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I have had a few questions about figures from bloggers. Here are two poses of the same person on the same night. These were 25 minute poses and I completed them in the time frame, doing no extra work later. They are on 9×12 cheap 90 lb watercolor paper. I always use a light line drawing to get the basic form, never describing anything but some contours I need as a guide.  I work in the reverse of what most watercolor books tell you to do, when I have to record in a limited time frame. I work my darks first and allow them to bleed into my midtones. I leave the lightest values the white of the paper. In the final minutes, I punch anything with color that looks like it might need it. …….and, no, I don’t get ones like these two, frequently. If fifty percent of my work comes out fairly decent I’m elated. The more I do this, however, the more proficient I become at capturing the human form.


  1. These two are stunning and the one on the right is particularly so. All that foreshortening. I really like the way you have used the darks and midtones only to suggest the legs, he seems just to emerge from the paper. An effect I really like and find almost impossible to achieve. Practise Practise!

    • Thank-you, Sarah. Actually, the one on the right was easier for me because I had an easier time seeing the lights and darks. I suggest that anyone try this approach while learning to watercolor the figure. Trying to lay in the lights and wait for them to dry takes too long when given a time limit.

  2. Thanks for these new ideas. I like the one about starting with the darks and bleeding them into the light… Nice fluid, lovely;

    • Thank-you, Isabelle. I thought this might help you some as you continue to practice the figure. I added some more quick figures in watercolor to the figure page, also.

  3. tip top stuff Leslie – economy and value – each stroke counts – thanks for this – your figures are an inspiration.

    • Thank-you, Stephen. I hoped this would allow you a chance to see some of my quick work from life.

  4. These are amazing, Leslie! Thanks for explaining how you do it. Sometimes I work from dark to light, too. Especially with flowers. Your use of color inspires me!

    • Thanks, Beth. I suppose this could work well with any subject. I’ll have to try flowers.

  5. Gestures and colors convey a lot! Love these.

    • Hi K. Thank-you for commenting on these. I have added you to my blogroll so that my drawing students can see the excellent work you are doing for your graphic novel.

  6. Great figures Leslie! You’re an inspiration. I love your use of color in each of them.

    • Thank-you, Carol. Isn’t it funny how you can use any color to describe things as long as you get your darks and lights correct?

  7. I love the way you let the white areas connect to the ground and lead your eye through the figures.

    I recently switched to blocking in the darks first in nearly all my work and find it leads to fresher, more powerful pieces.

    • Thanks, Anne. When I don’t have a lot of time, like in the above, I always start with the darks. With longer studio pieces, I work my way through and try to define things as I go. I agree about the fresh….So many of mine, though, I wouldn’t call fresh. Some of them are experiments in pushing this medium…for me it’s just fun. I love the brightness of your work and admire your talent.

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