I’ve been working on my depiction of atmospheric perspective in landscapes, pushing mountains and buildings waaaay back toward the horizon to create depth. Make them a little hazy, cooler in color, and I’ve got the basics. Something I have not pushed over—I mean, back--is people, groups of people, in particular. I don’t want them to look like a blob or a blob of hazy ghosts. I’ve done a couple of sketches with watercolor pencil and pen to practice.
First up: a baseball stadium
This crowd is all on the same plane, not receding. It’s a big crowd, part in shadow but generally looking like a stadium full of colored sprinkles. I couldn’t figure out how to render them without resorting to hyper-detail. I’d squint my eyes, but nothing emerged that I could extrapolate. So, I went the other way and resorted to abstraction. I started with light patches of blue and red (because the reference photo was from a Cubs v. Cardinals game), then added deep purple. I gave them a light wash and dabbed a little here and there with the point of the brush. This wasn’t enough—the color was getting right but my sprinkles needed some kind of detail so that they didn’t look like rainbow sherbet.
When the water dried, I used two pens, a white and a black, to make random dots and small circles throughout the color. That combination of fine line and swaths of color was a satisfying result for this crowd.
Second: a crowded beach
This crowd was different because it receded along the coast of the beach, it included a lot of umbrellas among the crowd, and there was less color. This crowd appeared to have fewer sprinkles but more shapes. I began by painting the beach and then using my pen to make many more marks than in the baseball crowd. I showed distance by drawing figures of about three different sizes decreasing in size along the coast until I got to the real crowd. I made ovals for the umbrellas and vertical and horizontal lines for the people. Last, I added a few touches of bright color—it was Miami, after all—to suggest all the brightly colored things you’d find on a beach: swimsuits, towels, toys, etc.
I read that Paul Cezanne sometimes asked Camille Pissarro to paint figures for him. Cezanne knew his own weakness and called upon his buddy, an expert at “crowd control.” Now that’s humble.
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