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The third and final day of the workshop included a demonstration on how to paint little people.  Don stated that he visits shows and sees beautiful landscapes and cityscapes and many of them have no people in them. He talked about how little people don’t have to have a lot to them but they do need proper proportion and believability. He demonstrated proportions and even showed us how to make people from blobs of color!  He referred to the process as little gestures and I was fascinated by the whole process. Above is my sheet of little people I practiced. I used every color I could think of. The other thing he taught is how to soften an edge. I NEEDED TO LEARN THAT!!!! I had read how to do it, before, but was always leaving too much water in my brush. I began to practice rinsing my brush and wiping it on a scott towel (squeezing the water out of it) and then sliding it across my paper toward the wet edge I want to soften (this must be done while the edge is still wet). I am starting to get it, I think. Now, with practice, I may be able to create some less edgy paintings. PHEW! Don then spoke of flesh tones and how to mix them, but I saw so many colors  allowed to bleed into each other and was impressed with all colors used to create people. He had some small paintings of futhur developed figures on display and I was really impressed with these. When I came home, I looked up a sport photo on wet canvas for a grouping of figures doing something and came up with a painting of my own, below, where I concentrated on color blobs and light and soft edges on figures.

 Home Run

Check out these figures that Keith just posted on his blog  here and  here. I love them, Keith!!!!!


  1. Spectacular! There is no stopping you now. Just incredible.

    • Thank-you, Chris!!!! Perhaps there is no stopping me, but I was just in the process of rescuing a painting similar to “Home Run” that went edgy! I will post both the gone wrong and the fix in a few days….. This is sort of like teaching someone new tricks and my seeing is going to have to come from somewhere inside me. I find that process and new discovery exciting. It would be a lot easier if I saw those soft edges while the pigment is still wet.

  2. This painting is a home run! Maybe it is my age but this softer and loose style of painting is how I see my world. Our mind prefers to fill in the detail and thus more freedom as a viewer of your work.

    Your shadows are incredible!

    • Thank-you, Nancy! You are so right about that! I definitely am exploring this, now that I know a little more how to do it. Was just telling Chris, above I have been fixing another edgy painting. I’ll post it in a few days with the botch and the fixes.

  3. I love your ‘little people’! Each time I visit your blog I’m motivated and inspired!


    • Thank-you, Keith!! That learning thing applies to my visits to your blog, also!!

  4. It’s astonishing, isn’t it, just how a few strokes can achieve so much. How much is done with the brush and how much by the viewer’s expectations, I wonder?

    Great post (and I love your little figures here!) and I’m bookmarking it!



    • I know! I thought to myself, “Why can’t I think up these things?”. Thank-you, Val! 🙂

  5. Aww, I love these Little people Leslie – I want to practise this now!! You have so much animation and movement in these little shapes – delightful! I will check out the Blog you mention thanks:)

    • Thank-you, Lynda. Now I need to find a city scene with lots of “little people”.

  6. How I love what you’ve done with inference and suggestion yet telling the whole story of the action at home plate.
    Every bit believable, with movement and proportion. Wonderful work Leslie.
    Even the feeling of jauntiness in some of the little people at the top of the post. So much told with such certainty of stroke.

    • Thank-you, Bonnie! It’s going to take me some time to learn this one, I think.

  7. I love these figures. They are so expressive without being detailed. I like home run too.

    Most people want their art to be “edgy”! LOL!

    • Thanks, Carol. You are making me laugh! I hadn’t thought of that kind of edgy… 🙂

  8. exquisite little people and creatures. Such personality! And ‘home run’ is delightful too. I so love the direction your art is taking as a result of these workshops. Please can you do a crowd of characters for our enjoyment?

    • Thank-you, Kirsty. As soon as I find the right reference material, I will do just that, a “crowd of characters”. I like that. 🙂

  9. I read about “little people” done with just a couple of strokes in a book by J. Everett Draper “Putting People in Your Paintings.” He teaches a brilliant approach to figure there, sounds very much like a workshop you just took. I used this technique in some of my recent sketches, and to my amazement it just works! Both your sketch people and the painting are dynamic and believable – wonderful!

    • Thank-you, Alex. I have read about these before, too. I think my lack of success with them has come from them always looking hard edged. I hope I can learn this softening to the extent that my little people become part of the landscape instead of some pasted on figures that don’t blend?

  10. Okay, first I have to fess up…. I printed a copy of your little people to study further. They are amazing!

    I traded a sign painting brush for an hour art lesson once. This artist taught me how to see shapes. He said to just look at portions of things, such as light and shadow, and just paint the shapes. Some of that right side of the brain stuff. It helped me. I tend to get too detailed. Your figures are wonderful!

    The baseball painting is great, too. I’ll bet it was hard not to take it further. Thanks for sharing these, Leslie!! 🙂

    • Oh, please do! I think you said you had ordered his landscape book. The discussion is at the end of that book on “Little People”. He doesn’t call them that though. It is so hard for me to know where to soften an edge. I have painted hard-edged for so long. 🙂 You are right. The baseball painting took concentration in order to change. I hope it begins to become second nature! Love your story about trading a brush for an art lesson! Shapes are helpful, I agree! Thank-you for this, Beth.

  11. Thanks for your post, Leslie. And the little people!! The Home Run sketch is alive and one can see the swing and the movement! Very well done!

    • Thanks, Jan! Boy, I didn’t know what I was going to do with all that space around them. I obsessed over how to do those mowing strips on the green of the field. I think the straight lines in that and then the circular swishes around the home plate were what may have enhanced movement a little here, as well as the blurriness. It was a learning exercise.

  12. Hello one of my favorite artists! Finally out visiting again and had to stop in to see what you’ve been doing. Beautiful and fascinating as usual. I really like the little figures. By the way, an illustrator stopped by my sight and left a comment. She really liked your rabbits, so I made a point of visiting her site and letting her know who the artist is. You should be able to find her by checking the comments on my lastest post (Kathy, I believe). Hope your summer is going well. Glad to visit again. 🙂

    • Hi friend! I looked up Kathy’s site and love her collages. Oh, to be that patirnt.I have done very little in collage. Thank-you for the comment and I am thinking of you in these awful days of heat with no cooling…So good to hear from you.

  13. Nice work Leslie. The Little People watercolor study is so winning because you have captured something in each individual gesture.

    • Thank-you, Al. I think I had just started visiting your blog when I was attending this workshop. I actually thought of your little styrofoam people as I created them! You see? Blogging does open our eyes to more!

  14. Little people but big art. These are so cool and even better when enlarged, great bleed of color, movement and emotions. Sooo Cool!

  15. I love your little people and Home Plate. Honestly, Leslie, you’re going to get me to try something less abstract soon! I love the subtle movements in your little people. So much conveyed with, well, so little!

    • Thank-you, Kathleen. They are cute little characters that can be created. I would think you could even incorporate them into something abstract!

  16. these little people look so lively.
    Well, i think we’ve been treated to a indirect teaching of the workshop. lol

    • Thanks, Richard. 🙂 I just thought if I shared some of it, it might give others ideas for their own work.

  17. these little people are amazing!

  18. I needed this post just when I was trying to do my Crooked street post where I needed to add lots of people.. but still I can learn a lot with what you have just shared! Cute and clear images of people you created. Yes, soft edges matter a lot that adds a professional finish, I need to learn that too!
    Wish you had written more on creating the flesh tones.

    • There are many different flesh tones. In watercolor, I have always mixed reds and yellows of different hues to achieve them. Those colors are the base tones that I work from. for the shadows on the face portraits and larger figures I use whatever colors I have chosen for the background and try to incorporate them. For darker fleshtones, I experiment with burnt sienna with darker blues, etc. A little figure like above can have fleshtone with other colors dripping into it. It is not quite as important because too much detail ruins them. Good Question, Padmaja, and your recent street scene is the perfect type of landscape to experiment with these little figures. I am going to get into the habit of practicing these gesture people on scratch paper and save them for furthur reference. Hope that helps! Thank-you for the lovely comment and the visit!

  19. Hey! How very fun! I love Your little figures and all the bright colours You used. I particularly love the three friends walking with their arms about one another. And I LOOOOOVE final painting. It’s amazing how much definition they have. Great perspective. Very cool shadows as well. I also checked out Your teacher’s site. LOVE his art. And Your friend’s site as well. I loved how his colours reflect where he lives. You just gifted and gifted and gifted me some more! Thank You, Lady Lady! Cheers and Namaste. 🙂

    • You are so complimentary. Thank-you, Bliss! I am glad you traveled to the other sites. I think both their work is admirable. We are all so different in our expressions. I still smile at your character, “Pip”. 🙂

  20. Nice touch on the little drawings, i like the colors and the lively movement on each of them, very nice touch. Wow you baseball figures are just incredible, i think i saw some really nice mixed of colors appeared, you did a great job on the guy who hit the ball and the guy waiting to catch the ball. Sorry not really good in baseball. Nice work Leslie.

  21. Like the little people one very much, but the swing of the batter in the second one is perfect in arm extension and follow through. Great angle press box angle too. Always a treat to see your newest paintings 🙂

    • Thank-you Adam. I put Soriano’s # on the shirt and some of the letters of his name and then noticed in the game the other day that he had those blue stockings to mid calf. Guess I should have made this Lee or Ramirez. Moral of that story is, If I wish to do sports’ paintings, I guess I better get my facts straight. 🙂

  22. Your “little people” are a big deal! These are awesome!

    • Hi sister Kim! What a cool comment! Should have made the batter Ernie Banks for Dad! Thank-you!!!!! 🙂

  23. Hey these little people are so cool. And you have clearly mastered softening edges – I like the little group in the middle who are off to the fiesta – and I wonder what the dog did to have been sent out like that. You have obviously enjoyed this experience

    • Thank-you, Stephen. I want to try a scene where I can use them, now, but have so many things going. I don’t know what the dog did, but I was trying all sorts of things with blobs of color and then making them into something.
      Switched the link to your new site in my blogroll:

  24. I love these little people Leslie, great work. Well done 🙂

  25. Love the movement in this one. Btw. there is another way to soften edges by just using more pigment on the still wet sections. It takes a bit getting used to because you have to work real quick.
    Nice painting, Leslie.

    • Thank-you Frank. I think what you are describing is what I sometimes botch by having too much water in my brush. It looks like I have it, at first, and then “bam” hard edge. I thank-you and I will concentrate a little more. The quickness aspect may be part of my problem, also. Yours look quick and effortless. I’d probably drive you nuts if we painted together….. 🙂 That’s supposed to be funny.

  26. I really like the practice people.
    It looks like fun! I think they will really bring some fun to your landscapes!

    • Thank-you. I hope to use them as soon as I find a cityscape to spend some time on.

  27. Leslie, incredible sense of movement! You really nailed the proportions and the colors sing!

  28. Don Andrews is coming to South Africa next year and I have signed up for a 5 day workshop through our Watercolour Society, so it’s so great to read about your experiences with him. I love your little people, think I’ll be giving those a try too, even before he gets here!

    • Hi Cathy. Thank-you for the visit and the comment. I just saw your little people and one playing cricket?

      They are so beautiful. You captured the light so well. Don Andrews for FIVE DAYS? You will learn so much. Anything you read or DVD you watch of his will apply to what he teaches if you decide to try a few things in advance. It actually helped me to do that. I felt ready to soak up what he was teaching.

  29. I love the study of the little people. My eye was immediately drawn to the trio of ladies in the upper left corner. Then, as I looked at the trio in the center, I decided I liked them at least as much, if not better. Amazing study!

  30. Wow, I love the trio of ladies – both of them!

    • I have to admit that I kind of stole that idea from Don Andrews. I was fascinated by some small paintings he has done of trios of people, mostly on the beach and how he took, literally, blobs of color and made figures from them and created story lines in paint around them.It got me thinking of how an artist could manipulate any story into a painting using blobs of paint. Oh for more time in the day to address it all. Thank-you!!!!

  31. Wow, Leslie! You packed a lot of information in this post. I’ll give this a try…just play around on a sheet or two of paper. Very helpful. Thanks!


5 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] was so enchanted by Leslie’s people that I decided to give it a try too.   They were fun and came out ok, until I added a background. […]

  2. By October « Leslie White on 18 Oct 2011 at 8:15 pm

    […] dry enough to render detail. This gave this little piece a bit of a glow. I practiced my “little people” skills on the guy sitting by the river and finished with a splattering of the dark colors I […]

  3. By Playing with an Old Painting | Leslie White on 07 Jun 2013 at 7:02 pm

    […] I changed the building in the background to a red barn. Now, I can see it. I remembered my class on “little people” with Don Andrews and painted small cattle in the sweet spot for a center of interest.  I think I […]

  4. By A Busy Scene, Simplified | Leslie White on 28 Feb 2014 at 1:42 pm

    […] to the subway and followed my guidelines for painting “little People”. Refer to posts here and […]

  5. […] the fifth week we practiced painting “little people” described before here and here. They learned simple dimensions of the human form, how to allow the colors to run together and how […]

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