I Did It!

I am so pleased with what I accomplished today in my watercolor practice. I just have to share it. It’s not much, really, but for me, it was a huge step forward. I painted figures. Yes, like in people. Real people. Well, all right, not real people, but painted ones who give the illusion of being real.

Watercolor artist John Lovett says:

Placing figures in a painting often adds life and interest that can make the difference between an ordinary painting and a good one. The subject of a  painting can change with the inclusion of figures. Emphasis shifts from the surroundings to the activity in which the figures are involved.

Recently I tried adding a figure to a drawing. The results were not good. I did everything wrong. I used a circle for the head, added a circular body, gave the poor fellow two legs, and a pair of feet. Typical beginner’s mistakes, I’ve since learned.

Today, I practiced figures again, and… I did it! Now, I don’t profess that these are the greatest figures ever painted, but I can say with certainty that they’re the best ones I’ve ever done.

Naked Figures (2)Here’s how they looked at first. You’ll notice I did three, each one a little larger than before. I wanted to practice with different sizes. Here they are in their naked version.

Once I had the forms painted — and the paint was dry — I was able to clothe them in simple attire. A sweater, a pair of trousers.

Each fellow got hair, too.  And, once dressed up, they looked pretty good!

Dressed FiguresNot perfect, but pretty good, if I do say so myself!

Here’s what I learned:

The head should be an oval shape, not round.

For the upper body, paint another, larger oval. Create just a suggestion of arms.

Paint the legs — together — in a long, tapered shape.

Once the figures are dry, add hair. The way you place the hair will determine the direction of the figure.

For clothes, paint the upper shape, and allow it to dry. Then use a natural gray to separate the arms. Use the gray to also create a shadow on one shoulder. You can blend the gray with a damp brush.

Paint the pants, creating a slight “open” area at the lower legs to give the illusion of walking. Add shadow to the pant legs.

Finish the figures off by adding a bit of cast shadow.

So there you have it! I can now paint figures. But what about two or more together? What about groups of figures? That’s coming up next in my watercolor practice, so wish me well!

More PeopleUpdate: I did my first “group” figure painting. I notice that a lot of my figures tend to lean to the left. I hope nobody falls over.

I’ll keep practicing. I’ll get better.





    1. Thank you! They’re not much, but I was very proud when I finished painting them. They actually do look human which is more than I can say for my previous attempts 🙂


  1. Oh Judith! WAY TO GO! I have yet to try to accomplish this – or even try really – but want to – and your tips are so so helpful! You did a REALLY GREAT JOB! So glad you shared!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Illusion, illusion, illusion. I’m etching those words into my brain. We’re not painting real people or real trees, or real anything. We’re creating illusions. With that in mind, it’s actually not all that difficult to paint figures. Single ones, at least. I have yet to try couples and groups. It’s going to be fun to do it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. How wonderful a moment of discovery! Yea!

    Lovett is new to me. Was just looking at his landscapes. They’re really gorgeous. Love the way he uses color. He also likes an element of evocative unfinish that creates a sense of mystery.

    Theses figures feel like they’re in motion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, for me, this was a little moment of triumph. Of course, I’ll be practicing more. John Lovett’s colors are awesome, and unlike a lot of artists, he has a tremendous range of subjects. I’ve enjoyed browsing his website.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I need a little encouragement today. Just ruined a watercolor 😦 It was looking so good until I tried adding a couple of trees in the foreground. So now I’m feeling totally discouraged again. I think it’s time for a break. Tomorrow will be a new day, right?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh no… that sounds terrible. I hate when that happens; like hours of work feel wasted. But if you think about it isn’t a complete waste – now you’ve learned how not to have went about it? I dont know… but yeah you should totally take a break. Too often our passion for creating gets ahead of us and we don’t pause when we need to! {All the best}

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I at least salvaged the sheet of paper — my good Arches 140 lb. — by turning it over and doing a different painting…more of a practice exercise really for the trees I’d been working on. So. yeah, I did get something for my time and effort. Yesterday afternoon was just a discouraging art day. I guess we all have those at times.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great work Judith! In the figure on the left, especially, I think you captured the motion of walking very well. In my experience, with watercolor, a key thing is to be PATIENT. This applies especially if you want a crisp edge in an area. You have to wait for the paint to dry – bone dry – before the next layer is applied. Else the new layer bleeds into the first one and the edge is ruined. For some reason, in the beginning, I just could not resist going back and fiddling before it was dry. Only after I had ruined several paintings in this way did I catch on!

    This does not apply, of course, if you want a blended edge or wet-in-wet effect, which can also be very nice.

    Great courage and discipline Judith – I keep following your journey with interest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I’ve learned the lesson about waiting for watercolor to try, but unfortunately I don’t always apply what I’ve learned. LOL I’m getting better though. I’ve ruined a lot of paintings through impatience. In fact, I ruined one yesterday that started off very promising. Maybe that will help me remember the lesson next time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I know what you mean. I don’t know why we do it!! Perhaps there is an impatient child in us who want to “participate” when we are trying to be all adult and structured about our art. Maybe it is a good thing we have that impatient element around? But if only we could co-operate! Keep on watching and leaning heh?

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad that my art experiences are helpful in some way. It makes me smile whenever someone tells me that. This community is so great. I’m very happy to think I’m giving back in some small way.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Nicely done, Judith. I learned techniques on how to do this recently at a workshop with Carol Carpenter and a good trick is to hold the brush further back away from the tip. it loosens you up and let’s you make impressionistic blobs. A small blob for the head, a larger blob for the torso and then legs and blobs for feet. quickly plop in arms. I blogged about it here: https://rachelm.wordpress.com/2016/04/06/workshop-notes/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, thank you! I’ll check that out. I did a group of figures today…some of them were tilting slightly to the left LOL. Hope they don’t fall down.


      1. I can hardly express how inspiring it is to me to follow along with your adventure! Also, have you noticed that your art blog is developing a lovely narrative structure? 🙂 The story of an artist is the story of a hero with a thousand faces! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, it is a lovely story, filled with all kinds of emotions! I’ve had my ups and downs, those discouraging days, and those wonderfully exciting and enlightening days that make it all worth while. Best of all, I’ve been able to meet so many fantastic people from all over the world. I love having this art blog. I’ve learned so much from the people I’ve met, and I’ve received so much encouragement and inspiration! Thank you for being part of this journey with me. 🙂 You’ve played a huge part in my development as an artist.

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