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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Adding Figures to Paintings

'City Sidewalks'            6x6            pastel         ©Karen Margulis
 It began last Fall.  I started putting tiny suggestions of houses in my marsh paintings. It's funny how our work evolves and changes.  I never was interested in adding figures or buildings to my paintings. I primarily painted 'pure' landscapes and they usually had no signs of life....no buildings and certainly no figures.

But lately I seem drawn to showing how we interact with the landscape and cities. I am enjoying the suggestion of a person in my paintings....children sledding, people walking in the city...nothing detailed. Maybe just a few strokes but enough to allow my viewers to imagine being in the painting.

'The Winter Walk'             6x6           pastel
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It must have been brewing for awhile...this desire to add people to my paintings. When I look at the reference photos I have taken, many of them include people. The last few cruises I have taken I have filled sketchbooks with gesture drawing of my fellow passengers. It is being stored in my head so It can now come out in my work!

I remember a conversation I once had with Terry Ludwig several years ago. I was attending his workshop and the discussion came up about painting figures and buildings in the landscape.  I said there was no way I could ever paint a figure or architecture....it was too hard!  Terry said "Remember they are just SHAPES"  That has stuck with me and now I remind myself that I can paint them because after all they are only shapes!

'Take Me Sledding'            6x6         pastel

'The Coming Snow'               6x6           pastel
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I am glad you have added figures. There is so much more of a "story", a mystery that draws me into the painting.

robertsloan2art said...

It's interesting and your suggestive figures are wonderful. You manage to convey so much in only a few strokes.

I haven't gotten to that point yet - and still may never do it with wilderness scenes, since I always loved in person a sense of getting there first. Personal taste, that. I like to see nature without anyone else there, no obligation to talk to anyone or think about anything to do with stress and people. There's two ways to look at it and that's the other.

However, where I'm drifting that way is with urban scenes. I live in the most beautiful city I have ever known and love it. I see its people and love them from the gut in a way that I never did before, because, it's San Francisco. They may not turn up in my wilderness scenes - but animals will. And when I did the city, I copped out and didn't put figures.

Until now, where even my life sketches I sometimes put them in. It's just different.

What I'd like to do in landscape wilderness painting is capture that moment you see the bobcat or the deer and have to hold still and just stand there in wonder being glad to be there. That's what I want to bring when I'm doing a creek or some trees or a mountainside.

Everyone's got their own thing about that.

Another thing, and this comes from who I am and where I live - the faces on little figures don't need to be pale. It's a matter of which stick to grab for the head and hands strokes to give them a darker complexion. When I do put in figures they wind up being that diverse, I do locals - and the locality that I Love best for putting figures in, no two are alike!

I also used to like putting historical figures in when in old neighborhoods. Leave out the power lines and put all the women in crinolines and men in top hats and bowlers and that. IT can work and is no harder than making them contemporary.

Like you said, it's just shapes. For a long time I made them too detailed when doing them. This, and especially the examples in this one ,shows me how much can be conveyed if I treat the figure like a bush or a rock!

Heh, some of it is memories and habits. I can't identify with walking a dog or walking with small child in bad weather, but if I don't see figures I imagine myself seeing it through a cosy window and enjoying the view.

But why if I'm more into that don't I put the occasional cat crossing the street? Or musician on the corner?

You've made me think and rethink what I do and I love these lessons.