Drawing as a Puzzle: Moving Objects

Any drawing, at its core, is just an illusion. You take something three-dimensional and you put it on a two-dimensional surface. We take the tools of perspective, value, overlapping, and proportion and use them to convert what we see into something tangible on a piece of paper. But what about the things we don’t see? Or what about the things we do see but happen too quickly for us to observe? Or things that are moving?

This is where drawing gets hard. How do we represent something that is moving when drawing it will inevitably make it stationary?

Today I’m showing you an exercise you can apply to help you think in a way that makes it easier to portray moving objects.

1) First, you’ll need to pick an object. I recommend something simple, but with enough variety so that it looks different from different angles. Some examples include a:

  • Box
  • Pair of shoes
  • Mannequin model
  • Phone
  • Banana

But not things like balls, cups, or plates.

2) Then you’ll want to place the object in an area where you’ll have enough space to turn it. Grab your sketchbook, whatever drawing medium suits you, and simply draw the object in front of you.

3) Now it gets harder. Rotate the object 45 degrees and draw it again, right on top of the drawing you just finished. Don’t erase away the previous drawing, as you should be able to distinguish two copies of the object on your drawing paper.

4) Turn the object another 45 degrees and draw it again. Repeat this process until you arrive at the original pose.


5) When you finish you should have eight drawings stacked over each other, and you’ll notice that the object appears as though it is spinning! If you want, try to rework your drawing so that this effect is enhanced.

FullSizeRender (1)
“Spinning Star,” graphite on paper, 18″ x 24″, Daniel A. Alfonso

Now, if you think about it, the repetition of objects is a perfectly valid tool to show objects moving. After all, that’s how movies (motion pictures) work: you’re being shown a series of successive images at a rapid rate. If you want to improve your drawing, try lightening up some of the earlier layers so that they seem to be disappearing, giving your drawing a flipbook effect.

Hopefully this exercise has shown you that there are so many drawing tools available to help you solve almost any drawing problem. We can acquire many of these of tools by looking at the way our brains perceive visual stimuli. For example, here is the Wikipedia link to the motion perception article that makes this illusion possible. Don’t limit yourself to just the drawing techniques you’re familiar with: constantly learning new techniques will help you expand your repertoire and let you solve challenging visual puzzles.

Until next time,





  1. Very interesting little exercise. I’ve been studying anatomy, drawing bones…each image rotated slightly from the previous. I never thought of putting them all together in a single, continuous drawing.


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