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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Putting Some Life into Your Painting

'Salt Marsh Music'           9x12         pastel         ©Karen Margulis
purchase painting in my Etsy shop $125

My marsh painting was too quiet. That wasn't how it was. I remembered waking early for sunrise over the ocean and then heading over to the marsh coffee and camera in hand. And it wasn't quiet. Sure it was peaceful but the marsh was filled with life. Fish jumping in the creek.  The croak of a heron flying over head. The chatter of our illusive Kingfisher. The marsh was not empty.

My favorites were the silent hunters...the egrets. The creek was filled with both Great White Egrets and Snowy Egrets. They were fascinating to watch as they quietly watched for their breakfast.

My painting needed some egrets!

The natural place to put them was at the edge of the creek but where?  In the foreground? The far bank? How many? How big?   These were important considerations. If I put them in the wrong place or didn't make them the proper size for the location it would ruin the painting.

Here are a few tips for adding life (figures or animals) into a painting.

  • Decide if the painting is about the landscape or about the figure. This will determine how much detail you need for the figure vs the surroundings. 
  • Try to have a plan. Think about how the placement of the figure will effect the way the viewer reads the painting. Remember that we naturally are drawn to a figure or animal...anything alive! So you want to be sure they are where you want your viewer to look.  Avoid putting them right at the edge of the painting. It might draw the eye right out of the painting!
  • Decide how large you need to make the figure/animal. Make sure it will be the right size in relation to the surroundings. A huge egret towering over the grasses will look unnatural.
  • If the painting is about the landscape wit a touch of 'life' than a suggestion of that life is all you may need. I made my egrets with a small white detail at all!
  • Uneven numbers are more pleasing. It is said that it is best to avoid equal numbers. I started with one. Then added one on the other side for balance but it was too balanced. So I added a third and then I was happy. You can also vary the sixe slightly or the way the figure faces to add variety to your groups.
  • From Edgar Payne:  The viewer's gaze will follow the direction of the gaze of the figure so it is a good plan to have them facing toward the center. Also figures should never be forced too strongly  but should be well integrated into the design.
So if you have a painting and it needs a little life! Go ahead and add some! You can always brush them out if you don't like it!


Marian Fortunati said...

Karen... Great post! Helpful information.
I once had a painting that I moved the egrets around in three times!!

The end result was much better than the first several iterations.

You were totally right to add "life" into your painting!! -- Looks great!

Karen said...

Thank you Marian! I appreciate your comment! I like the egrets and was nervous about putting them in at the end but reminded myself I could always move them!!

BJR said...

I love this painting. It looks like a peaceful place...yet alive with the addition of "life". I learn so much from you...thanks!

angela j simpson said...

Lovely painting - fabulous colours