Gesture sketching—rapidly capturing movement and energy—is a fundamental drawing tool and one of my favorite techniques. I recently visited the Whatcom Museum for a high school student career day where I gave a workshop focused on gestures.

Whatcom Museum workshop
Whatcom Museum workshop
Student gesture sketches, timed progression

The museum provided me with mounted specimens of a juvenile bald eagle, winter plumage ptarmigan, and a baby ostrich. These are excellent alternatives to live models, especially when studying animals! I encouraged students to think of their drawing implement as a conductor’s baton, rhythmically drawing their whole subject, versus focusing on just one area. I led students through a progression of timed gesture sketches. With each drawing, I suggested an additional skill to practice, such as measuring, shading, and finally adding washes of simple color.

People passing by at Greenlake, ink gestures with watercolor washes, 8″ x 8″ sketchbook

Since gestures can be completed in just a few seconds or minutes, they are perfect for warm-ups or for when time in is limited. Practice your own gesture sketching in museums, parks, coffeeshops…  inspiration is all around!portraits

Coffeeshop portraits, each 3.5″ x 5.5″ in Moleskine watercolor book, completed with Pentel brush pen and watercolor