Five questions for Carmella Jarvi

Artist Carmella Jarvi looks beyond the surface in her watercolors of women. For 20 years, she has combined oil paint and pastel techniques to showcase the grace of female models with the ethereality of underwater space. In 2011, Jarvi won an Arts & Science Council grant to curate the Gallery at Packard Place. She oversees the placement of new art in this hub for entrepreneurs and artists.

Q. Why did you start painting women in water? I have always been drawn to water. At UNC Charlotte as an art major, I had a friend who swam and modeled for me. I started shooting pictures of him and doing paintings. Over the years, I’ve done many paintings of figures in water, but the bulk of my work includes women. Men are more action-oriented, swimming from one end to the other. Women get in the water, meander around, swim and dive some  Each model has a different body type and movement. One woman is a musician and her underwater shots are pure grace like an angel.

Q. What kind of camera do you use to take the photos for your paintings? I originally used the disposable underwater cameras. Then, I got a 35-millimeter underwater Nikon. About three years ago, I switched over to digital.

Q. How do you use pastels and paint to mimic water? I use pastels more like painting than drawing. They’re thick, hand-rolled pastels. It’s more important to create an impression of a feeling versus going in and making sure every highlight and mark is perfect. The oil paintings take a long time, but the pastels are very spontaneous and a lot quicker.

Q. When did you apply for the Packard Place curator position? Last summer, the ASC, along with Packard Place, were offering a one-time grant to an artist to curate a gallery component of Packard Place. I ended up getting it. None of my work is hanging, but I think that helps to show my seriousness. I work with a creative team and bring different artists to the table to talk about what they want for the gallery.

Q. How have you built a successful art business? When I graduated from UNCC, I was an art teacher by day. While I was doing that, I would enter shows and continue working. In 2005, I took my first art business workshop. It was like a light bulb went off. Now being a full-time artist for six years, I can’t stress enough the point of networking and putting yourself out there.