How to Draw Cartoons > Exercises Expressing Action

Here is a game for you to play, either by yourself or with a group. It is entertaining and amusing -- but more than that, it is a most helpful way for you to develop your skill in drawing human figures in action.

Suppose you play this game in a group. Each person starts by drawing five dots at random distances apart on a sheet of paper. Then they pass their paper to the person sitting on their left. The neighbor then draws an action figure, using the dots just as they have been placed. One dot represents the position of the head, one the position of a foot. Another dot is the position of the other foot, and the two remaining dots represent the position of the hands.

No matter where the dots are placed, they must represent these five body parts. The person who first places the dots on paper may or may not have any specific action in mind. The action is left for the next person to figure out. The game can be repeated endlessly. If you play by yourself, you can draw random dots without thinking of action, but only of dots. Then try to fit the action to the dots.

This game is great fun, and you learn a lot when you play it. Examples of how it is done are shown below.


Posture and gesture, as well as facial expression, convey emotional activity. Though your figures shown no physical motion, they can express themselves vigorously. Sometimes emotions are shown in facial expression, but sometimes they are apparent just in the posture. These are subtle things. You can learn to draw them by much quiet observation. Watch people talk with their hands. Watch them change posture in different situations. Keep a little notebook for jotting down these observations. Write notes to help you remember the meaning of certain gestures. If you do this you'll make good pantomime pictures.

When you draw in pantomime action you'll find yourself unconsciously taking the action yourself, just as you do when you draw physical action. The more completely you identify yourself with the subject you're drawing, the more real your drawing will appear. Some cartoons are drawn wholly in pantomime with no words and very little action. Very often the less overt action and the fewer words, the more striking the cartoon.

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