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Thursday, December 27, 2018

Tips for Adding a Figure to a Landscape Painting part 1


'Like Father Like Son'            pastel                 ©Karen Margulis          9x7
available on Etsy 9x7
My Great Studio Clean Up begins today so I am sharing my latest painting and an article from the archives. I had so much fun adding the figures to this painting that I want to do more of this in 2019!  Enjoy this post from the archives!


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 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 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
'City Lights'         5x7        pastel      $50

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

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