For this demonstraion I'll be painting a group of people in quite a complicated picture. I'm painting in oils, but this would work equally well with acrylics. The subject is a remembrance day parade in Romsey. It consists of a couple of columns of people carrying some colourful standards (the main focus), plus onlookers, with the abbey a key symbol in the background. I'm working from a photo I took at the time, making adjustments to removea car that was parked inconveniently, and moving the parade back slightly to slightly reduce its dominance of the view. As always the first step is to draw out the rough dimensions, relating the figures to each other, the standards and the background. The painting may not follow exactly, but this gives a guide to get the proportions right.
With the positions laid out I then painted in the sky - in this case a simple pale blue, the abbey buildings (using naples yellow as the base, and white, vandyke brown and cobalt blue to adjust shading), and then the other background buildings (as for the abbey, but with reddder tones).
Next I focussed on the standards. I paint in the main blocks of colour and use a little white to lighten sunlit patches and blues and browns mixed to darken the shadows. They are only approximate at this point, so I have guidance for the figures, but it still took me a couple of hours. The tree shapes are a lot easier and allow me a liberating loose approach. The trunks and main branches were done using naples yellow and vandyke brown using a no.2 or no.4 flat brush. The smaller twigs I did using thinned vandyke brown and a rigger. Completing this part of the paint I blocked in the foreground around the figures using vandyke brown, the same blue from the sky and naples yellow, using a no.6 brush.. This is to make it easier to complete the forground later without having to go right to the edges of the figures.
Having left the paint to dry for a few days to avoid smudging it everywhere, I made a start on the figures, spending an hour or so on the two to the side. I chose these to start as they are not showing their faces. I could concentrate on the sahpes and proportions without having to worry about tricky face details.
Next follows the rather long process of painting in the figures. starting with those not obscured I painted two per one hour session, taking my time to get them looking right. I found that this was the maximum time I could focus without getting slap happy with the paint.
Once the last of the figures are in, I returned to the standards, making adjustments so they looked like hanging material and adding the fine detail over the dry base layer. I also added leaves to the trees, blobbing in yellows, greens and browns.
The foreground came next. I wasn't happy with the foreground of the original phot, so I retuned to the spot on a similarly lit day and took photos of the ground. I opted for a tarmac texture, darker on the right and in the shade of the figures, and lighter in the foreground in order to balance the picture. I popped some blobs of brown and purple down to suggest fallen leaves.
Finally I returned to the figures and adjusted the shading on their clothing to match the surrounds. I toned down the bright red coat on the right hand figure, and darkened the green camouflage kit of the second left figure, and the trousers of the lead figure in the centre. I stopped when I was satisfied that everything was tonally in balance, looking like it belongs in the scene. The tone and lighting may not be an exact match on the day, but it it looks better for it.