Watercolor: Step by Step: Margaret M. Martin's "Country Jewels"

0801martindemo10_600x400In the winter 2008 issue of Watercolor magazine, Margaret M. Martin discussed incorporating figures in her architecture and landscape scenes to help direct the viewer's eye and infuse a sense of movement and life into her paintings. Here, we offer a step by step demonstration of her piece Country Jewels.

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Step 1
In considering this photo reference, Martin was attracted to the church contours and used the shape as a point of departure for composing the painting. The artist decided to use warm colors, and she added figures for interest.
Step 2
In this step Martin identified the foreground, middle-ground, and background areas. Deciding that the foreground road needed some activity that would move the eye from the foreground to the middle ground, she inserted a few runners.
The artist's sketchbooks are full of drawings like these. A few of these figure drawings were the basis for the runners.

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Step 3
Employing a felt-tip line pen, Martin made a black line drawing and then defined basic lights and darks with four broad Prismacolor cool-gray markers (30%, 50%, 70%, and black). These values defined the contrast, space, and dramatic effect.
Step 4
To begin painting, Martin drew the subject on the watercolor paper with a No. 2 graphite pencil. She then tacked the paper at the four corners with pushpins to a board and applied a light wash of permanent alizarin crimson and Winsor yellow with a 1/2" ox-hair brush in the foreground. After it dried, she laid in a wet-in-wet wash of Winsor blue (green shade) across the background. The two washes merged near the horizon line, and the artist then indicated the distant mountain with a mixture of French ultramarine and Winsor blue (green shade).
Step 5
With a No. 12 sable brush, Martin blocked in the large foliage area with Winsor green (blue shade) and burnt sienna. To develop some lights in the middle ground of the tree foliage, she used burnt umber and cobalt violet, with accents of Winsor orange, Winsor red, new gamboge, and Winsor yellow. The artist kept the strokes broad and painted around the figures to leave white shapes. Vibrant color and sharp contrasts helped direct the viewer's eye to the focal point. A mixture of Winsor orange, new gamboge, perylene violet, and Winsor blue (green shade) introduced church shadows. The pigment is laid directly on the dry paper to merge. White paper indicated steeple light.

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Step 6
In this phase the artist introduced color and shadows to the runners. Notice how the edges are both crisp and diffused and are sometimes of similar value to the background.
Step 7
The shadows are a mixture of Winsor yellow, Winsor blue (green shade), Winsor orange, and perylene violet. Martin made the shadows warm and left the white of the paper in some areas to suggest the sunlit side. She tried to unify some of the colors in areas throughout the painting to convey a sense of harmony.
Notice the reflections from above in the puddle and the birds in the sky, which the artist added for greater interest in the background.

Country Jewels
2007, watercolor, 15 x 22. Collection the artist.

To read the feature article on Martin, check out the winter 2008 issue of Watercolor magazine today!

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2 thoughts on “Watercolor: Step by Step: Margaret M. Martin's "Country Jewels"

  1. Hi! I’m trying to find M Marten (yes the painting is signed with an “e” in Marten. I have a lovely watercolor named “Piato fiorito” and am trying to find out more about the artist. All I find is Martin with an “i”. Can you help? Thank you very much.