How to paint people with watercolors, oils or acrylics can be done as a detailed portrait or as a simple suggestion of a figure. Either way adding people to your paintings is a great way to add interest. The viewer will spend more time looking at your painting when there are people featured in the scene.
One way of adding figures or people to your painting is to add them quickly and without much detail. When painted this way they are viewed as a suggestion, even without the detail a viewer knows what they are. You will see improvement in your figures if you practice them often. They can be done from life or photos or even from your imagination.
Some examples for adding people to your paintings is to show people walking. Like a couple walking hand in hand or someone walking a dog. I often bring my watercolors when I go to the beach. I paint small, quick watercolors of kids and adults walking, swimming, playing in the sand or sitting on colorful towels and chairs. When you get the chance try to practice painting outdoors and don’t forget to have fun with it! It gives action to your paintings when you include people into your subject.
Some of the facts for drawing and painting people are:
- there are about seven heads in the total height of the figure.
- the top of the legs or waist is half the height of the figure.
- arms hang to about halfway down the thigh.
Observing people is the best way to learn the right proportions. I always look for the light falling on a figure and I use that to create form. Look for the shadows on people and use light values next to dark values. Try not to paint stick figures, notice how people stand and walk and the angle created with shoulders and hips.
Be sure to scale people to their surroundings. People closer to you are bigger than people in the distance. Be sure that your people are the correct proportion to buildings, doors, cars etc. Use the biggest brush possible and paint shapes to create your figures and add as little detail as possible. I recently painted a small quick watercolor of a man sitting in a beach chair. He was sitting right at the water’s edge looking out to sea. I used a large squirrel mop brush for the entire 5 inch by 7 inch painting.
A story will be told when you add figures to your paintings. A beach scene is much more interesting with a couple walking along the shore or someone walking a dog on a leash. Imagine that scene without the people, the entire scene is stagnant or dull. Your painting will come to life when you paint people into your subject. Painting people takes practice but have fun with it. Try not to be perfect and your figures will be more expressive.