How To Draw Simple Channels And Avoid Breakouts

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One simple trick for JavaScript package maintainers to avoid breaking their user’s software and to ship stable releases

How to make use of npm’s package distribution tags to create release channels just like Google Chrome’s

Software releases are exciting for both package authors and users. The hard work of the past weeks is finally going to be manifested in this one shiny new version. All the to-do list items are crossed off, the tests are green, the release blogpost is ready. Soon it will be read and shared by thousands, Twitter is going to fill up with praise and cheering. Phew! Done! ����

The excitement of a release is an important factor to keep everyone involved in a project happy and motivated and it’s a lot of fun. While everyone should be entitled to a little celebration, there’s a recurring pattern that soon the first party poopers will appear on the issue tracker.

Help! I was so excited to try the new version, but now I get this weird error?! ��

– Someone on the internet — probably

Ouch! With all the excitement, ambition, and pressure to finally get the new version out the building, a tiny regression snuck into the build. Might not look like the biggest deal, because the next patch release is immediately sent on the way, but depending on how many users there are this might have broken a few thousand builds already — and remember, this should be a time for celebration (or rest) instead.

Before revealing the solution for this, I want to give a recent real life example, to illustrate how relevant this problem is. Please note that I’m not trying to pick on the amazing people and their fantastic project I’ll mention now. This isn’t meant to be an attack, only constructive feedback and actionable advice.

On October 29th the author of the babel JavaScript compiler, a project that has about 20k downloads a day and thousands of projects depending on it, held the closing keynote at EmberCamp London. In this talk he released the brand new version 6.0.0 — live on stage. It took three attempts and several forced pushes, but eventually the release script ran to completion. Exciting news for the entire JavaScript ecosystem ��

Besides all the changes that have been made, the release blogpost highlights the intense efforts required by the maintainers (emphasis mine).

Anyone who’s ever been involved with an open source project knows that it’s a ton of work, but at the end of the day it’s incredibly gratifying to be able to contribute even the tiniest bit back to the community.

Sebastian has been up literally all night to finish all the last minute things needed to launch Babel 6 during his EmberCamp keynote. It’s currently 1am for me in San Francisco and I’m writing this blog post as quickly as possible, listening to EDM music to stay awake.

Only about 14 minutes after the initial 6.0.0 release version 6.0.2 had to be released. There is no hint in the changelog what this version addressed specifically, but in hindsight it doesn’t matter, as version 6.0.12 followed in the same night, as well as 6.0.14 and 6.0.15 in the next two days . Among the fixes is a misspelled package name. Their changelog states: “ Gaps between patch versions are faulty, broken or test releases”.

This is a very good illustration of the pattern I was trying to describe above. Let’s have a look at how we can stop breaking things for our users and have a more sustainable way of addressing releases like that.

The “ latest” dist-tag gets used by npm publish by default

Luckily, npm, the JavaScript package manager and registry of choice, has a simple feature that helps avoiding release chaos: Package distribution tags, or dist-tags, in short. In fact, if you ever typed npm install

before, you have implicitly used this feature already.

When we type npm install

, what we end up with isn’t necessarily the highest version of that package, but the version with the “latest” dist-tag attached to it. The “ latest” dist-tag gets used by npm publish by default, which means usually we install the version that got published last.

Most of the time the last and the highest version are the same, but imagine doing a security fix for an older version, e.g. moving from 3.2.13 to 3.2.14, while the highest stable one is 4.6.12 already . If we only used npm publish, mainstream users who type npm install

will end up with the “latest” 3.2.14 after that, even though 4.6.12 is clearly higher .

This might sound a little confusing at first, but once we tap into maintaining multiple version tracks, it’s exactly what we need to gain full control over what users of a package install.
Now using npm publish — tag=previous for version 3.2.14 all the new or mainstream users would keep getting 4.6.12. Users who’re still using the outdated 3.2.13 version would automatically get the bug fix (assuming they’re using version ranges like ^3.0.0 or

3.2.0). By explicitly attaching the “previous” dist-tag to version 3.2.14 we essentially created a new release channel, so everyone ends up with the version they expect. Using the tag command-line option it’s possible to create these channels with arbitrary names, for example “3.x-latest” would be a good fit, too (Tag names may not be a valid SemVer range, that’s the only exception).

@latest) still results in version 4.6.12 being installed
npm install

@previous results in version 3.2.14being installed
When there was “

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3.2.0” in the package.jsonbefore npm install will automatically get 3.2.14

Now that we know how npm install implicitly uses dist-tags, let’s have a look at how we can use this for ✨ the future of our packages ✨

dist-tags work exactly the same for new and higher version tracks that are about to be released for the first time. If we stick with the example from above it could be version 5.0.0, the next major or breaking release. Again instead of using the bare npm publish we will make use of dist-tags to explicitly attach a different tag than “ latest” to this release.
npm publish –tag=next. No mainstream user will get this new version automatically, but we can now invite everyone to try it out by running npm install

@next. Depending on the scope and maturity of this release we could just announce the release in IRC or Slack, but there is nothing that stops us from publishing a release blogpost and being vocal about it on Twitter or a conference stage even.

@next results in version 5.0.0being installed
But again: npm install

@latest) still results in version 4.6.12 being installed

Think of this like Google Chrome, Chrome Beta, and Chrome Canary. These are all distributions of the same software, but in different states of maturity (release channels). Users know which level of stability they can expect while the development team can iterate and experiment with a very high speed and early feedback.

No doubt, the community, the people who are into this project, will give “next” a try immediately. Inside their projects, they can use existing tools and workflows. npm makes this process so straightforward for everyone, that there is no additional effort needed, only deliberate decisions and consent.

The result is: unavoidable regressions that sneak into every release will now be caught by your early adopters, with the difference that no one will install or deploy them, without making a conscious decision first.

Newcomers and regulars alike won’t be scared away by broken default versions. Once bugs are identified patches can be published in the “next” release channel the same way, for example version 5.0.1. As soon as there is enough confidence it is a single command to move the latest tag over to the highest version:
npm dist-tag add

    Only now: npm install

@latest) results in version 5.0.1 being installed

Another effect of this technique is the reduced pressure to have everything ready and perfect on the first try. We can’t break anyone’s code. We can publish experimental, incomplete versions, or ones we aren’t 100% confident about yet. Just as we have linters, code reviews, unit and integration tests the “next” dist-tag is another layer of security which allows us to iterate faster, rather than slower.

Similarly we don’t simply push changes to master, we go through a branch and pull request based review process. In much the same way we should consider publishing versions with the “next” dist-tag first a best practice. Only after the early-adopter crowd integrated them into their projects and provided positive feedback we should promote versions to “latest”. I’d like to think of this as crowd testing. It is well-supported, it integrates into existing workflows without breaking them and can be used by everyone with very little to mostly no overhead at all. Naturally the crowd testing can only work well if there is a big, loyal crowd using your module, but no matter what: Using release channels acts as an additional security net to catch mistakes of any kind and adopting good habits early leaves you well prepared for overwhelming success that might follow later. And so that’s the simple trick that lets us ship stable releases to our users.

This release strategy is employed by npm itself and looking at their releases page you can see how well it’s working for them, even with two separate latest and next versions for their stable and LTS tracks respectively. The same concept is used for the development of the new version of Hoodie, a project I’m working on.

Looking back at the babel example from above, this could have saved quite a bit of stress, invaluable hours of sleep and broken builds — without losing any of the progress, excitement, and well-deserved celebration. Publishing version 6.0.0 of babel with the “next” dist-tag, would’ve still resulted in all the positive outcomes for the project, but without it being a broken default.

I have written a tool called semantic-release , which fully automates package publishing. It has full support for dist-tags built in, so there are no limits to automating the chores involved. There are several talks out there , where I talk about dependency and release management.

If you are struggling to keep your dependencies up-to-date and working, you should look into another tool I’m working on: Greenkeeper will drastically reduce the dull work involved. It’s free for open source.

I would love to hear your experiences with dist-tags and managing, or releasing packages, so please do not hesitate to tell me on Twitter .

Fun fact: In order to publish a valuable, well-written and understandable blogpost I invited folks to give me feedback on my first version before publishing it for everyone. What you’re reading now is a heavily improved and streamlined version. As you see, release channels do work.
Thank you Jake Champion , Lewis Cowper , Kent C. Dodds , Jan Lehnardt , Soledad Penadés , maxogden and the amazing npm CLI team for pioneering this technique.

Top 10 Ways to Avoid Procrastination

by Regan Collins
CollegeXpress Student Writer

Procrastination is the bane of every student’s existence. We know what we should be doing; we just don’t want to do it. It’s easy to put off undesirable assignments until the very last minute, but then we’re forced to pull a stress-induced all-nighter. Seven cups of coffee later, we’re exhausted, frustrated, and turning in an assignment that hardly showcases our best work. Here are the top 10 tips to crush procrastination and actually get some sleep for once!

1. Get organized

You can’t do any work if you don’t know what assignments need to be completed. Invest in a planner or start using the calendar app on your phone. This makes it much easier to keep track of individual assignments and important due dates.

2. Set simple, achievable goals

Part of the reason we procrastinate is because the task at hand seems too daunting. It’s a lot easier to get started on a project when you establish simple, reachable goals rather than a big, vague plan. Instead of telling yourself, “I’ll study biology tonight,” say, “I’ll study chapter six tonight.” This makes your goals less intimidating and more attainable.

3. Create a timeline/schedule

After you set your goals, create a timeline to complete them. This could be a study schedule for your big exam coming up (“On Tuesday, I’ll study chapter five, and on Wednesday, I’ll study chapter six”), or it could be mapping out an essay you have to write (“On Saturday, I’ll write the introduction and conclusion”). Breaking an assignment into small chunks over time makes it much more manageable.

4. Set a deadline

So many people get trapped in the cycle of “Someday, I’ll organize my notes,” or “I’ll get to that math homework eventually.” The truth is “someday” and “eventually” never come. It’s important to set a specific date for when you want your goals to be accomplished. If you have an assignment due, aim to have it completed one or two days in advance. That way, if something unexpected happens, you still have extra time to complete it.

5. Get rid of distractions

It’s important to rid yourself of all potential disruptions before you begin working so you don’t get needlessly sidetracked halfway through your task. If you tend to spend too much time on Snapchat or Instagram when you should be studying, then shut your phone off (all the way off). Distractions could also be external sources, like annoying siblings. Try listening to classical music or white noise to drown out their constant chatter. Alternatively, you could change study environments all together and head down to the local library or coffee shop, where you can clear your mind and study distraction-free.

6. Time yourself

When loaded with assignments, it’s easy to overwork yourself. Set a timer for 60 minutes to prevent yourself from burning out. Then you can…

7. Take a break

It’s important to take mental breathers from school work every now and then. When your timer goes off, take a 10–15-minute break. Listen to music, take a walk, or scream into a pillow—anything that takes your mind off of work and allows you to relax.

8. Use incentives

Everyone loves being rewarded. It’s important to give yourself incentives, no matter how small. It could be something as simple as, “If I work on this assignment for an hour, I’ll watch an episode of my favorite TV show tonight.” Or it could be a bigger goal like, “If I get an A in math this semester, I’ll go to my favorite restaurant.” It’s easier to pay attention when something is at stake.

9. Get the hard stuff done first

This may make you want to push everything back farther. It’s hard to do something that you don’t want to do. But guess what? Once you do it, it’s over! It is best to complete your most challenging assignments first. That way everything after it seems easier and takes a shorter amount of time. If you keep pushing that English essay back, you’re never going to get it done. It’s best to buckle down and just do it.

10. Tell someone about your goal

It’s easy to forget about assignments or put them off if you’re the only person holding yourself accountable. If you really want to get something done, tell a friend or family member. Now there is someone holding you responsible for your goals. You can’t back out or slough it off. As an added bonus, you also have someone to celebrate your victories with, no matter how small. Whether it’s getting an A on that physics test or just finishing a project a few days in advance, your friend will be there to support you.

There you have it—the top 10 ways to avoid procrastination. Now stop reading and go get your assignments done! (Or procrastinate productively by searching for colleges and scholarships on CollegeXpress.)

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About the Author:

Tracy O’Connor

Tracy O’Connor is an expert on beauty and style.

Working out is great for your body, but it can also be tough on its biggest organ: Your skin. Sunscreen, sweat and plain old gym grime can clog up your pores and lead to acne and other blemishes on your face and body. But never fear, because you’re about to get expert-approved advice from dermatologists, trainers and beauty experts on how to keep breakouts at bay. Keep reading to steal their strategies.

Working out is great for your body, but it can also be tough on its biggest organ: Your skin. Sunscreen, sweat and plain old gym grime can clog up your pores and lead to acne and other blemishes on your face and body. But never fear, because you’re about to get expert-approved advice from dermatologists, trainers and beauty experts on how to keep breakouts at bay. Keep reading to steal their strategies.

1. Wash Your Face After a Workout

After each sweat session, use a gentle cleanser to remove dead skin cells and bacteria without irritating your skin, says Brian Zelickson, M.D., dermatologist and founder of MD Complete Skincare. If you don’t, pores can get clogged with a sticky cocktail of sweat, makeup, oil and debris. “Failing to wash your face and body post workout can contribute to acne-causing bacteria and inflammation,” he says. Try something like MD Complete’s Anti-Aging Restoring Cleanser & Makeup Remover. And be sure to follow with a gentle-yet-effective moisturizer.

After each sweat session, use a gentle cleanser to remove dead skin cells and bacteria without irritating your skin, says Brian Zelickson, M.D., dermatologist and founder of MD Complete Skincare. If you don’t, pores can get clogged with a sticky cocktail of sweat, makeup, oil and debris. “Failing to wash your face and body post workout can contribute to acne-causing bacteria and inflammation,” he says. Try something like MD Complete’s Anti-Aging Restoring Cleanser & Makeup Remover. And be sure to follow with a gentle-yet-effective moisturizer.

2. Use a Toner With Salicylic Acid

If you aren’t able to immediately clean your skin after working out, Dr. Haleh Bakshandeh suggests using a salicylic acid-based toner or facial wipes. “Use them right after finishing the workout to clean away dirt and prevent breakouts and inflammation,” she says. Salicylic acid has proven to be highly effective in breaking down the material deep inside pores that can lead to pimples, according to Bakshandeh. Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is a leave-on exfoliant that contains salicylic acid.

If you aren’t able to immediately clean your skin after working out, Dr. Haleh Bakshandeh suggests using a salicylic acid-based toner or facial wipes. “Use them right after finishing the workout to clean away dirt and prevent breakouts and inflammation,” she says. Salicylic acid has proven to be highly effective in breaking down the material deep inside pores that can lead to pimples, according to Bakshandeh. Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is a leave-on exfoliant that contains salicylic acid.

3. Apply an Oil-Free Moisturizer

“Once you’ve cleansed the skin, apply an oil-free, anti-acne moisturizer that is non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores),” says facialist Lili Menini, who has worked with celebrity clients like Kate Walsh and Katy Perry. “Look for ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide to kill bacteria and aloe vera to reduce inflammation,” she says. “Definitely don’t choose a thick, heavy moisturizer. And try to steer clear of any products with synthetic color additives and fragrances. They can aggravate acne.” Just make sure you don’t apply the moisturizer until you’ve stopped sweating.

“Once you’ve cleansed the skin, apply an oil-free, anti-acne moisturizer that is non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores),” says facialist Lili Menini, who has worked with celebrity clients like Kate Walsh and Katy Perry. “Look for ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide to kill bacteria and aloe vera to reduce inflammation,” she says. “Definitely don’t choose a thick, heavy moisturizer. And try to steer clear of any products with synthetic color additives and fragrances. They can aggravate acne.” Just make sure you don’t apply the moisturizer until you’ve stopped sweating.

4. Avoid Heavy Makeup

“If you can avoid wearing heavy, oil-based face makeup while exercising, that’s a bonus for the skin,” facialist Lili Menini says. Without makeup, sweat can exit the pores more easily and help to flush out the stuff inside your pores that leads to blackheads, whiteheads, irritation and redness, she says. If your pores are blocked, it not only traps dirt, oils and bacteria, but also other toxins the body is trying to remove. If you must wear makeup, Dr. Haleh Bakshandeh suggests breathable, mineral-based loose powders.

“If you can avoid wearing heavy, oil-based face makeup while exercising, that’s a bonus for the skin,” facialist Lili Menini says. Without makeup, sweat can exit the pores more easily and help to flush out the stuff inside your pores that leads to blackheads, whiteheads, irritation and redness, she says. If your pores are blocked, it not only traps dirt, oils and bacteria, but also other toxins the body is trying to remove. If you must wear makeup, Dr. Haleh Bakshandeh suggests breathable, mineral-based loose powders.

5. Let Your Skin Breathe

“The type of workout clothes you choose makes a big difference for people who suffer from body breakouts,” says facialist Lili Menini. She recommends breathable active-wear made of natural fabrics like cotton or hemp. If you get really sweaty and cotton won’t cut it, Menini suggests moisture-wicking fabrics that help absorb moisture but don’t hold onto it. Finally, she says to avoid tight-fitting clothing wherever you have body breakouts. “Also, ditch your sweaty clothes as soon as possible to rid your skin of dirt and sweat,” says Dr. Zelickson.

“The type of workout clothes you choose makes a big difference for people who suffer from body breakouts,” says facialist Lili Menini. She recommends breathable active-wear made of natural fabrics like cotton or hemp. If you get really sweaty and cotton won’t cut it, Menini suggests moisture-wicking fabrics that help absorb moisture but don’t hold onto it. Finally, she says to avoid tight-fitting clothing wherever you have body breakouts. “Also, ditch your sweaty clothes as soon as possible to rid your skin of dirt and sweat,” says Dr. Zelickson.

6. Remember to Exfoliate

Celebrity trainer Andrea Orbeck advises her clients to exfoliate the body and face two to three times a week. Why does it work? Exfoliators (we like Beauty for Real’s (Total) Body Revival coffee and brown sugar exfoliator) remove dead skin cells that would otherwise trap bacteria that cause acne. “[Exfoliation] smoothes out the skin, can brighten a dull complexion and lighten pigmentation,” says facialist Lili Menini. Look for gentle exfoliators, such as those with enzymes or alpha-hydroxy acids, that won’t irritate or inflame the breakouts. “And absolutely never scrub hard with a washcloth, loofah or nut-based scrub on body-acne,” Menini says. “That can further irritate your skin, and lead to infection.”

Celebrity trainer Andrea Orbeck advises her clients to exfoliate the body and face two to three times a week. Why does it work? Exfoliators (we like Beauty for Real’s (Total) Body Revival coffee and brown sugar exfoliator) remove dead skin cells that would otherwise trap bacteria that cause acne. “[Exfoliation] smoothes out the skin, can brighten a dull complexion and lighten pigmentation,” says facialist Lili Menini. Look for gentle exfoliators, such as those with enzymes or alpha-hydroxy acids, that won’t irritate or inflame the breakouts. “And absolutely never scrub hard with a washcloth, loofah or nut-based scrub on body-acne,” Menini says. “That can further irritate your skin, and lead to infection.”

7. Keep Your Hands Off

One of the most effective ways to avoid breakouts is also one of the most simple (and most often overlooked). “Keep your hands away from your face during a workout,” trainer Andrea Orbeck says. “When you think of how dirty and bacteria-laden all the gym equipment is, touching your face is like giving yourself an acne-facial.” She tells her clients to bring a towel and use it to wipe the sweat off their face and chest. Even better: Bring two small towels. Use one to protect your skin from the equipment and the other to wipe off your face and chest. Orbeck also recommends washing your hands occasionally during a workout — and always wash them just before leaving the gym.

One of the most effective ways to avoid breakouts is also one of the most simple (and most often overlooked). “Keep your hands away from your face during a workout,” trainer Andrea Orbeck says. “When you think of how dirty and bacteria-laden all the gym equipment is, touching your face is like giving yourself an acne-facial.” She tells her clients to bring a towel and use it to wipe the sweat off their face and chest. Even better: Bring two small towels. Use one to protect your skin from the equipment and the other to wipe off your face and chest. Orbeck also recommends washing your hands occasionally during a workout — and always wash them just before leaving the gym.

8. Wear a Hat During Outdoor Workouts

When it comes to skin care and safety, head gear trumps sunscreen, according to trainer Andrea Orbeck. Sweat-resistant, water-resistant sunscreens sometimes have very occlusive ingredients that can clog pores. Orbeck says that wearing a cotton hat or visor is the best choice for outdoor exercise. And when it comes to sunscreen, aim for something lighter. “There are great toners/sprays you can use on the face and body after exercising that will help prevent the nasties from forming,” she says.

When it comes to skin care and safety, head gear trumps sunscreen, according to trainer Andrea Orbeck. Sweat-resistant, water-resistant sunscreens sometimes have very occlusive ingredients that can clog pores. Orbeck says that wearing a cotton hat or visor is the best choice for outdoor exercise. And when it comes to sunscreen, aim for something lighter. “There are great toners/sprays you can use on the face and body after exercising that will help prevent the nasties from forming,” she says.

9. Try a Tea Tree Oil Spot Treatment

If the breakout is minor — just a pimple here or there — facialist Lili Menini recommends spot treating the blemish with a tea tree oil stick or dabbing the oil directly with a cotton swab both pre- and post-workout. “A lot of my clients break out in the same spots,” she says. “This is a really effective way of controlling that.” Tea tree oil has anti-microbial properties and has been shown to kill acne-causing bacteria. For those with sensitive skin or who can’t use benzoyl peroxide, the oil is a great choice because it’s anti-inflammatory and won’t cause peeling.

If the breakout is minor — just a pimple here or there — facialist Lili Menini recommends spot treating the blemish with a tea tree oil stick or dabbing the oil directly with a cotton swab both pre- and post-workout. “A lot of my clients break out in the same spots,” she says. “This is a really effective way of controlling that.” Tea tree oil has anti-microbial properties and has been shown to kill acne-causing bacteria. For those with sensitive skin or who can’t use benzoyl peroxide, the oil is a great choice because it’s anti-inflammatory and won’t cause peeling.

10. Blemish-Proof Your Body

If you’re prone to body breakouts, all of these tips can also be applied to body acne, too. Always shower immediately after working out and cleanse with a mild soap. If you aren’t able to shower right away, Dr. Haleh Bakshandeh recommends using anti-acne body sprays that’s two-percent salicylic acid. “They’re easy to use on the go and easy to apply on difficult-to-reach areas, such as the back,” she says. “These sprays work to both clear up acne and prevent it.”

If you’re prone to body breakouts, all of these tips can also be applied to body acne, too. Always shower immediately after working out and cleanse with a mild soap. If you aren’t able to shower right away, Dr. Haleh Bakshandeh recommends using anti-acne body sprays that’s two-percent salicylic acid. “They’re easy to use on the go and easy to apply on difficult-to-reach areas, such as the back,” she says. “These sprays work to both clear up acne and prevent it.”

What Do YOU Think?

Are you prone to workout breakouts? What have you done in the past to prevent them? Have you ever tried any of these techniques? What other treatments or tips would you add to the list? Share your stories, suggestions and questions in the comments section below!

Are you prone to workout breakouts? What have you done in the past to prevent them? Have you ever tried any of these techniques? What other treatments or tips would you add to the list? Share your stories, suggestions and questions in the comments section below!

Gesture Drawing – The Ultimate Guide For Beginners

Bonus Download: New to painting? Start with my free Beginner’s Guide to Painting.

One area I have been really interested in lately is gesture drawing. I have found it to be a fantastic way to improve how I see as an artist and train my understanding of form and anatomy.

Over the past few months I have spent about 10 to 20 minutes a day doing some simple gesture drawings in the morning. As a result, I have seen significant benefits to my overall development as an artist. I am still primarily interested in painting, but sometimes in order to continue improving in one area, you need to explore other areas.

So in light of this, I put together a complete guide to gesture drawing for those of you who also want to practice it.

What Is Gesture Drawing?

Gesture drawing involves capturing the action, form and pose of a subject. Typically, you will draw a model who adopts timed poses ranging from 1 to 5 minutes. The shorter the pose, the less information you will be able to capture. In the most primitive form, a gesture drawing could be nothing more than a couple of curved lines which indicate the gesture. For longer poses, you can start adding more detail and tone.

The purpose of gesture drawing is primarily to study human form and anatomy. It allows you to explore the way the body moves and is connected. You will start to get a feel for the contractions, joints, twists, pulls and curves demonstrated by the human body. As you do not have time to merely copy what you see, you must make quick and logical assumptions about how the body works. For example, instead of trying to draw the lines and shapes which make up the model’s arm, you will need to ask yourself.

  • How is the arm connected to the rest of the body?
  • Where are the joints?
  • Are there any twists or pinches in the muscles?
  • Is the arm facing toward or away from me?
  • What is the contour of the arm?

Do you see the difference between these questions and merely copying what you see? Copying what you see is fine, but to really see as an artist, then you need to understand what is going on and what you are actually seeing.

The Benefits Of Gesture Drawing

Here are some of the great benefits of gesture drawing:

It does not take up much time. The set-up time for gesture drawing is minimal. All you need is a pen/pencil and a sketchbook. And the poses can be as short as 1 minute. So you can easily fit in gesture drawing in short intervals throughout the day. As noted earlier, I have been practicing gesture drawing every morning for the past few months. I actually find it to be a very relaxing start to the day.

You do not have to worry about making mistakes. You should not be doing any erasing in gesture drawing. If you make a mistake, then just learn from it and move on to the next drawing.

You will see noticeable improvements in your drawing within a relatively short period of time. This is because you are working relatively fast and will encounter so many more problems than if you were just doing one large artwork. The more problems you encounter, the more solutions you will develop.

You will learn how to draw more instinctively. You cannot afford to think too much with gesture drawing, so you need to rely much more on instinct.

You will gain a better understanding of form and the human anatomy. This is one of the main reasons people practice gesture drawing in the first place. It really gives you a feel for the form and anatomy of the human body. You will learn how the body moves and is connected.

It will indirectly benefit your painting skills. Drawing is the backbone of painting, so do not overlook it. Gesture drawing is a very efficient way to hone your drawing skills without having to commit a significant amount of time to it.

It is great for warming up your hands. I often find my first drawings in a session are rigid and tight. My hands just do not do what my eyes want them to do. But as I progress, my hands and eyes warm up and everything starts to flow.

Gesture Drawing Tips

Start with the head first. Everything flows from the head and it helps to develop a consistent starting point. With each pose, I will look for the head and quickly draw the outline before moving on to the rest of the pose. By doing this, there is no hesitation at the start of every pose as I know exactly how I want to start. Also, try to make a quick note of where the head is looking (up, down, left, right). After you have identified the head, then observe how the rest of the body is flowing from there. A great reference point is the spine. If I am ever lost, I just follow the spine and try to build form around that.

Always be thinking about the contour of the body. Is the body leaning toward or away? Where are the pinches and changes in direction? You can then use simple contour lines to give an indication of this. Not every line needs to follow the contour, but it is useful to have a few major contour lines as reference points.

Try to capture the essence of the pose before you try to render form. Regardless of any time limits, the first thing you should do in gesture drawing is to capture the essence of the pose. Once you have done that, you can go over and render with more detail and tone. This follows the general art guideline of working general to specific.

Use simple and meaningful lines. Try to draw every line with some kind of purpose. Do not draw lines just for the sake of drawing lines. I usually make a few practice strokes in the air before committing to the paper. Kind of like how a golfer will make a few practice swings before connecting with the ball.

Working quickly does not mean working recklessly. Working quickly is more about making quick decisions rather than making quick strokes of your pencil/pen. If you watch some of the really great drawers like Glenn Vilppu and Steve Huston, you should notice how slow they work, even when working with timed poses (there are videos of these two artists later in this post).

Dont just copy. Try to really get a feel for the pose and action. This is the purpose of gesture drawing.

Embrace the curves. You should be careful with straight lines. Most of the time, curved lines are much more effective for rendering the human form. So instead of drawing a straight line for an arm, think about the action and pose of that arm and use curves to render this.

Try to capture what you like most about the pose. Usually, there will only be one or two things which you really like about a certain pose. Focus on those aspects and really try to emphasize them. It could be the pinch in the shoulder, the curve of the back or form of the chest. Sometimes you may even want to exaggerate the pose slightly to really capture what you want out of the pose.

What Medium Should You Use For Gesture Drawing?

Gesture drawing is fantastic for experimenting with different mediums which you are not familiar with. The only requirement I would suggest is that you pick a fast-drying medium (so you may want to avoid oils for gesture drawing).

You will find the way you draw will change depending on the medium you use. For pen and ink, I rely heavily on line rather than tone or shape. But with pencils or markers, I can incorporate more tonal work.

Here are some of the mediums you might want to explore:

Pen and ink: fantastic for line work but not so much for tonal work.

Pencil: similar to pen and ink but you can use the broad side of the pencil for shading. You also have a much wider range of tones you can use which varies based on the pressure you apply. You can read more about the different drawing pencils here.

Markers: great for bold strokes. Steve Huston suggests that you use old markers which have dried slightly.

Some kind of fast-drying wet medium (like watercolor brush pens): useful for quick and broad washes of color. You can get some interesting results by combining a wet medium with something like pen and ink.

In this video you can see Glenn Vilppu doing gesture drawing with several different mediums.

Below are two gesture drawings created using mostly pencil. In the bottom sketch, I had more time so I could start incorporating more tonal work. The pencil excels at this as you have a much wider range of tones which you can use compared to some other mediums like pen and ink. The top drawing is much more primitive as I only had a minute to capture the pose. I also went over the top of the drawing with some pen and ink to really emphasize some of the contours and edges. Remember, there are no rules to gesture drawing so you can mix and match the mediums you use to suit how you want to draw.

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