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Simplifying a Figure into Value Blocks and Shapes

Figures bring a human element to any landscape, especially beach scenes. But many artists are intimidated by the figure, and feel they need to make it look exactly like the person, or they wont even try.

One of my favorite figurative artists is Peggy Kroll Roberts. Her figures are very stylized, just shapes of different values, but they look very detailed (from a distance).

Notice in this painting you don't actually see fingers and facial features, but you do "read" the patterns of darks and lights as such from a distance. Peggy is a master at breaking down complicated forms into simpler shapes of value and color temperature.

Lets try this together.

Take a photo of your favorite peeps (or just google random people on the beach like I did)

This is an excellent couple to add to a beach scene as they are far enough away that you really don't see facial features and fingers anyway.

Next I sketch them loosely with a pencil. I went ahead and made the male figure so you can see a simplified figure next to the female in process. I simplified the values and colors to five (shown at the bottom) and started off with the darkest dark #5 on the female.

Next I added the shady flesh color on the female, focusing on the shapes of the shadows and the cool shade of red/violet.

Then I added the #3 local color of the flesh in full sunlight on the female.

Next the reflected light from the sand and water #2 and the highlights from the bright sun #1:

Last I put some clothes on her and its all finished!

Try this a few times with different figures. I find it easier to paint people I don't know. The more you do it-like anything-the easier it becomes!

If you would like to try this in person with me, I'm teaching a class starting this Thursday evening, April 14, from 6-9pm at Dunedin Fine Art Center. We will be simplifying a figure(s) at the beginning of each class, then adding them to a landscape or beach scene (your choice). Its a fun class for adventurous painters using any media! You can register for it here:

This concept is also the demo this week in Plein Air Adventures class if you would like to join me on Wednesday morning from 9am-noon. More info on my website under Plein Air Adventure.

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1 comentário

Dear Shawn,

As always, you make this look 👀 so easy to do! Might try this on my own…just have to set some time aside and play with my pastels! Thanks again for the wonderful tips! Ali 💜

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