Carmella Jarvi: Pastel Painting a Woman in Water

Welcome to Artist Palette Productions at Cheap Joe's Art Stuff!

In this segment I'm going to walk you through one of my women swimming in water pastel paintings. This is a series I'm known the best for and I've been working on this for a number of years. I love water but I love the human figure as well and it's a lot of fun to do as well.

I've started with my newsprint because you want to warm up. I've got my conte' and basically what I was trying to do was practice what my final image was going to look like. Normally, I would come in and do a little bit of my sketching with the color of the paper - that works really well - but for the sake of seeing it on the video, I wanted to just show a few of my color so it's marked in. You are seeing basically the way I start. I've shown you how to mount the gator foam on the board, how to pick the color of the paper using complimentary colors, how to start with my pastels over on the table so i'm ready to begin.

The whole thing about these toothy pastel surfaces is that you're just starting to lay the pastel in and you're not going to get a lot of thick pastel in until you keep adding those layers on. At this point I have the figure blocked in pretty well, I want to go ahead and not worry about details like eyelashes or anything like that. This figure is pretty small but she's big enough that I want to start suggesting the form.

Wtih everything I do you get a little bit of distortion and you're never doing an exact copy of the photograph - it's just my impression. She is down in the water so I'm starting with her skin color. There's a little bit of her skin down here below the surface so I'm going suggest that. The whole thing about wateris that you can see into it, you can see the surface of it, the reflection of sky and trees or whatever is around, so with water there are multiple things you're looking at.

Now I'm going to come in with my brights. This is a medium value color, so I'm going to come in with my lighter blue. I have the photo and I'm suggesting this interesting line here. The thing with water is you want to show the movement. Lay the color in with the side of the pastel.

You want to change the position of your pastel as you're working. I'm going to go ahead and let this come around where there's a nice sweeping motion. It's important when you work with a large surface of water that you look for places where you see the ripples and concentric circles. Look for those things and when you suggest them your water will look more and more like water.

If you have a tendency to go back and forth on auto-pilot, you may want to try to reduce the size of your paper or suface so you don't have as far to travel. Once you get your variety down with your marks you can go bigger. This is why I love these hand-made pastels because I can just come in and use them on the side. If I were using an extruded pastel, I would want to make sure I took the paper off, removed the coating from the outside, and then break it in half so I don't get a regular mark. Hand-rolled pastels have a wider center and smaller ends and that gives me a nice variety of marks.

I don't want my marks to look too much the same because there's a huge area of water here, and if they're the same then it will be a very boring painting. Now I'm going to step back to get an overall impression of my painting. At this point I want to darken up her hair and some of the shadows and get this blocked in right. Forget eyelashes and all those little details, especially a figure in pastel. With just a few marks I was able to suggest that is the front of her face.

If you love the figure you need to start studying anatomy and working from live models. Even though this is a photograph of a woman I work with live models a lot, and I study anatomy, and I have mirrors in my studio so that I understand the structure of the neck - especially muscle structure. Usually you can find a figure study or art group like that to help you along further. At this point she does look like a cro-magnon man and I'm not worried about that - it is a little hard on the ego at first when you start your pastel paintings, especially figures - but don't stress. Paint and draw what you see, NOT what you think you see. That is some of the best advice I've ever received.

Make sure as you work that you paint all the way to the edge. This way when you frame it you won't have a halo effect. In order to show the depth of water, I have to layer in the colors. Even though I'm seeing a lot more of this lighter color in here I want to go ahead and use this blue so that it's more uniform. I don't want to outline her, but I do want this color to come up to the edge. At this point it's ok for me to overlap a little bit.

Hard to believe this is going to turn into a nice painting, but it will in the end. I'm going to do a little more with my values. Here in this corner it's darker. I am not on auto-pilot trying to fill it all in, I'm trying to go with the flow of the water. When you're doing water, it's a lot of fun to look for these cool little reflections and let those go ahead and be laid in.

I don't want to make this line here too hard or my painting will not work in the end. You can see how that really divides it. What I want to do is while I have this color, is drag it in like this. I need to fix and finish painting the water before I go into the figure too much. It's much easier to focus on background, middle ground, then foreground. I am looking for a green that goes with the color palette of the photograph. If you're a little newer with pastels and feel uncomfortable just picking a color, what you can do, and I would encourage you to do, is to have a piece of practice paper. That way you can come in and practice your colors and your marks and your final piece will be a lot better. Instead of outlining and I can come in here like this and dot the pastel along like this and avoid having a harsh line.

This will be one of those paintings where in the video you won't seem involved through the whole thing - probably a couple of hours. But you're seeing a very important stage where I'm beginning a painting, how rough it looks, how I'm layering in order to get the water and the figure and then you'll see the finished piece.

Another cool thing that starts to happen with water is you get some of the light that has gone through the water, and the little lines of refracted light on the bottom of the pool. So I can come in and start suggesting- with a little bit of a rolling pastel - some of these lightning bolts coming through the surface of the work. I don't want to come in really heavy handed, I just want to suggest them. This will bring some more interest to this large area that the figure is not in and will make it more interesting.

I also want to bring some of this color over here - very important to have that unity in the piece. I've been painting water for many years, and when you observe water you start to notice the way it moves and how light, shadow and color move across it. So if you enjoy water, practice painting and these techniques I'm showing you, work from photos and also go out and work from real water. Run some water out of the sink and do a study of the water coming out of the spicket. The more you study the water, and your paintings of water will be so much more interesting.

Again, I'm here with the lighter areas so I have to look at the anatomy. I don't want to outline it but I do want this to be blocked in correctly. Now I want to suggest a little bit more of the anatomy to get this correct. I do want her to look like a female but it's important that I don't worry about that too much in the beginning. I'm basically showing form with the pastel. Then because the face, neck and the body are all the same person, I want to go ahead to all the different parts of the body with the same color I'm using.

I want to work on the figure here to show how I bring this up. Notice it would be very easy to just fill it all in with this color but it's not a coloring book. So if you want to suggest this form properly, you need to do it from the beginning just like you did with the water.

At this point I'm not going to worry about individual fingers, but suggesting this hand coming around. There's a little bit of skin underneath this fabric so I want to go ahead and show that color underneath. I can already tell that it's going to be most difficult to show this arm wrapping around because her shoulder is out of the water, then the elbow goes in the water and her hand comes back out.

So I've locked in that basic skin color. Now I'm going to come in with some highlights so I want to find a color that's a lot lighter but not white. This is what I've talked about where you need to paint or draw what you see, NOT what you think you see.

There are some artists who will cut their pastel down or use sandpaper to get a point. I don't worry about that. Sometimes I test on my scrap paper to see which corner of my pastel I need to use for smaller marks. I can feel myself getting tighter as I start to do this. It's really important that when you feel yourself do that, to step back. Then really look at how that's working.

Painting, especially pastel painting, you're trying to show something realistic. You're painting light against dark. So I'm suggesting this is a jaw line here and I'm just showing that this is a jaw line by utilizing the dark shadow next to it. Again if I go too light or too dark, I don't stress I just put more pastel over it in the correct value or color.

As I'm laying in her highlights, I don't want to fix anything immediately, I would rather lay in the next color or value. Now what I want to do is go back in with the dark. Some people have a tendency to go for the easy colors for lights and shadows. Instead I'm going to use a darker green or blue-green. This is when having small pieces works even better.

I want to help the shape of her head a little bit more and I will add her brown later, but I want the shape of her head better. I made her head a little too big so I'm going to cut this back a little bit by using the water to come in. Now you can see how this is really hard-edged, so I can take a clean finger and blend a little like that. On the face you're looking for shadows and highlights, not details like eyelashes and such.

Just think about form. If I work on an area for too long I have a tendency to overwork it. So if I rework something more than 2 or 3 times I try to move on to another area because the overall painting will be better. You can see how she's starting to pop off a little bit more on the paper. Again, anatomy is so important.

What's going on with the neck here is really tough to show with just my little marks, but if I show the light and dark, I will have a piece that looks like this woman in the water. You can see how she's starting to become a little more feminine. I'm almost through with this segment.

At this point, I will go back to my studio and finish it. It will probably take another 2 or 3 hours and I won't work on it all at one time. Instead I'll work a little bit, put it away, and come back to it when I'm fresh. I hope this has helped you both with water and the figure in pastel painting.

Thanks for joining us!

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