“Where … are you going, my pretty girl, all alone in the woods?”
—Grimm Brothers, Little Red Cap (1812)
Artist Yael Maimon is enthralled in her pastel series titled “Once Upon a Time.” As the series name suggests, it focuses on classic fairy tales, yet Maimon often adds a modern-day twist to the stories. Her fascination with fairy tales goes back to her childhood, when she loved to draw the pictures from children’s books. Pursuing a fairy-tale themed series as an adult gives her a chance to provide her own interpretation of those classic stories, capturing just the right mood, personality and emotional state of the characters we all know and love.
Below she shares a demonstration based on “Little Red Riding Hood” that’s excerpted with permission from her first “Once Upon a Time” book, Yael Maimon’s Once Upon a Time Painting Series. (The second book will be available later this year.) For an in-depth look at Maimon and her pastel paintings, see the October 2014 issue of Pastel Journal.
DEMONSTRATION: Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf
“The encounter scene between the Big Bad Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood in the wood is about seduction, intimacy, power and innocence,” Maimon says. “My painting tells the story through gestures, expressions and actions. Strong colors, bold value contrasts, and variations of shapes and sizes create a captivating scene.”
I was waiting at the bus station when I noticed a girl wearing a red hat, and I couldn’t help but think of Little Red Riding Hood. I immediately took several photos with my mobile phone. When reviewing my photos back at my studio, I chose this photo for its composition.
STAGE 1: PLAN AND DRAW
Before I began my drawing, I tried to visualize mentally what my finished painting was going to look like. For this work, I had a clear idea of the planned painting (excluding its middle-ground).
I began by placing the large shapes: the woods, the girl and her basket, and the Wolf. In the background, trees were indicated with charcoal strokes, varying from broad to narrow. A line counter-drawing of Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, in the foreground, was done on a sheet of paper and then transferred to sienna-toned paper with charcoal.
STAGE 2: INTRODUCE RED
Once I was happy with my drawing, I decided to introduce the dominant, richest color in this painting—red. In the shadow area of the hood, I first applied a layer of blue followed by overlapping red layers. The different reds were applied thickly on the hood and its attached cape, as well as on the fabric that covers the basket. I also indicated the red-striped pattern on the dress and added touches of red to Little Red Riding Hood’s skin.
STAGE 3: BUILD UP THE FIGURE
I moved on to block in the middle-ground with brown and build up the rest of the figure. For the dress, I used a wide range of blue hues in varying values and touches of other colors, such as magenta violet and madder carmine. When developing the dress and creating the fabric folds, I played with warm and cool tones.
The lightest area in the painting is the arm and shoulder. It leads the viewer’s eye from the girl to the basket and the Wolf and back to the girl. Whereas I laid on thick, saturated color on Little Red Riding Hood’s clothes, I applied the flesh tones of her arm with light pastel strokes, letting the sienna color of the surface shine through. At this stage, I’ve almost completed Little Red Riding Hood.
STAGE 4: BUILD UP THE WOLF
Next, I moved on to the Wolf, applying the same brown color used for the wood to the animal, diffusing him somewhat with the surrounding. I worked on his facial expression and reworked it until I got it right. I aimed to create a sense of tension between the Wolf and the girl. I then worked on developing the background further.
STAGE 5: BUILD UP THE BASKET
I built up the basket, trying to capture its interwoven texture. The basket is the center of interest in the painting, serving as a connecting element between the Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood.
I painted the surrounding areas around the figure and the Wolf while paying attention to how their edges related to the background. I unified the elements, integrating Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf into the scenery to create a sense of depth and atmosphere.
STAGE 6: RE-ESTABLISH BACKGROUND
In the final stage, I wanted to darken the shadow pattern of the wood and integrate the middle-ground and background. I reworked these areas, adding a mass of dark strokes that suggest more trees. I completed the painting by adding dark accents on the hood and making final refinements.
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