How to Add Figures to Your Landscape Paintings | Malcolm Dewey | Skillshare

Playback Speed

  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

How to Add Figures to Your Landscape Paintings

teacher avatar Malcolm Dewey, Artist and Author

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

5 Lessons (20m)
    • 1. Common Errors with Painted Figures

    • 2. Getting Scale Correct

    • 3. How to Position the Figures Correctly

    • 4. Part 2: Painting Demonstration

    • 5. Add Foreground Figures

  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

Do you want to add more interest to your landscape paintings? 

Without doubt adding figures to a landscape painting can do so much for your painting. The problem is making the figures fit in. You want the figures to look natural and part of the scene. But so often the figures end up being a jarring element.

In these lectures we will look at the most common errors and how to avoid them. You will have the tips and information to add figures to your painting. Then try out to exercise and see how effective these techniques are.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Malcolm Dewey

Artist and Author


Professional artist and author. I work in oils painting in a contemporary impressionist style. Mostly landscapes and figure studies. I have a number of painting courses both online and workshops for beginners through to intermediate artists. 

My publications include books on outdoor painting, how to paint loose and content marketing tips for creative people.

My goal is to help people start painting and encourage them with excellent lessons that they can use for years to come.

See full profile

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • 0%
  • Yes
  • 0%
  • Somewhat
  • 0%
  • Not really
  • 0%
Reviews Archive

In October 2018, we updated our review system to improve the way we collect feedback. Below are the reviews written before that update.

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.


1. Common Errors with Painted Figures: right in this lecture began to look at adding figures into your landscapes. And the easiest way to bring your paintings to life is about putting in figures. So why figures? So let's have a look at a few good reasons to add figures. Firstly, they can add scale to the landscape. That cliff face or mountains scene looks all the more impressive, with a tiny figure at the bottom and helping to attract your ire to focal points in the painting, for instance, it also adds human interest and can help you tell a story. But do you figures look weird? A lot of people are worried about us. The figures don't look riel. They look like a bean pasted on war. It's like a sticker over the landscape, and something's wrong. A couple of examples of this remember one. The giant invasion. Your figure this out of proportion, that it's a biggest the tree or it's a towering above the doorways in the street scene, for instance, It's so easy to I forget the proportions or you've drawn us the big head that if you imagine meeting a person like this in real life line in the middle you have this gigantic ID taking up all the shoulder space? Well, you've got a weird perspectives running like some sort of hall of mirrors where people look too tall or too short and, ah, perspective is up and down and in the wrong place. This all happens if the figures are not put down accurately. So let's not worry about that. We can fix these problems right now with a few tips and tricks, and I'm going to show you how to add interesting new life to your paintings. Easy tips that you can use, whether you're a beginner or intermediate skill and ah, transform your paintings overnight. 2. Getting Scale Correct: So Step one, we need to look at scale, and this is very simple. Make sure your figures are the appropriate science for the landscape. They must be part of the landscape, not dominating it through scale. That is incorrect. So the way to do this is use comparison and relationships to help get this scale correct. In this example, the small figures have been drawn very loosely, but compared to the rocks and other natural features there in the correct proportion, not perhaps absolutely perfect. But in the scheme of things, they simply there to indicate scale, how large the surrounding natural features are. If they were his biggest, those boulders, you get a completely wrong impression about the scene, and it would not look correct. That's another common problem is getting the head right. So we want to avoid making the head too big, and it's very easy to do when you just make a quick jab with the paintbrush we the head should be, and the too much paint is on there, and but it looks more or less right. In fact, the figure in the landscape usually has a much smaller head than you realize and This is due to all sorts off aerial perspective and issues, off scale and proportion as well. Another thing is the facial features on the head. Very soldem. Are you going to put in any facial features unless the person is right up close to you, in which case it's more like a portrait. Keep the face blank used flett a plane off paint. Don't put in eyes, nose and mouth all years. Don't be tempted to do any of those things and just a small day for the head. Make sure it joins up with the body and is not floating above the shoulders, either. 3. How to Position the Figures Correctly: Okay. The other thing to look out for is position. All right. Say, for instance, you are doing a street scene, and that's it. Ah, normal head, heart. You got to try and keep all the heads off the people at the same level. I'm talking here about adults. Of course. We're not worried about distinguishing between adults and Children, just general people on the street. And if there at eye level with you, all the heads are gonna be at the same level, but not the feet. The feet is where you indicate distance. So, for instance, here, in this little beach scene, your figures are receding into the distance. But the head hearts are pretty much at the same level. But the feet and legs are different to indicate distance. Okay, so that Ah, keeping the heads parallel is important. All right. Staying with legs and feet. You can use some distortion in the length of the legs I ever And this can help to indicate movement and other dynamic things going on with the scene. Our details off the feet, etcetera. Don't even worry about that. Make the legs slightly longer. One leg slightly longer than the other if the person's walking or running A Z you saw in the previous picture. And, yeah, we can see the person in the middle there, one leg shorter than the other that indicates, is taken a step forward with his left leg. Right leg's been raised behind, and you could do similar sort of things with the arms as they swing at the side. But notice no details of the feet. It's all vapor wrists, and it seems to disappear, which is helps to make the figure part of the landscape, not a sticker put on top of the painting. OK, so details. Very minimal. It's all about the gesture that we're interested in. Can an overall harmony as well? The figures must be part of the landscape. It mustn't be a jarring feature. So what does the figure heir to the whole idea? We don't want to simply throw in figures for the sake of it, trying to paint them, waiting to which as well keep in on those ages. Make sure the edges are not hard because then it looks like as sticker has been put over the painting. So these are just examples. Were figures are very loosely painted. And they form a part and a whole with the painting and contribute to the scene rather than looking to artificial. Okay, now we're going to look at a demonstration where I'm going to show you some of the details . And remember, you can see mawr at Markham. Do we find out dot com? 4. Part 2: Painting Demonstration: okay. Lets ever look at a demonstration where I show you these lessons about putting figures into landscapes and especially what to avoid. And I'll do some prick brush exercises to show you what I mean. And you can also see more or less the method. I used to quickly put small figures into a landscape. Seen. I've got a basic senior Imagine this is a beach scene, and we're gonna put some people on this beach to add some life to it. The first thing to look at is the scale off the figures. There's a send, you know, over here. So we go Teoh, make sure that if we're putting figures in the distance that there are in scale to the other objects in the scene. So let's look at other objects to get scale. I'm just using a rigger brush the surface is still with, so it's nice to paint figures that citrate weight into it, but hopes with keeping the ages software necessary. And because this is a small scene on, we're putting a figure in the distance. A small brush like this is fun. So looking at the scale, I don't want to have a figure that it's about a hit up there and he's standing over there because I know this June is in fact, much larger. Forget that figure out on Get the Thing in proportion will see that, in fact, the correct proportion would have the figure like that on. Uh, it's a small difference, but from water was previously to there. Now it's right now. I can do figures closer in the foreground as well. No, best explained a few other things. Yes, they keep the head off, the figure quite small compared to the body. The mistake often made is to put put the head too big. For instance, we have headlock that and then body underneath legs. Citra Head is in fact, so big It looks like the alien was that the predator never struck. So let's get rid off. Taxes will with the head. Andi, where just put that figure back into skull 5. Add Foreground Figures: and so Okay. Now I want to have a figure closer to the foreground. And because I'm standing yet, I I level with these figures. Remember to keep the heads more or less aligned, but just obviously the legs. So that's, uh I figured you off. Got during the head, body and legs. Okay, that's just a rough figure out. Touch up a few details, so their heads are more or less alone. But obviously the legs are completely different, which indicates key. That he was figure is much closer to me. Okay. Other things I wanna point talks is I have done the figure with the door color. I can develop that if he's getting a bit more Santa can bring a little touch of color to the first walking towards me. Perhaps on, uh, maybe hard lighter, too. On the forms, wearing short sleeves on a beach, murky, etcetera, and but off diffused color was wearing a red shirt. Can bring some color into it as well. And closer to me, I can wants to see some shadows. Always good to suggest shadows and during the shadows with the feet. It could be longer than that, but let's say the sun is NPR, so you can see this. They get suggesting that the legs are walking. Report. There's a gap in the solid form off the body. Also, I'm not showing the feet themselves, Um, so before show the feet, Citra looks a little bit more aesthetic on, and also lakes are a bit blurry. Even the homes are moving. One leg is longer than the other, which suggests that persons walking on leg moving forward, so few things like that or suggestive off figure that's in motion. If this was a street scene, I'd want to make sure that the heads are below door levels or the figures are not as tall as the lampposts in the street. Things like that. Overall, you also want the figures to make sense and add something to the picture. Let's say, for instance, off go figure right up close to me. I can then bring in a little bit more detail. We're talking about figures some distance away from you, so you don't want to bring in facial features. It doesn't really add anything, and it looks on natural. So let's say I figure a bit closer to me. I've got the head joined to the body. Body has a certain shape, sort of broader at the hips. Andi. Then, of course, tapering to the legs. If this was one long picture, I could, perhaps to one leg longer than another. It's permissible to sightly exaggerates the length of the Legace well for dynamic movement effect and what have you. So if you distort anything, it can be the length of the leg without looking to stretch. Also, keep in mind where the arms would be. This will not hanging down false. The knees, more or less reached onto Hoffer down the talk of the leg if they want to the side and also , if they're moving one back up. What? You're shorter, then the one coming forward. All right. So this figure being closer to Esa's. Well, I'm going to put in a little bit more de toe. What's their bit of sun is getting two face could lightened that up. Leave the airport dark. That's the case. Remember we which more interested in the gesture than being able to identify facial features? Fert fourth sleeves, for instance on and perhaps but off our lot, then touching a chop with shoulders. Have you talked to the head? Something like that, with a lot effects, possibly some of the shirt giving court so use. And you can it just weariness history, but don't spend too much time refining the figure because then it looks over worked and aesthetic and pasted on. So I'm or interested in the scene as a whole. Keeping an eye on edge is making sure the ages of softer remakes history. You just needed touch up things like Put it, made some sun through, do some gaps like that and so on. And there you you are. So we've got our figures and they look like part of the scene, and there's some overall harmony on. There you go. So include figures where it hopes, and it's quite often that you can add figures in and really improved the painting, and I hope this helps you put more figures in your landscapes.