Including Figures To Your Panorama

I’m sitting penning this put up on a KLM aircraft, blasting my method throughout the Atlantic to the UK (by way of Amsterdam) the place I’ll be instructing 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, as an illustration, the determine is out of proportion, it could actually minimize an in any other case great portray all the way down to its knees!

So why add figures to your panorama? 

Folks can convey which means and might add a story that isn’t there with out them. A panorama with a path pulls us in to comply with the trail. Add a determine within the distance and we could join with the particular person, 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 “unsuitable!” You possibly can’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 measurement 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 connect with the primary colors of the portray
  6. The determine has a “pasted-on” look

So let’s cope with 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 pinnacle too giant for the physique. Generally the legs and arms don’t appear fairly the appropriate 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. A number of strains, a couple of strokes, could also be all that’s wanted. It’s getting these strains within the right place that makes the determine plausible.

Typically, 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-shaped reasonably than spherical. Elbows connect 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 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 need to guarantee it’s within the right relationship to its environment. That is the place linear perspective is available in. You possibly can present scale and distance by including figures in relationship to one another and the horizon. Folks nearer to us (and the image aircraft) 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 searching of a primary flooring window? At your eye stage!

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

For those who’re seated and everybody else is standing, be aware the place the horizon line (your eye stage) meets their our bodies – someplace within the center.

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

Understanding this, you may 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 can 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 toes.

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

OBSERVE and begin sketching figures.


For those who’re including figures that aren’t in your scene then be certain that to get the lighting the identical as within the panorama. Unusual issues can occur in the event you add a determine from a special picture and don’t take note of the lighting! As an illustration, the solid shadow from a determine could also be getting in a special route from these solid by the bushes. Not good!

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


I counsel bringing a number of the color of your portray into the determine itself even if you’d like it to be sporting pink towards a inexperienced discipline. Hyperlink a number of the inexperienced into the determine and possibly scumble a number of 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 Prospects,” Unison Color on UART 400, 9 x 12 in.

The best option to stop that is by softening some edges!!

To start out including figures to your panorama and make them plausible, YOUR ACTION is to start out squinting and making small sketches of individuals, capturing pose, weight, and contour. This will provide you with apply 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 time 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 filled with determine jottings

I’d love to listen to if this was useful. Do you repeatedly add figures to your panorama work? Do they at all times seem like they belong there? Or maybe you need to add a determine or two to your portray however you simply don’t really feel assured about doing so? Observe the following pointers and also you’ll handle simply effective!  

Till subsequent time!