How to Paint People and Figures Into a Painting

Adding people or figures such as animals or birds to a painting can make a nice painting into an extraordinary one. Suddenly the focus of the landscape is not the surroundings but what activity is happening in those surroundings.

The technique of adding figures to a painting makes the painting more personal and identifiable. Adding people or animals is easier than you may think.

The best way to think of doing this is by “suggesting” the fact that people or animals are in the scene. By this I mean, don’t detail. You will be much happier if you keep the figures back in the distant and kind of obscured.

The first thing you need are basic shapes. Decide what color you will want the figures to be. For example, a thin small blue upright rectangle could indicate the torso or legs of a person. Keep the lower part slightly separated to indicate separate legs.

For the body, use a squared off upside down triangle. In other-words, keep the shoulders a little wider than the rest. Finish off the little person by adding a small circle for the head. A grayed down purple-flesh color mixture is nice because it will look distant. Be careful when adding arms because often when looking at people from a distance, you don’t really see arms too well. A small flesh color on one side might work well however.

Finish it off by adding hair. Remember that there is no detail here. A few small strokes of color, that’s it. A hat would also be nice. A small slanted line starting about where the forehead would be with a tiny square sitting on the slanted line makes a nice gentleman’s hat.

As far as facial details, I would avoid if your subjects are in the distance. If you need them keep them simple and quick, just to give the viewer the “suggestion” that a mouth, nose or eyes are there.

Sometimes your figures will be separate, but other times they will be close, so make sure they overlap or connect at times. Not all people and animals are the same size, therefore vary the sizes of the figures as well.

Remember that the closer the figure the darker the color, distant figures will be more subdued or grayed. This is important because you don’t want the tiny figures to overtake the painting.

Have fun painting people and figures and always sign your painting.