Gesture Drawing Research


Cave paintings. Mans first attempts to communicate through drawing. The essence of the figurer is preserved centuries after the creator has gone.

Gesture Drawing, some times called scribble studies, is work defined by rapid execution. Typically between 30 seconds to two minutes. A gesture drawing may be any drawing which attempts to capture action or movement. (wikipedia)

movement, action and direction are captured in gesture drawing. Aesthetic most concerned with the essence of the pose.

This kind of very rapid drawing of the figure builds (through the act of frequent repetition) an instinctive understanding of human proportions which may aid the artist when executing more extended works.

Drawings longer than two minutes are usually not considered gestures, as they inevitability allow the artist more time to measure and plan the drawing, or to begin to define the form with modelling. Once the artist begins measuring, erasing, shading or otherwise improving the drawing with a second pass, they have ceased to gesture draw and begun rendering. They will be improving the complexity of their current drawing, but they are no longer practising their ability to draw correctly from an instant impression.

A gesture drawing can be as simple as a wire frame to work out the position of the body elements as they move. As you will see from the collection assembled in this post these quick expressive drawings can be beautiful works of art in there own right, full of energy and movement.

some of these are not strictly speaking gesture drawings but they have the same philosophy, in that they are all  full of energy and feel spontaneous.


Reclining Woman, Seen from Behind, 1916–17, Gustav Klimt. Graphite. Albertina, Vienna


Egon Schiele – Squatting Woman. (1922) Dry point.

Picture 17

Egon schiele  – Standing Male Nude with Arm Raised, Back View. (1910) Water colour and Charcoal on paper.

Picture 16

Egon Schiele – Nude with Violet Stockings and Black Hair. (1912) Water colour, pencil, ink on paper.


Picture 18

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Equestrian sketches (1883)


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Bouboule, Bulldog de Madame Palmyre à La Souris 1897


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 – 1901)

The next set of drawings are all current (except Piccaso). You can see how gesture style drawing has become an art jounra in its own right. The work that follows is outstanding..


Gesture figure drawing – Joseph Laurro (current)


Shintaro Yamakawa – Life drawing (2012)



Shintaro Yamakawa – Life drawing (2012)

Croquis 6_24 Apr 2013

Shintaro Yamakawa – Life drawing (2012)

Shintaro Yamakawa’s life drawings are full of energy and movement. Line alone is used to build up tone and form.


Robert Palevitz – life drawing (2012)


Robert Palevitz – life drawing (2012)


Robert Palevitz – life drawing (2012)


Robert Palevitz – life drawing (2012)

Both Robert Palevitz (above) and Derek Overfield (bellow) use a combination of line and tone in a way I really admire. Both men work with pastels to create unique gesture drawings. Robert Palevitz is a still life artist predominately. These drawings are made at life class that he attends regularly.  Derek Overfeild uses the male figure in many expressive ways using different mediums. 

Tone is seemingly quickly captured showing a strong sense of dark masses and light masses in two strong tones. Then a confident contour depicts the outer shape of the form. There is a clear distinction between the form mass and the out line that is very effective as a gesture statement.


Derek Overfeild – Man, pulling a great weight, (2013) latex paint on canvas, 48″ x 30″


Derek Overfield – Drawing 142, (2013) pastel on paper, 18″ x 24″


Derek Overfield – 1-20-10, (2010) oil pastel and graphite on canvas, 30″ x 48″, private collection


Ryan Woodward


Pablo Picasso’s deconstruction of the bull into fundamental shapes in line drawing.


John Ligda – Only her head buries deeply (2013)


Jon Ligda – Self goring bull but the man stands (2013)


John Ligda – Join Us (2013)


Peter Root – Line Drawing (2000) Untitled, 2000: Pencil on paper 110X84cm A continuous ribbon of straight lines drawn using a ruler

I love how Peter root has taken the simple gesture of the line and evolved it into this organic looking drawing.



jylian gustlin ( from sketch book)


Ase Margrethe Hansen



During my obsession with tone over the year I feel I have been over looking the importance of line. Of course tone is important but line is the key. It’s where the energy and feel lives. No decent line, no good, regardless of tone, colour, texture and anything else. As we see from the above drawings a confident line drawn with feel for the form communicates an emotional response to the subject.

Brilliant life drawing sites:   for when drawing form life is not an option

Fetured Artist:

 Shintaro Yamakawa

Robert Palevitz

Derek Overfield

Ryan Woodward

John Ligda

Peter Roots

jylian gustlin

Ase Margrethe Hansen

Jason Gathorn




About Emma Perring

Artist, oil painter

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