How To Make Your Drawings Look Less Stiff? A Practical Guide

How to Make Your Drawings Look Less Stiff
How to Make Your Drawings Look Less Stiff

Have you ever wondered how do you avoid stiff drawings? If so, don't be too upset, that's actually a widespread issue that many artists have. Trying to convey motion in a static image is challenging. 

How To Make Your Drawings Look Less Stiff? To ensure your drawing doesn't appear stiff-looking you will need to understand what a stiff-looking drawing looks like. Practice and learn to draw from the arm and shoulder and loosen up your sketches and gestural drawings.

If it were easy, then everyone would be able to do it. While learning how to make your drawing look less stiff will take some time and effort, it can help to bring your artwork to another level. It can add a new dimension that captures the eye of the person looking at it. 

Throughout history, there have been many master artists that have learned the secrets of creating drawings that are not stiff and instead convey movement and vibrancy. You can learn to do this as well, and while it will take some time and patience, it's definitely something that just about everyone can do.

How Do I Make My Drawings Looks Less Stiff?

Learning how to draw in a way that conveys motion, rather than having a stiff and lifeless composition can be done.

How? First, you need to relax your arm and hand. Before you start working on a drawing, grab a piece of scrap paper, your pencil, and begin to doodle. Just make some marks and basic shapes to warm up. 

What you are doing is a lot like what an athlete does before competing. You're getting your arm, wrist, and hand ready to start drawing.

Once you are thoroughly warmed up, start your drawing by using light, free-flowing strokes. Don't worry about the details. Just focus on creating the shapes that you want to have in your drawing. This stage is setting the foundation for the rest of your drawing. 

One technique that you should try is creating a composition that has a triangular layout. For example, if you have three figures in your drawing, their heads should be set up in a triangular pattern. This will cause the eye of the viewer to move around, creating a sense of motion.

What Does Stiff Mean In Art?

Stiff art is art that is dull, lifeless, and is, well, stiff looking.

In order to capture the eye of the viewer, and create an exciting piece, there needs to be the structure that causes a viewer's eye to move around. 

In addition to creating the proper composition, you also need to avoid trying to be too precise with your pencil strokes. If you are an architect, then you need perfectly straight lines and absolute precision. 

If you are an artist, there are no such rules in place. You can create straight lines with a ruler when they are called for, or you can draw them freehand. Sure, they won't be perfectly straight, but they'll also be much less stiff.

Simply put, stiff artwork is too inflexible. The lines are too straight. The figures are posed unnaturally. The composition was created in a way that creates a static and unmoving image. In other words, it's the artwork that is boring.

How Do You Avoid Stiff Drawings?

One common mistake made by artists of all experience levels is drawing with their wrist. What does this mean? Drawing with your wrist involves resting your wrist on the paper, then making, small movements using your wrist as a pivot point. 

Now, when you are adding details to a drawing, then drawing in this way is fine. In fact, it's preferable. But when you are creating the composition of your drawing, and laying out the basic shapes, you need to draw with your arm.

What does drawing with your arm mean? It means making broad strokes by moving your entire arm around, and not just your wrist. What is the advantage of drawing like this? 

The advantage is that you'll get more organic pencil strokes. They'll flow together more naturally, and will help to create the sense of motion that all great works of art have in them.

You also need to create the right kind of composition. If you are drawing figures, then try to have the figures posed naturally, and in a way that indicates they are living, breathing beings. 

You also need to layout the drawing in a dynamic way. Always remember that triangular patterns are the key to creating a visually stimulating composition. Try sketching out very light triangles of different sizes and in different orientations on your drawing before you do anything else. 

After doing this, then try to lay out the figures and objects in your drawing so that they coincide with the corners of the triangles. With enough practice composing a drawing like this will become natural, helping to give your drawings life.

What Is Expressive Drawing?

Expressive drawing is a type of drawing that involves trying to capture the mood and movement of a subject by approaching a drawing with a more abstract intention. When you draw expressively, you aren't looking for precision. You don't care about accidents that happen. In fact, you embrace them. In a way, you are going back in time to your childhood.

You are sitting at the kitchen table with crayons and drawing anything that comes to mind. You don't care if the lines are straight, you don't care if you stay within the lines. With expressive drawing, you are still trying to create a recognizable image, you are just doing it in a looser and freer way.

While expressive drawing may give you the impression that it's simpler than trying to capture a photo-realistic image, it can actually be harder to do. It's not more laborious because it takes better technique, it's harder because you have to learn to embrace the chaos. 

You have to decide what you have done for years as an artist, throw it all out the window, and start drawing quickly, with broad strokes, and no regard for details. As your drawing progresses, you can begin to tighten up your pencil strokes and add detail, but only after the drawing has gone through most of the rough stages.

How To Loosen Up Sketching

Creating a finished drawing is deeply satisfying. It's the culmination of what usually is hours or days of work.  It's the pinnacle of what you can do as an artist with this medium. But it shouldn't be your goal every time you pick up a pencil. 

As an artist, you need to practice your craft. You need to be free to try new things. If you pick up an expensive, high-grade artist paper and start a drawing, there is an expectation that it will turn into something. There is a pressure that keeps you from being able to experiment.

This is why sketching is so important. When you grab a cheap piece of paper and a pencil, you don't care if you mess up. You are free to draw anything you want. If something doesn't look right, erase it. Or draw over it. Or flip the paper over. Or just start over. 

The point here is this kind of drawing environment encourages creativity. Then, you can take what you learn during sketching to help create finalized drawings. If you do happen to sketch something that you feel can evolve into something special, then this is just an added bonus.

When sketching, make sure to keep yourself loosened up. Draw with your arm and focus on basic forms. You aren't looking to create details. 

Instead, you are just trying to create shapes and lines the convey a sense of movement and are fascinating to look at for the viewer. The bottom line is that the more time you spend sketching, the more you will improve as an artist. If you want to learn how to make your drawings look less stiff, then you have to sketch freely as often as possible.

Gestural Drawing Practice

What is a gestural drawing? It's a drawing that uses only lines that are arranged in a scribble like way to capture an image. Gestural drawing takes some getting used to, but once you master it, you'll be able to create drawings that practically jump off of the page. With gestural drawing, the best thing you can do is take your eraser and put it away. You don't erase sketch lines, you just draw over them or add to them. You aren't worried about your drawing looking messy, in fact, that's precisely the kind of look you should be aiming for.

If you are struggling to get this technique down, there are a few basic rules that should help you to master gestural drawing. First, make bold, loose, free-flowing strokes. Second, work quickly. You want a spontaneous drawing, so you don't want to spend a lot of time thinking. 

Think as you draw and just let your creativity flow. Finally, don't worry about blending or shading. You can still put an indication of shadows, but you don't need to blend them in. For example, when drawing a face, if one side is shadowed, then simply put heavier linework on that side. If you want to learn how to avoid stiff drawings, practicing gestural drawings is a must.


Ian Walsh is the creator and author of and an Art teacher based in Merseyside in the United Kingdom. He holds a BA in Fine Art and a PGCE in teaching Art and Design. He has been teaching Art for over 24 Years in different parts of the UK. When not teaching Ian spending his time developing this website and creating content for the improvedrawing channel.

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