Including Figures To Your Panorama

I’m sitting penning this submit on a KLM airplane, blasting my means throughout the Atlantic to the UK (through Amsterdam) the place I’ll be educating two workshops – one within the Yorkshire Dales and one in Cornwall. I’ve solely simply returned from Toronto the place I taught three workshops on the ICAN Conference organized by Pastel Artists Canada and earlier than that, I used to be demoing on the Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE) in Denver. Whew! So in deciding what to share with you, I made a decision we’d return to PACE the place my demo targeted on including figures to your panorama.

Add a determine to your portray and it’ll virtually at all times catch a viewer’s consideration. However a determine must learn appropriately to liven up your portray. If it doesn’t work, for example, the determine is out of proportion, it will possibly lower an in any other case great portray all the way down to its knees!

So why add figures to your panorama? 

Folks can carry that means and may add a story that isn’t there with out them. A panorama with a path pulls us in to observe the trail. Add a determine within the distance and we might join with the individual, and begin imagining a narrative. 

A determine may even immediately supply a way of scale.

The factor is, a viewer immediately is aware of when a determine is “flawed!” You may’t simply get away with incorrect placement and proportions!

Listed below are six issues that may crop up when including figures to your panorama:

  1. The proportion is out of whack
  2. The pose is awkward or unreal
  3. The position and dimension doesn’t really feel proper (ie doesn’t match the portray’s linear perspective)
  4. The lighting doesn’t match what’s occurring in the remainder of the portray
  5. The color of the determine doesn’t hook up with the principle colors of the portray
  6. The determine has a “pasted-on” look

So let’s take care of every of those issues one after the other.


I’d say proportion is the simplest place to fall down. As an illustration, we are likely to make the top too massive for the physique. Generally the legs and arms don’t appear fairly the proper size. For instance, legs can seem simply too brief!

The factor is, we don’t want so as to add a lot for a viewer to imagine there’s a full-blown determine. Just a few strains, a number of strokes, could also be all that’s wanted. It’s getting these strains within the appropriate place that makes the determine plausible.

Usually, an grownup is seven to eight heads tall. So that provides you some indication of the scale relationship between head and the remainder of the physique. Heads are oval formed quite than spherical. Elbows hook up with the waist. Legs are just about divided in two by the knee. An arm that hangs at your aspect reaches down your thigh and in the event you stretch your thumbs in the direction of one another in entrance of your physique, they meet nearly the place your leg begins (on the within).

My pastel demo about adding figures to your landscape.
My pastel demo about including figures to your panorama.

When including a determine, you should guarantee it’s within the appropriate relationship to its environment. That is the place linear perspective is available in. You may present scale and distance by including figures in relationship to one another and the horizon. Folks nearer to us (and the image airplane) are bigger, and people additional away are smaller.

The horizon is at all times at your eye stage. So in the event you’re standing, that’s the place the horizon line is. The identical is true in the event you’re sitting on the bottom – as you look out, the horizon line is at your seated eye stage. And the place’s the horizon line in the event you’re looking of a primary ground window? At your eye stage!

Should you’re standing and the figures in your portray are standing (and the bottom is stage), everybody’s head will kind of be on the identical stage whereas their our bodies will get shorter and the figures get smaller as they recede in the direction of the horizon line.

Should you’re seated and everybody else is standing, notice the place the horizon line (your eye stage) meets their our bodies – someplace within the center.

If I’m looking a window, the figures beneath will all be beneath the horizon line.

Understanding this, you possibly can put folks in the place you need them and they are going to be plausible.

Thoughts you, if the bottom rises, issues will shift (eg folks’s heads shall be above your eye stage), and on it goes. The factor is to OBSERVE!!!

adding figures to your landscape - Some sketches showing different eye levels
Some sketches displaying completely different eye ranges

You’re aiming to create convincing poses, ones that appear pure. One factor to notice is the place a determine’s weight is positioned. Drop a plumb line from the nape of the neck to the ft.

If a determine is standing straight with weight evenly distributed, the road touches down between each ft. When an individual’s weight is moved onto one foot, the ankle of that leg lies straight beneath the nape of the neck.

OBSERVE and begin sketching figures.


Should you’re including figures that aren’t in your scene then be sure to get the lighting the identical as within the panorama. Unusual issues can occur in the event you add a determine from a distinct picture and don’t take note of the lighting! As an illustration, the forged shadow from a determine could also be getting in a distinct path from these forged by the timber. Not good!

Is the sunshine coming from overhead, from the aspect, from the entrance or again? The determine must have the identical form of mild fall on it because the panorama. 


I counsel bringing among the color of your portray into the determine itself even in order for you it to be carrying pink in opposition to a inexperienced subject. Hyperlink among the inexperienced into the determine and perhaps scumble among the pink into one other a part of the portray.

adding figures to your landscape - Gail Sibley, “Exploring the Possibilities,” Unison Colour on UART 400, 9 x 12 in.
Gail Sibley, “Exploring the Potentialities,” Unison Color on UART 400, 9 x 12 in.

The best solution to forestall that is by softening some edges!!

To start out including figures to your panorama and make them plausible, YOUR ACTION is to begin squinting and making small sketches of individuals, capturing pose, weight, and contour. This offers you observe in capturing the angle of an individual. These are simply notations to get you used to the proportions and place of a determine. When you do that again and again, it’s simpler to put an imagined determine into your portray.

adding figures to your landscapes - a page full of figure jottings
A web page stuffed with determine jottings

I’d love to listen to if this was useful. Do you often add figures to your panorama work? Do they at all times appear to be they belong there? Or maybe you wish to add a determine or two to your portray however you simply don’t eel assured about doing so? Comply with the following tips and also you’ll handle simply superb!  

Till subsequent time!