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Moving Lines

Alice Noel


In Moving Lines, artist/instructor Alice Noel guides students through the exciting process of gestural drawing--quick sketches of people or objects that incorporate large, directional movement. Alice's advice is to keep this activity fun, allowing students to get away from detail-focused drawing and to embrace the spontaneity of the moment.

Lesson Focus

This lesson is an introduction to gestural line drawing providing basic definitions along with art history correlations. Children will be encouraged to focus on the energy, mass, and expression of the subject rather than on illustrated replication.

Time Requirement

Easily accomplished in a 45- to 60-minute period.

Skill Development

The cognitive skills developed include eye/hand coordination, observation, and concentration. Gestural drawing has an element of gross-motor skill development as well as the expected fine-motor skills. The concept of reproducing the essential posture of a figure (rather than specific details) is reinforced in this speedy process.


Gestural drawing finds its value in loosening students up from the rigidity of tight, overly detailed drawing and fostering techniques necessary in producing quick sketches. Gestural drawing teaches the concept of making art for its intrinsic process-oriented value rather than for the production of a refined finished product. (However, teachers will delightfully discover many exciting and individualized drawings suitable for exhibition.)

Artists/Art Works That Reflect Moving Lines Techniques

  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Albrecht Dürer
  • Edouard Manet
  • Michelangelo
  • Joan Miró
  • Native American art
  • Camille Pissarro
  • Raphael
  • Pierre Auguste Renoir
  • Georges Rouault
  • Vincent van Gogh
  • Andrew Wyeth

Connections to Educational Standards

Moving Lines has connections to the following Kentucky Academic Expectations:

  • 2.22: Students create works of art and make presentations to convey a point of view.
  • 2.23: Students analyze their own and others' artistic products and performances using accepted standards as they select the gestural drawing they like best and then offer reasons for their choice.
  • 2.26: Through the arts and humanities, students recognize that although people are different, they share some common experiences and attitudes.

Materials Needed

  • pencils, conté crayons, oil pastels, crayons, or markers
  • inexpensive sketching paper (newsprint, for example)--the larger, the better
  • lap boards or clipboards (if possible)
  • a model or models--the instructor, one of the students, or both

Vocabulary Used in the Lesson

  1. line: An identifiable path of a point moving in space. Lines may vary in character, width, direction, and length. A line may define contour.
  2. gesture: that which captures the essence of an image without detail-usually quick and spontaneous.
  3. sketch: a simple, rough drawing or design, done rapidly and without much detail.

Lesson Instructions

  1. Have each model (teacher and/or student) pose for 15-30 seconds at a time.
  2. Remind students:
    • to look at the person's body, not at the paper.
    • to forget detail (no eyelashes, no facial expression, etc.).
    • not to do contour drawing.
  3. Have students quickly sketch the model, working through six to eight sketches (as many as time allows).
  4. Then have students review all their sketches and choose the one they like best.

General tips:

  • Incorporate examples that are age-appropriate (see list of artists above).
  • Tell students, "Anything you can see, you can draw.";
  • Remind them that the more they draw, the better they get.
  • Suggest to students that they stop "trying" and just have fun.

Response to Art

Have students take turns explaining to the class how they chose their favorite sketch. They may also want to title their work.

Exhibition Suggestion

Students often enjoy the instant gratification of exhibiting their work immediately after creating it. Many schools have large 4 1/2-foot rolls of colored paper to display in random lengths of 10, 12, or 14 feet along their hallways. Ask the students to create a display of all the "favorite sketches" from the class. They can quickly designate a title using the democratic process and then decide how to arrange the artwork on the colored background.

Mounting the gestural drawings on black construction paper first gives a more finished look, as well as giving the newsprint more rigidity.

This same presentation format may be used in a gymnasium, cafeteria, faculty conference room, or library.


Any student visiting a dance class or organized sports practice has ample opportunity for gestural drawing. Since these quick sketches require poses of little more than 15-20 seconds, even a shopping mall, a bank, or a public library can be a prime setting. Children can also sketch on vacations and at family reunions and gatherings.

600 Cooper Drive, Lexington, KY 40502 (859) 258-7000 (800) 432-0951

Last Updated: Monday, 29-Dec-2008 15:23:24 EST