I love swimming. I love the feel of my body sliding through the water. I love the world below the water and the distortions in line, shape, and colour it creates. When I first saw pastel paintings by Michele Poirier Mozzone, I was fascinated by her perspective of looking up through the water at the world above the water’s surface. Her paintings are based on reality yet move towards abstraction in their use of distortions of colour, shape, and line.
A couple of years ago, I featured one of these from-below-the-surface paintings, These Changes I, in a roundup blog. A year later, in another round-up, I wrote about one of her underwater figures. I knew I wanted her as a guest artist but as she was being featured in the Pastel Journal followed by International Artist magazine, I waited for some time to pass before approaching her. Luckily for us, she said yes to my invitation!
Don’t know her work? Here’s a teaser…
Before handing over the blog to Michele, here’s a bit about her.
Michele Poirier Mozzone – Bio
Massachusetts artist, Michele Poirier Mozzone, has garnered awards and international attention for her “Fractured Light” series of paintings featuring the figure as it is immersed and influenced by water and sunlight. Michele holds a Signature Member designation from the Pastel Society of America (PSA) and a Master Circle designation from the International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS/MC). A popular instructor of pastel painting workshops throughout southern New England, Michele also regularly teaches for the Rhode Island School of Design’s Continuing Education Program and the Providence Art Club.
You can read more on her website.
And now, here’s Michele Poirier Mozzone!
In my “Fractured Light” series of work, I pair my dual interests of figurative imagery and
The motivation behind this body of work is twofold. First, it allows me to paint what I love – the figure. Second, this series gives me the opportunity to explore areas of pure abstraction that exist naturally in turbulent, sunlight-drenched water. I find this unique atmosphere extraordinary.
The idea for this series came about in 2012 after a fruitless foray into abstract painting and an afternoon photographing my daughter in our pool. I found the underwater distortions and play of light remarkable. I decided it couldn’t hurt to try painting her figure into some of my abstract pastel pieces and the results were fresh and exciting. I won an important award with one of my very first pieces and knew I was onto something.
Modelled on my daughters, friends, and even myself, the figures in this series are not meant to be readily identifiable as individuals. Rather, they provide an opportunity for viewers to place themselves within the context of my paintings. In doing so, they experience broken ribbons of sunlight, fascinating distortions, sounds of rushing bubbles, and the weightless, slow dance of movement which all occur below the water’s surface.
Some of the paintings in “Fractured Light” are highly rendered and representational. The paintings I showcase here are all from the perspective of below the surface looking at the figure above the water. This view, in particular, is more abstract providing me with the opportunity to fully explore passages of broken reflection, watery patterns, dramatic
My paintings in the group called “These Changes” represent a personal, cathartic journey. I wrote what was on my mind directly onto the layers of pastel as I worked – some of it is still evident in the finished pieces, but most
My process begins with video footage I take with a GoPro camera in our backyard pool. I then search frame-by-frame for an image that strikes me as a potential painting.
The palette I will use depends on the mood I am trying to create. My pastel collection is comprised of many wonderful brands: Girault, Terry Ludwig, Unison Colour, Schmincke, Great American, Mount Vision, Diane Townsend, NuPastel, Richeson, etc. Working on UART 400 grit sanded pastel paper, I begin with a light sketch in pastel pencil, then
There is no formula for my underpainting
Once dry, I build passages of soft pastel, while leaving bits of underpainting to peek through to add interest, texture, and dimension. Skin tone usually requires many layers of pastel to achieve the desired effect of warm and cool underwater shadows and lights. On the other hand, the surrounding water and abstract reflections often retain more of the original underpainting.
My reference photos are predominantly blue so I try to push the palette away from the familiar and stretch its possibilities. Paying attention to how
The closer a painting is to completion, the more my work becomes intuitive and less reliant on the original reference. Although each piece starts with preparatory thumbnail sketches, I am always surprised by the finished product. They each take on a unique personality and story despite my planning.
Each year I wonder if this series will continue to evolve and hold my interest. It is a scary proposition to contemplate running out of inspiration with a series that has gained attention and been personally fulfilling. Of course, I find inspiration in other subject matter and enjoy taking a break from “Fractured Light” to explore other areas. But every year as I accumulate more reference footage, I am assured that my fascination with the figure and the ever-changing beauty of water is a constant. And to realize that it is okay, in fact preferable, to let the series change direction, branch off into something new, and to give
The latest development for me has been translating this series into oil paint. I had not consistently painted with oil since college, so I found it slow and frustrating at first. I could not seem to achieve the vivid color that pastels so beautifully produce until I started to think about applying the oil paint like pastel.
We pastelists become very aware of the power of each stick – the value and relative temperature and its immediate effect when we pick it up to use in our painting. Because we don’t mix, we have to choose thoughtfully, layering colors within the same value and altering color temperature for desired effect. It becomes second nature.
With oil paint, my desired effect eluded me until I began with a base color of burnt orange and consciously asked myself, “What color in my pastel box would I choose for this?” and then mixed that color to apply on top. I repeated this process, varying color and temperature within the same values, leaving bits of the burnt orange to peak through, and found that my oil paintings came to life. I think they now compliment their pastel counterparts well because my thought process and working methods are similar.
Within the paintings that make up “Fractured Light,” water is representative of life and change. Bubbles are placeholders for the ideas and intentions that rise from individuals to the open air. Each figure can be interpreted as reacting to an unseen moment in this surreal, wet world. Through the interchange of
So tell me those aren’t gorgeous, colourful, vibrant explorations in soft pastel!! What do you think of the work of Michele Poirier Mozzone? And what about her process? We’d love to hear what you think! So please leave a comment with feedback or a question for Michele.
We look forward to hearing from you!
Until next time,