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Old 04-25-2010, 02:32 AM
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Yorky Yorky is online now
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April Mini-Class IV Tutorial - Putting People in Your Paintings

Part 1 - Distant Figures

Let's have some fun with figures!

Many painters avoid putting people in their landscapes and streetscapes, yet even a couple of simple figures can add so much to the scene. A person in a landscape immediately takes the eye and so should be carefully sited to focus attention on the centre of interest.

Figures in a landscape needn't be to detailed, especially distant ones. Remember Frank Clarke's "carrot" people? Rarely do you need to include any facial features, a good ploy is to have the nearest ones facing away from you . When painting a crowd, you can merge figures together.

Frank Clarke Carrot people example:

Another excellent book is People Painting Practice by John Keith Reed:

It's fun to practice painting stick figures in various poses. Try painting in a flesh colour (alizarin crimson + burnt sienna etc) then adding clothing and hair. The amount and position of the hair can indicate which way the person is facing and remember when people walk they swing their arms:

Example stick figures I did - now I know you can do better than this , why not have a go? Remember these are tiny figures which will be in the distance in your paintings.

Why not have a try? We'll go on to closer figures in my next post.

Post your figure doodles in the Homework Thread Here.


Last edited by Yorky : 08-15-2010 at 10:37 AM. Reason: Heading size
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Old 04-25-2010, 02:52 AM
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Re: April 2010 Mini-Class 4 - Putting People in your Paintings

Part 2 - Closer figures mean More Detail

As figures get closer you may have to show a little more detail. The most important thing to watch are the proportions and balance in the pose of the figure. The hips are at the half point and the shoulders the quarter point and the supporting foot of a static figure must be below the centre of gravity.

Generally you don't have to put in much detail or facial features. The foundations of all figures is the skeleton and I recommend a wonderful book "People painting Scrapbook ISBN 0-89134-252-4" by J Everett Draper who uses skeletons to show how to ensure that despite the pose the figure is balanced:

Examples of rough skeletons I did from the book:

The book goes on to show more detailed sketches, here are some I did from the book, there are many more examples:

When adding figures in a beach or street scene, if the street is level all the heads should line up with the horizon and the position of the feet indicates how far away they are. If the street slopes or your viewpoint is above or below the figures then the heads follow the perspective rules.

Here are a couple more street photos from my trip to Italy 2 years ago which may give you some ideas:

Why not have a try at a few figures? here are some quick sketches from the photos above - around 2 inches/5cm high.

Many artists will tell you to leave off the feet, but certainly for closer figures I think the position of the feet can help tell the viewer whether the person is standing, walking or running. Two feet firmly planted on the ground show the figure is standing, one foot raised on its toe indicates the person is walking.

Here are some wonderful cartoon figures by Fritz Ahlefeldt which show a more fun approach but could give you some ideas.

A free website with people poses.

Examples of my paintings with figures added:

Detail from Tudor House theses are small figures:

Hanna's House - static and walking figures:

Bolton Abbey - figures in motion:

Knaresborough Market (detail):

Knaresborough Hardware Store

Why not have a play? As they say, "practice makes perfect" or in this case removes the fear of adding figures to your paintings.

Post your figures in the April Mini-Lessons Homework Thread HERE. (stars at post#40)

Reference websites

Hazel Soan Video
Drawing and Sketching People
Jim's Watercolor Gallery
How to add People to Street Scene - Jake Winkle
How to Paint People in Watercolor by Liron Yonconsky


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Old 06-04-2013, 02:53 AM
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Re: April Mini-Class IV Tutorial - Putting People in Your Paintings

Here's a link to an Urban Sketcher's post by Suhita Shirodkar with wonderful gesture drawings of people on the beach.


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