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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > May 19 > Figures in watercolour

Figures in watercolour

Amanda Hyatt shows you how to add impressionistic figures to your watercolour paintings to add life and movement
Hot on the Beach, watercolour on rice paper, 271⁄2x193⁄4in (70x50cm)

My style of art is traditional tonal realist impressionism. This may sound like a lot of words put together -– and I could add more such as romantic, moody, misty, contrasty – but art is a complex thing and very personal so you will only like what you like. Impressionism, tonalism and romanticism can be described as follows: Impressionism is the art of optical analysis; it depicts what the brain registers through the eye, unenhanced by prior knowledge, emotion or memory. Colour and light are equally important. Tonalism is the reliance on browns, whites and blacks rather than colour, and a graduation of these dark and light tones into three or four tones from lightest to darkest. There is a preference for painting in the light of mornings and evenings and evaluating work through half-closed eyes (squinting) and distance. Tonalists use large palettes, large brushes and minimal brushstrokes. Romanticism means painting with individual imagination, emotion, sensitivity, originality, inspiration, personality and intuition. There is often a story behind the painting. This is especially important to me and fits beautifully alongside tonalism and impressionism.

Correct proportions

I find less is more and excessive detail unnecessary for a painting to be successful. In my series ‘Five steps to watercolour’ (May to September 2018 issues) I explained how to create your own piece of art, with all your personal input and preferences, recomposing the image, using different colours, using washes and glazes, heavily relying on tone, light and shade, capturing the light and omitting unnecessary detail. After all, no artist can truthfully reproduce nature, so when trying to capture it we have to create a likeness by manipulating the paint as much as possible for a 3D effect on a 2D piece of paper. The more you try to paint a realistic representation of the image the more you will fail and the more stagnant the painting will become, because nature will always do it better than you. Any painting, therefore, is a representation (photorealism) or an interpretation (expressionism) or an impression (emotional response). This emotional response applies to all subject matter in tonal impressionism, and this article is specifically about how to paint figures like an impressionist.

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About The Artist

Welcome to the May issue of The Artist, packed with inspirational, practical features designed to help all artists develop their drawing and painting techniques in all media. From learning how to control your watercolour brushwork with Hazel Soan, choose the right medium for your style of oil painting, create the illusion of depth in a coastal scene in acrylics, to making simple but dramatic landscapes without a printing press, there's something for everyone, whatever your skill level or preferred medium. Discover how drawing cartoons can help you to loosen up in your painting with Shirley Trevena and enjoy the benefits of painting en plein air with tips and advice from Geoff Hunt, Peter Graham and Paul Gadenne. Try spray-paint techniques to spice up your mixed-media compositions, add figures to give life to your watercolour paintings with Amanda Hyatt and paint a seasonal bluebell wood in three easy steps with Paul Talbot-Greaves. There's also a wealth of information about competitions to enter, exhibitions to see, special offers, art world news, courses and holidays and much more to enjoy in this month's issue. Plus, don't forget to enter your best work to our TALPOpen competition for the chance to see your work exhibited, published in the magazine, and win one of the fantastic prizes worth over £17,000!