinking about it, my drawings suck. That didn’t happen so much during my one month of life drawing but it’s just another point I wanted to make. While you’re analysing your drawing efforts, also try to look out for lack of sleep and stress. It’s just as important that you’re focussed and alert while drawing as it is that you use good rendering techniques.
Getting feedback from others during your one month gesture drawing challenge
If you feel like you need some feedback from others, it could also be interesting to show them your work. I often asked my wife if she understood what was going on in my gesture drawings. She isn’t an artist but she doesn’t give out free compliments either… if I’ve done an ugly drawing she tells me!
Advice from other artists is great but be careful if someone suggests too strongly that you need to focus on a specific style or technique. It’s great to try many techniques and experiment a little during your one month gesture drawing challenge but don’t just take someone’s word for it that something must be drawn in a particular way constantly. People’s brains work differently and a technique that works well for one group of people might not work for another. If someone points out that your proportions are often very wrong or that they don’t understand your poses however, those are fair comments and the kinds of things that are useful to hear sometimes.
Some advice for the different gesture drawing time limits
When I was younger, I enjoyed drawing long poses more than short poses. I thought that the other artists in the same class with me were mad when they told me they preferred the shorter poses. The problem you’ll face as a beginner artist is that initially, very little in your drawing will go as you want for those very short time limits. You won’t have the muscle memory of where the limbs go, how long they should be and how big the head should be in relation to the shoulders etc. It’s normal that as a beginner, you’ll feel too rushed during the shorter time limits.
You might not like some time limits, especially at first. Continue doing them because they’ll push you and sharpen your drawing skills.
Now that I’ve been drawing for a long time, I too prefer the short time limits more than the longer ones. During my one month life drawing challenge, I actually used to dread the 5 minute drawings and sometimes even the 2 minute ones. For me, 30 seconds to one minute is my sweet spot. Regardless of what my drawings look like at those time limits, those are the time limits I now find most fun and helpful.
It’s important to work at every time limit, because each one has a different purpose and will help you in a different way. I have some tips for you on each time limit, I’ll put them under headings for each different time limit you’ll practice during the one month gesture drawing challenge.
Draw the whole pose
Unless you run out of room on your paper by accident, always try to capture the full pose of your models. Don’t cheat yourself by drawing only parts of the body, because while you may be making life easier for yourself, it’s ultimately going to cost you in the long run. Of course drawing a leg or just from the chest up is easier than drawing the whole pose. The point is to get good at drawing the entire gesture that each body makes, so always try to draw the models body from head to toe.
15 second gesture drawings
When you first start trying to capture a pose in 15 seconds, you’ll probably struggle a lot. For the first week or so of the challenge, I hated drawing for only 15 seconds. The importance of the 15 second gesture drawing exercise is in loosening your wrist and letting your pencil flow more freely. There is no way to take measurements and draw in just 15 seconds, so you are forced to try to capture the essence of the pose in front of you in the most minimal way possible.
For very short drawings, try to use single strokes to define things like the edge of torsos, the sides of legs etc. Don’t use “chicken scratch” marks. Each line you make is one thought. If you draw 100 tiny marks to define an outline, it’s because you’re scared of making mistakes and are changing your mind about the line 100 times. Draw decisive long strokes. If you get the drawing wrong, it doesn’t matter… you’ll have less failed attempts as time goes on.
If you’re a beginner, you might want to start off with a line of action, then two lines for the shoulders and hips, then rough indications of where the limbs and head will go. Such a drawing may look a bit like a stick figure but remember that the point isn’t for you to be making beautiful drawings here. This exercise is for you to work on your efficiency and to allow you to practice proportion and direction over and over again very quickly. It may feel like you’re doing loads of rubbish drawings but you’re actually training your brain to break down the essence of a pose.
If you already have a bit more experience with drawing, you may decide to try drawing the outlines of the body directly without the line of action and construction lines. Drawing this way will force you to come up with short hands for getting the pose down in time. One way of working is to draw only the curves of the outline that you’re drawing and leave the straights out. It’s surprising how few lines you need to describe the essence of a pose. Drawing outlines in 15 seconds is difficult however so don’t be too shy to go back to drawing the line of action and a few construction lines.
I suggest you draw poses of only one person and that you try usually to pick poses without weird camera angles or focal lengths. In 15 seconds, you’ll barely have enough time to get all the information down, let alone trying to capture the strange perspective of a camera. I’m not saying don’t do it… but it’ll be more difficult, even at 30 seconds!
30 second gesture drawings
Some people will struggle with 30 second drawings almost as much as they do 15 second drawings. Again, beginners might want to focus more on the line of action and construction lines, without worrying about the outline of the figure.
I actually really like drawing poses in 30 seconds and I believe you will too if you keep doing it for long enough. A lot of life drawing classes I know of start their time limit sessions at 30 seconds, so it seems to be popular. Again, I usually try to capture the outline of the figure in a minimalist way during 30 second drawings. I don’t usually use a line of action, because I’ve been drawing long enough to imagine it and let my muscle memory work its way through my pencil. There isn’t any magic to gesture drawing, it really is practice that will make you good at it.
As I mentioned above for 15 seconds, drawing from photos with strange focal lengths and camera angles may make your 30 second drawings too difficult. Drawing from camera angles more close to our own human vision and at flat perspectives is fine.
1 minute gesture drawings
Intermediate artists might be able to get a full outline of their character during a one minute timed gesture drawing. One minute still isn’t very long to draw a full pose but after your 15 second and 30 second sessions, it will feel longer than if you just started at one minute directly!
Beginners may want to again focus on the line of action and construction lines. If you choose to do that, it’s totally fine. You can pay more attention to the lengths you give to limbs and the distance between things like the head and pelvis. In one minute, you can quickly train yourself to draw decent structural drawings of poses. Don’t try to draw the face if you’re at this level. Even experienced artists will struggle to find time to draw the face.
2 minute gesture drawings
For beginners, things will begin to be a bit more comfortable at the two minute mark. You’ll have a bit more time to jot down the different lengths of limbs and may even have enough time for some limited outline work. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re still only getting the construction lines and shapes down though, your goal is practice not making portfolio pieces.
Two minutes for me can occasionally feel too long. I like drawing things rapidly and sometimes after about a minute and a half, I’ve already drawn the gesture and then am left with 30 seconds that I don’t know what to do with. It sounds like a luxury for beginners perhaps but I actually really dislike having hung time. It’s always important for me to keep drawing no matter what during my timed sessions.
If I finish a pose before the timer goes off, I sometimes correct the length of limbs, change an error or sometimes I attempt to draw the lines of the face. Sometimes I’ll even begin shading. The problem for many artists like me is that they simply won’t have enough time to finish the new thing they start. For example, I might start shading the character and then run out of time, leaving a partly shaded character. It’s frustrating… but managing time is part of what the one month gesture drawing challenge is about, so it’s an important frustration for any artist to work on!
5 minute gesture drawings
Welcome to my least favourite time limit for gesture drawing, five minutes. This is my least favourite timed session for the one month gesture drawing challenge, however it’s a necessary one. In five minutes, I usually have enough time to map out the limbs, get the gesture of the pose, make outlines around the whole body and even draw a basic face on the model.
The problem with a five minute gesture drawing is that many artists like me will finish the initial gesture drawing in maybe 1.5 or 2 minutes, then find themselves starting another drawing task on top of the drawing that they may or may not have time to finish. For me, the most frustrating thing that can happen in a 5 minute gesture drawing is when I begin to draw the face but don’t have enough time to make it look good. Drawing a super ugly face on a gesture drawing is one of the surest ways to ruin it! Again though, this is all for practice and if artists like me don’t work through these frustrations, we’ll never overcome them.
Beginners may actually really enjoy 5 minute time limits for their gesture drawings. In 5 minutes, beginners will usually have enough time to finally get some outlines around the entire model and to finish the drawing to a level they might consider acceptable. Again though, if such beginners are still getting mostly the construction lines down, that’s fine. So long as you’re learning and training yourself, that’s the main thing.
Additional resources for the one month gesture drawing challenge
I have a few books to recommend for those of you taking on the one month gesture drawing challenge. I prefer leafing through reference books like this to watching YouTube videos etc personally but there’s some good stuff on there too.
Here are some of the books I personally found really useful while doing the one month gesture drawing challenge. I’ve had these books for years though and have been using some of them ever since I was a beginner. I’m not recommending many books here because these ones are all you need, plus… reading books doesn’t make you good at drawing – drawing makes you good at drawing.
Force: Dynamic Line Drawing for Animators – Mike Matessi
Even though this book is described as “for animators”, it’s useful to every artist aiming to get good at gesture drawing. I really enjoy Mike Matessi’s approach to line work and the way in which he weights his lines depending on where the forces are in the pose he’s drawing. The drawing examples throughout the book are good inspiration for your one month gesture drawing challenge and I recommend you read this book because Matessi has some great tips.
Morpho – Michele Lauricella
Morpho (Anatomy for Artists) is a really excellent book for studying life drawing because the author has chosen the unusual approach of making most of the book drawings instead of writing. I really love the book because it’s just drawing after drawing showing how this author likes to render different body parts. There is also another smaller supplement to the book you can buy which has an even more minimalistic approach to life drawing. Even though you won’t usually be able to draw in as much detail as the author does for your one month gesture drawing challenge, I recommend you study how the line work in Morpho works.
Dynamic Anatomy – Burn Hogarth
Don’t try to draw like Burn Hogarth in the one month gesture drawing challenge! His style is far too detailed and meticulous. The reason I still recommend this book is because it’s a great overview of anatomy from an artists point of view. If you can only get one or two books, don’t make it this one, still though, it’s a useful addition to your library for referencing.
What to do after you complete the one month gesture drawing challenge
Sharing your progress
When you complete the one month gesture drawing challenge, you can be really proud of yourself because it isn’t an easy thing to do life drawing every day! If you want to keep your progress to yourself that’s fine but I’d love it if you share your results online. It could be in the form of a video slideshow of all your drawings or maybe just a simple before and after image. However you want to share, it’s good to see each others progress!
If you have a blog yourself and are planning to post your one month gesture drawing challenge results there, please do so! I have made a badge here for you to put in your posts, videos or images so that you can show you were part of this challenge. Linking back here means that people can follow the same challenge and get the resources I’ve put together, so if you share this article, I really appreciate it!
Take on another challenge and keep doing gesture drawing!
Why stop at just month of life drawing? Maybe you’lll want to continue! For example you could alter the time limits and do it at a different pace, perhaps going for life drawing this time instead of pure gesture drawing. Or maybe you’ll want to do the same challenge with different materials.
You could apply the same sort of challenge to specific areas of the body. For example, common problem areas for artists drawing the human figure include the hands, feet and face. Maybe you’ll want to do a challenge where you focus on just one of those things.
More than anything though, don’t stop gesture drawing just because you finished the one month gesture drawing challenge! Keep going. Maybe you won’t do it every day anymore but doing it regularly will prevent your muscle memory from getting rusty. Whenever I’ve stopped doing gesture drawing for a long time, I have to get used to it again when I restart. For my line of work, being good at posing a character is essential, so keeping up with my gesture drawing is always a priority for me!
My own progress from the one month gesture drawing challenge
I’ve talked so far a lot about how you can do the one month gesture drawing challenge yourself. I’ve put some of my own work throughout the article to give examples but here I’ll share with you my own progress, for those of you who are interested!
At the beginning of this challenge, I was clinging to methods of gesture drawing that I’d been taught at school and those I’d seen kicked around on the internet. I had also been continually trying to “finish” my drawings too much, because I did gesture drawing so rarely that when I did go for it, I wanted the drawings to look good. In brief, I was holding myself back by not giving myself enough time and room for practice. As such, my gesture drawings at the beginning of the challenge were more rigid and had more scratchy line work. I noticed this early and decided to make some efforts to stop it.
By around week two, my line work had become far more free flowing and loose. The drawings weren’t necessarily awesome but I felt better while drawing and I’d finally let go of trying to perfect each drawing. At week two though, I still used linework that I considered too rigid and I wanted to minimalise further my mark making. There were two reasons for me making efforts to minimalise my line work. The main reason is because I think minimalist line work looks good and the second reason is that having less lines to draw gives me more time to get the pose right.
At week three I felt like I’d made a lot of progress but realised that minimalist line work takes more concentration than drawing construction lines and outlines everywhere. I also realised that the poses I had been drawing up until week two were becoming too easy. I had been using life drawing reference photos from PoseSpace and while they’re great, many of the poses don’t mean anything.
I wanted my poses to tell a story or be useful to my job (animation), so I decided to use different reference images from week 3. The new reference images I used from Pose Archives and Reference Images were great for storytelling and attitude. The small disadvantage to having these more attitude filled poses and the interesting camera angles meant that drawing poses became more difficult. I suddenly felt like I was in week 1 again but I kept going on with these more difficult poses because I felt like they challenged me more.
By week 4, I had gotten reasonably good at capturing the attitude poses and even the camera angles from the new reference images I had been using. I started going back to some of the more classical life drawing poses I began with, trying to draw quickly enough to have some time to add shading or contour lines. After four weeks of gesture drawing every day, my lines had gotten cleaner and I needed less construction shapes / lines to draw most poses. I still wanted to improve but was happy with the progress I made!