Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Tips for Adding a Figure to a Pastel Painting part one

'Hurry Up!'               8x10               pastel             ©Karen Margulis
click here to purchase $145
I am not a landscape purist. I like touches of life in my paintings. Birds, bees, buildings and people all add an element of interest to a painting. Sometimes a small figure or even a telephone wire is just what the painting needs. For me it makes me feel connected to the scene....it invites me to join in.

Adding figures to a landscape or cityscape can be a challenge. I am not a figurative painter so it makes it even more of a challenge. I have a few tips that have helped me. 

Most important tip: I remind myself that a figure is just another shape. If I get the shape and gesture accurate the figure will come to life.

I have two approaches to adding a figure to a painting. I will share one today and the other in tomorrow's blog post.


Blocking in the figure

Adding a Larger Figure:


  • When the figure will be larger than an inch I will block in the figure and work on both the figure and the surroundings at the same time. 
  • I start with a dark value and mass in the entire shape of the figure. I try to get the gesture ...how the figure is moving and posing.
  • After the figure is blocked in I begin laying in the shapes and colors of the background.
  • Back to the figure I add lighter values to give the figure some form. I pay attention to the direction and color of the light source.
  • To refine the figure I use negative painting....I make use of the background color to carve into the figure.
  • I use the edges and side of my softest pastel for the figures....they are simply a collection of marks that I apply with bold strokes.
  • I don't worry about faces or features....I keep the figures simple. SIMPLE SHAPES that SUGGEST

Developing the background and refining the figure


Adding the snow
Below is another cityscape with figure done in the same way....she is a collection of simple shapes.

'City Lights'         5x7        pastel      $50



2 comments:

Chris Lally said...

Your paintings are simply magical! And thank you so much for the art tips. I always look forward to reading your wonderful blog posts!

robertsloan2art said...

Thank you for describing your technique! Your small figures are very poetic, they say a lot in very few strokes. I'm going to have to try it sometime.

I don't usually like having humans or cars in paintings if they're wilderness but in cities they're needed, it looks a bit like "end of the world" movies otherwise. But in my landscapes with forests and streams, the way you treated the dog as a figure showed me how I can treat distant animals.

The main animal in a painting might be closer and get more detail but that would be perfect to just have a deer off in the distance or a cat sitting on the street. It might really work well with cats since I've gotten enough practice I can do little gestures without a reference. They don't hold still in half the poses I want.

Would be fun to have a city scene with a whole bunch of cats here and there, you don't notice them all at first but eventually see that it's the time of evening they all come out to socialize!