How to Create Colorful Underwater Scenes in Pastel

How to Create Colorful Underwater Scenes in Pastel

In her pastel paintings of underwater scenes, Michele Poirier-Mozzone produces a series of work that’s a joyous presentation of bodies in motion. It’s also a feast of dazzling color and light.

Her underwater series came about because of a adventure in abstract painting. “Shortly after I started using pastel, I felt I needed a new direction,” explains Poirier-Mozzone. So she painted completely abstracted works for a few months without any planning.

The deep sea is the small amount of light that enters from the surface produces a mesmerizing glittering effect. In that light you may find few fishes swimming above you. Their shadow will be dark black to blue in colour. That scene is worth capturing in heart.

If you are wondering how Poirier-Mozzone creates her underwater scenes in pastel, then you are in luck. Read on for a step-by-step demonstration on how this artist captures the effects of summer light in water through color complements. Enjoy!

1. Thumbnail Sketching

Poirier-Mozzone makes a thumbnail sketch with references from underwater photography. She works from a still video frame displayed on a computer screen.

2. Underpainting

Her work begins on UART paper with a light sketch of the composition in pastel pencil. The underpainting is a wash of oil paint.

For each area, she underpants a near complement to the final color. Thus, areas of water that are going to be green/blue are painted red/orange. The artist underpants areas of skin with a dull olive green.

3. Blocking in Color

The major areas of color are blocked in gently using soft pastel. “I try to keep a light hand at this stage,” says Poirier-Mozzone. Plenty of the underpainting is left showing.

She also writes on the paper as she works, a process that she says helps her to register what she’s feeling about the painting. A few of the words included are “sisters,” “special,” “sisterly” and “bond.”

4. Building the Figures

At this stage, Poirier-Mozzone builds more carefully into the figures, working her strokes across and along the form.

“I begin to refine contrast and detail in and around my focal point [the figure in red] at this stage,” she says. “I add greens and blues to the skin tone for reflected underwater light, letting them mingle with previous layers of warm color.”

5. Pushing Colors

With the painting almost done, Poirier-Mozzone is still pushing the color a little, particularly the gold ochre on the lower swimmer’s leg. She’s also still struggling to get the patch of light on the bottom of the pool to read properly.

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