Standing man - 4 quick sketches

Four quick sketches in pastel of standing man

Most life drawing sessions include quick drawings between 1 and 5 minutes, and most teachers highly recommend regularly drawing quick poses. If you’re drawing from photo references, the website quickposes.com allows a maximum of 2 minutes per pose.

So why is it useful and important? Mayko and I talked it through and here’s what we came up with:

It breaks the ‘tentative lines’ habit

If you aren’t yet confident about your drawing skills, you probably find yourself worrying about making your lines ‘correct’. That worry often results in  tentative and laboured lines.

When you have only a few minutes to capture the entire pose, there’s no time to labour over each line – you must trust your eyes and arm to do the work and not overthink things.

It breaks the ‘rushing to detail’ habit

You may also find yourself rushing to the details stage of drawing, where you start trying to capture detail in each area of the figure without first capturing the ‘big picture’ of the overall pose. That leads to disjointed figures that don’t feel natural.

When time is short, you know there won’t be detail in your figure, so you set about capturing the big sweeping lines and simplified large areas of tone that are the essence of the pose. That’s a good life drawing approach, and short poses help you get into that mindset.

It gives you permission to do a ‘bad drawing’

Many of us are fearful or worried when drawing – what if the drawing is bad? The truth is that we are learning, so we need to do drawings that are, in our minds, ‘bad’ during that process. However, we can easily get into a bad mindset where we are quite negative about our drawings and sometimes even get annoyed with ourselves for how our drawings came out.

Only having a few minutes to do a drawing means you sort of let yourself off, and thereby can free yourself of that fear and worry.

It brings energy and life to the rest of your drawing session

So as you know from lesson 2 in the first steps mini-course, we are working on training our eye to see the pose, our arm to make dynamic and nuanced marks and taming our brains so that they don’t mess our drawings up with their silly preconceptions.

You need to draw with feeling and without overthinking things during quick drawings, so doing them early in a drawing session warms up your eye and arm, and keeps that part of your brain with the pre-conceptions in check. You can then bring that energy and tempo into longer poses.

It allows you to draw tons of poses

Getting used to the human form and it’s myriad variations and different gesticulations is key to life drawing, and the more poses you get down on the page the better. It’s simple mathematics that quick poses will expose you to more poses (and if using photo references, more body types). In an hour long drawing session, you can do 30 two minute drawings – something I love to do.

So should I only do quick drawings?

Quick drawings do need to be accompanied by longer drawings too. The longer drawings will give you time to observe a pose in-depth, understanding more than just the overall gesture of the pose.

You could use the time to make the drawing more accurate, noticing alignments and negative space, which helps strengthen your eye’s observations and arm’s mark making. Longer poses allow you to develop the hands and faces and more nuanced areas of tone, and to think about anatomy. During longer poses, it’s still useful to retain that bold approach you used during the quick drawing to capture the whole pose.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and if you would like to get started with capturing the essence of poses, check out our lesson on movement lines in the first steps mini-course.

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