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Tuesday, March 08, 2016

From the Archives: Tips for Adding Figures to a painting part 2

'Hurry Up!'               8x10               pastel             ©Karen Margulis
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     sold


Sue Marrazzo said...


robertsloan2art said...

Brrr... oh these remind me of when I lived in Chicago. I think I like it better here with warm rain and friendly barn cats!

For all their looseness, those figures carry the intensity of the scene. You really got the feel of it.

Cici said...

I love all your Art projects and I love your techniques ...