Painting walking figures on wet sand with watercolor

Painting walking figures on wet sand

This final section of this article will mainly deal with painting figures on wet sand including their reflections. Figure 19 shows the figures that have been painted to add a human element to this scene. They are also the strongest tones in the painting. Vertical shapes are usually the strongest tones and these are vertical shapes very close to the foreground!

I painted their heads with a mixture of Cadmium Red and Raw Umber and I drop in some French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna on top to give the head a little form and represent hair.

Painting the silhouette of the figures walking into the light

Figure 19: Painting the silhouette of the figures walking into the light

For the figure on the left I mainly used French Ultramarine, Alizarin Crimson and some Burnt Sienna  for his top and French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna for his legs. I used similar colors for the figure on the right but varied the top with the addition of more Alizarin Crimson just to give the scene a little more subtle variety.

Notice how I used dry brush strokes for the legs to give them the feeling of motion. Also note how the arms are all at different angles and lengths. If you make the legs both hard edged and of the same length and do the same for the figures’ arms they will look very stationary.  Have a look at some photos of figures in motion and you will see how the position of their arms and legs vary.

Painting reflections with watercolor on wet sand

Our watercolor painting is now nearly complete. To finish it off we need to add the reflections of the figures on the wet sand and add a few extra props for our scene such as the birds in the air and on the sand as well as the dog and its reflection.

Lets first look at the reflections of the two figures.

I start by mixing some colors similar to those used in painting the figures. Make the consistency of these paints about the same as what you used for the figures.

Next wet the area below the figures where their reflection will be, see figure 20. Wet to a sufficiently wide enough area that the bleeding of the reflection shape stays soft instead of becoming hard where it flows to the edge of the wet area. Do not wet right up to the legs of the figures, I wet from about one inch and a half from where their legs touch the sand, as you want to start the reflection with a sharp wet on dry edge which then becomes soft.  In figure 20 you can see the start of the reflection for the figure on the right, you can see that it starts from where the figures leg touches the sand and is hard edged for a little while until the paint hits the wet area and becomes soft.

Wet the area below the figures where their reflection will be.

Figure 20: Wet the area below the figures where their reflection will be.

Figure 21 shows the full reflection. Notice how as one leg of each of the figures is raised its reflection does not touch the leg but starts further down the page.

Painting reflections of two persons walking on wet sand

Figure 21: How to paint reflections of people walking on sand.

Watercolor painting of sunset reflections of people on wet sandy beach with pebbles

Figure 22: Finished watercolor painting of figures walking on wet sand at sunset

Our watercolor painting is finished with the addition of the strategically placed birds in the sky to add to the vista effect as well as the dog and birds on the sand along with their reflections. When painting sea birds on wet sand you need to leave a little gap between their bodies (which are really just ticks of paint in a painting like this) and their reflections otherwise they will look like they are laying in the sand. Their reflections by the way are just a little downward flicks of paint.

Hopefully you have enjoyed this demonstration and can use what you learnt from it with your own work.

Should you have any questions about this demonstration or watercolor painting in general please let me know through my Contact page.

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Joe Cartwright