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Figure Composition in Watercolor

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This is a post from Belinda Del Pesco’s Art Blog Belinda Del Pesco.

a watercolor study of a woman reading in the sun in front of a huge window looking out over a beautiful distance landscape.

Figure Composition in Watercolor

This is a figure study for a watercolor of my friend Aimee. I loved the composition the moment I saw it. She’s reading in the sun, against the backdrop of an incredible vista in Provence, France.

I’m not sure I’ll go ahead with the larger painting of this scene right away. For now, it’ll live safe and dark in the pages of my watercolor sketchbook. I’ll check in with it later.

Do you do that with your figurative watercolor studies? Test the compositions in a sketchpad, and then come back to them later to see how your eyes respond to the sketch, refreshed, after a little time has passed?

A grid method figure drawing in my watercolor sketchbook. Drawing on a lap-pillow on the couch in the evenings.

Resources for Figure Composition

  • If you’re interested in free video lessons that guide you through life drawing exercises, have a look at Life Drawing Academy offerings here. The courses cover fundamental exercises in drawing the head and face, and how to draw hands. (
  • Michael Holter offers a free seven-steps to watercolor portraits lesson in this post, with the remaining demo video in full length posted on Facebook.
  • Composition in art can be a tough subject to get your head around when you begin painting watercolors. The unforgiving nature of watercolor pigment’s stain on paper can lead to a tight, nervous grip on your tools. Following a habitual sequence of light-to-dark color application helps, and working on skill building for a solid drawing under the pigments gives your brushes a framework to follow too. This post on The Virtual Instructor has great tips, and applicable examples to help you understand composition in art.

Adding a little more detail to the figure with pencil while waiting in the car for grandkids in the school pick up line.

Working outside on a Sunday afternoon

Assorted Figurative Watercolor Compositions

School Girl Artist Fantasies

I’ve been sketching and doodling people since at least the 6th grade. The margins of my spiral lined notebooks always had faces, eyes and figures loitering on the edges of my homework and class notes. I used to wish, with all my heart, that I could draw better. (Have you seen this anatomy for artist’s book?)

Over the years, I realized that we can never be “good enough’ with rendering the human face and figure, so it’s a drawing subject perfectly suited towards a perpetual attitude of learning. The more we practice, the closer we get to better than we were last week.

And every element of our furtive figure sketches that are even slightly “off” will be noticed, because as people, we’re hard-wired to zoom in on something not-quite-right in our fellow humans. Sigh.

Painting figures napping on the couch, while sitting on the couch. :)

The Figure in Watercolor

Since I consider the face and figure one of the hardest subjects to paint in watercolor, I’ve tried to convince myself to throw in the towel many times. But I won’t do it.

Figurative work was one of my first loves in the art world, so I’ll keep climbing that hill, and reassuring myself that brush-miles add up, and the rewards aren’t visible till you climb to the top of the next hill for the view.

I hope you’re taking stock of the subjects you’re pulled towards, despite their challenges. It’s a good way to stay true to ourselves, no matter what level we’re standing on at the podium of the Pursuit of Art.

Thanks for stopping by today, and I’ll see you in the next post -

Give it your best effort,


P.S. Seth Godin wrote a thought provoking essay here on our human trait of being hooked on status while simultaneously seeking beauty, and how that affects the way we support the arts, and how we categorize the arts as a market. Great dinner table discussion.

Art Quote

I was made for the library, not the classroom.The classroom was a jail of other people’s interests. The library was open, unending, free.

Ta-Nehisi Coates
Here is a demo painting in pen and watercolor of a still life of sliced apples on a plate

The post Figure Composition in Watercolor appeared first on Belinda Del Pesco’s Art Blog Belinda Del Pesco.


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