People often ask me how to put people into paintings as they are often not confident that they will not ruin a perfectly good painting! One way to avoid this is fairly simple, paint the people first and then paint the surroundings so that if the figures really are a disaster then there is not much lost. This way the figures look as if they "belong" in the painting and they avoid the "cardboard cut-out" effect that can happen if they are added later, especially if, God forbid, they are just black silhouettes! Another piece of advice I give is to start small and work up. Place the figures a long way back initially and as you gain confidence, bring them forward and give them more prominence. It is a subject which often comes up in my workshops and it is quite a big subject!
In this little beach painting, all the figures were painted first very roughly in just a few seconds as the people walked towards the sea. Heads were carefully placed in relation to the horizon as I was standing much higher up the beach. The tide rushing in above the normal high tide mark was a gift as it gave me the added feature of the reflections.
Close inspection will reveal that some of the figures are incomplete. The simple reason is that not all the limbs of people in motion are visible at any one time. There only has to be a sense of movement and balance for them to be convincing. This is one of five pieces produced in one afternoon. For me it remains one of my favourite and I may decide to keep it in my own collection as a memento of a fine afternoon on the beach!
The perspective of the patches of drier sand and the reducing wave energy contribute to a sense of distance.