Including Figures To Your Panorama

I’m sitting scripting this submit on a KLM aircraft, blasting my manner 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 centered 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 example, the determine is out of proportion, it may minimize an in any other case fantastic portray right down to its knees!

So why add figures to your panorama? 

Individuals can convey which 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 particular person, and begin imagining a narrative. 

A determine will even immediately supply a way of scale.

The factor is, a viewer immediately is aware of when a determine is “improper!” You’ll be able to’t simply get away with incorrect placement and proportions!

Listed here 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 taking place 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 take care of every of those issues one after the other.


I’d say proportion is the simplest place to fall down. For example, we are likely to make the pinnacle too massive for the physique. Typically the legs and arms don’t appear fairly the suitable 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, just a few 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 dimensions relationship between head and the remainder of the physique. Heads are oval-shaped somewhat than spherical. Elbows connect with the waist. Legs are just about divided in two by the knee. An arm that hangs at your facet reaches down your thigh and should 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 have to guarantee it’s within the right relationship to its environment. That is the place linear perspective is available in. You’ll be able to present scale and distance by including figures in relationship to one another and the horizon. Individuals nearer to us (and the image aircraft) are bigger, and people additional away are smaller.

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

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

In case you’re seated and everybody else is standing, word the place the horizon line (your eye degree) 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 will probably be above your eye degree), and on it goes. The factor is to OBSERVE!!!

adding figures to your landscape - Some sketches showing different eye levels
Some sketches displaying totally 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.


In case you’re including figures that aren’t in your scene then be certain to get the lighting the identical as within the panorama. Unusual issues can occur should you add a determine from a special photograph and don’t take note of the lighting! For example, the solid shadow from a determine could also be getting in a special route from these solid by the timber. Not good!

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


I recommend bringing a few of the color of your portray into the determine itself even if you would like it to be carrying purple in opposition to a inexperienced discipline. Hyperlink a few of the inexperienced into the determine and possibly scumble a few of the purple 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 technique 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 offers you observe in capturing the perspective 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 position 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 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 really feel assured about doing so? Observe the following tips and also you’ll handle simply advantageous!  

Till subsequent time!