Give Life to Your Landscapes

By skillfully placing figures throughout your landscapes, you balance the major features and emphasize the structure of your paintings, thereby heightening your sense of space. Some things to remember:

  • 1. The more active the figures, and the more unexpected and dramatic their poses, the more attention they command. Be sure not to detract from your focus—the landscape.
  • 2. Because our eyes are naturally drawn to figures, they tend to become focal points. Use a figure to balance a major feature in the painting, such as a large tree or looming mountain.
  • 3. Your figures need to be positioned in logical locations, like roads, pathways or beaches.
  • 4. Capture realistic poses. What your figures are doing should correspond to where they are.
  • 5. Make sure the people are in proper scale in comparison to your landscape. Unless they are very clearly in the foreground, they should not be taller than a mountain.

Mark Gottsegen is an associate professor of art at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and chair of the American Society of Testing and Materials subcommittee on artists’ materials.

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