Advice & Guidance

Figures in a Crowd with Marilyn Allis

24th November 2020 Estimated reading time: 2 mins

Marilyn Allis shows us how to create simple figures. Sometimes it just needs a little confidence and a few blobs of paint to include those elusive figures in a painting.

1 Starting with a simple carrot shape, use a strong colour for figures in the foreground. Bring the paint down and run in a similarly strong colour bringing the feet to a slight point, like the narrow end of a carrot. Because you are painting quickly the colours run a little which adds a sense of movement. Add a dab of light red for a face with just a touch of Sepia for hair. To create a shadow pull a little of the paint away at the feet.

2 For the two figures walking side by side, paint them close together so just linking, still using bright or strong colours as they are close to the foreground. Add a finishing touch of a small blob for the lady’s handbag.

3 Everyone will look a bit different in a crowd scene so to add variety indicate a dog on a lead. It doesn’t have to look like a dog as the lead will imply what it is.

4 To create figures that look like they are talking, simply bend their heads a little towards each other. Others can be made to look like they are moving by leaving one leg a little shorter than the other.

5 To create recession it is always a good idea to include a few distant figures in a crowded street scene. Paint the distant figures in the same way as those in the foreground, but use a pale wash of French Ultramarine and Burnt Umber and whilst this is still wet drip in a few of your cooler colours such as Alizarin Crimson or Intense Violet. Add touches such as sunshades or, in dismal weather, an umbrella. Children are easy to imply – they are just shorter, and slighter than the adults, and may be wearing brighter clothes.

An important factor to bear in mind is that the head heights are always more or less level – whether in the distance or foreground everyone has the same eye level, unless of course they are very tall or very short! To make people appear further away, shorten their bodies and legs but keep their eye level the same, unless they are standing higher up, or on a hill, then their eye level will be higher.

Have fun experimenting with ‘carrot people’, use scrap paper and play with different ideas. The more you experiment, the more confident you will become. It is easy to create simple little scenes like this which can be used as cards or miniatures in their own right!

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