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Figures in watercolour

Part 1 Brian Smith looks at some of the problems associated with rendering figures in watercolour. This month, figures in the background and middle distance


Improve your knowledge and understanding of figures

Incorporate figures into your watercolour paintings

Loosen up your brushstrokes

Barcelona, the Latin Quarter, watercolour on Bockingford 140lb NOT watercolour paper, 15x11in. (38x28cm). Note that distant figures are often monochrome and monotone, being symptoms of both aerial perspective and contre jour, to heighten the mood.

For many, the prospect of painting figures, either as a focal point or as accessories to a scene, can be a daunting one. Paintings that otherwise jaunt along happily can falter at the dreaded prospect; figures risk being the wrong scale, overworked, cautiously understated, distorted, of a different style to the rest of the painting or simply with no coherent style or method at all.

Unfortunately figures are often an essential part of a scene; without them urban spaces look lonely and lacklustre, and they add meaningful scale, a sense of recession and a sense of place and perspective we can relate to, in many outdoor scenes.

Wet Day, New York (below right) shows a range of figures at varying scales and degrees of resolution in back, middle and foregrounds, and it can be useful to consider them in this way, in effect as either the extras, the supporting cast or the stars, although as we shall see there is no definitive right or wrong way to go about painting them. Hopefully, describing some of the problems and my solutions to them might help you to think about your own approach.

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Leisure Painter - Jan-19
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About Leisure Painter

Have fun as you learn to paint with Leisure Painter. Aimed at beginners and amateur painters, this month's magazine offers step-by-step demonstrations, tutorials, projects from photographs, illustrated techniques and tips and techniques for painting with watercolour, acrylic, water-mixable oils, pastel, coloured pencils, ink and other drawing media. Find out how to paint seasonal landscapes, seascapes, wildlife, flowers and figures. There's also an article on mindful drawing techniques and one artist's experience of painting a large-scale mural on a remote tropical island. Enjoy your month of painting with Leisure Painter.