Action Sketching: How to put more action into action sketching

Pay attention to the twist of a human torso when action sketching and less to formally studying its anatomy. While the torso has just two, non-moving main parts that rotate in conjunction with one another, that twist often dictates the force of movement.

The key to capturing motion in action sketching, then, is capturing how the torso  twists and flexes between the chest and the pelvis. When you capture that movement, the rest of a body’s possible actions falls in place.

The following tutorial video by master illustrator Jim Lee, describes how torso twist drives the action. Following it, I’ll briefly summarize his recommendations.

My summary:

  • Practice making “twisted” torsos (no extremities) as demonstrated in the video.
  • After making numerous torsos, add appendages (legs, arms, head) to create imaginary poses.
  • Compare your new torso-aware drawings to past sketches. Unless you are already a master like Jim Lee, I bet you’ll see a significant improvement.

Action models most certainly can inspire your imagination. Even without referencing a model, however, practice drawing torso twists should inspire your pose ideas.

In the example below, the bodies of the two figures are constructed from the same chest and pelvis shapes, but the one to the right is slightly twisted, causing its right leg to push back. The twist, then, dictated the position.

Whether you are trying to draw action heros, depict an aspect of a sporting event, or are just doodling with form, when you focus on capturing torso twisting, the actions in your action sketches will be more pronounced!



This article was written by Karen Little as part of an ongoing series of blogs on Action Sketching. Published on February 2, 2020.

Reproduction of this article is free to non-commercial websites (or other media) with permission and attributes to and the article’s author.

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