Martha Kisling: Spontaneous Watercolor

By Cassie Rief in Featured Artists > Watercolor Paintings

More than 20 years ago, Colorado artist Martha Kisling fell in love with the exciting and spontaneous nature of watercolor.

A true believer in developing one’s own creative expression, Martha has taught classes and workshops for more than 12 years and also helps coordinate the Alzheimer’s Association Memories in the Making program, which allows people with dementia to continuously express themselves through art.

Martha creates varied artwork by experimenting with mixed media, collage and watercolor batik, which involves applying a wax-resistant dying technique to her pieces.


In Sailboat, above, the mix of colors blended above and below the boat give the impression that it’s hurtling through not only a sea of choppy water, but also quite ethereally through a cerulean blue sky.

I love that Martha doesn’t feel the need to drench every inch of the paper in color; instead she uses the bare minimum to boldly create a piece full of dynamic appeal.

Just as I divert my eyes to the next painting, a shadowed man at the helm of the boat catches my attention. . . this solitary, brave figure’s lack of detail and overall small significance to the painting seems to lend added power and strength to the overwhelming sea around him.

In Country Storm, nature once again takes center stage, this time through three strong colors which immediately grabbed my attention.


My first thought was how great these hues work together, and in a surprisingly pleasant way.

To me, the colors signify three seasons. The dismal gray-blue of the stormy sky takes me back to past winter storms. The golden, harvest-colored hues in the middle of the painting suggest that this was the first snow of the season, as fall turns to winter and only patches of snow survives between the tall, prairie grass.

Lastly, the foreground to the front of the painting incorporates hints of bright purple and pink hues, reminiscent of early spring, near Eastertime.

Finally, in Old Barn, we see Martha’s return to her unique use of limited canvas space to create an interesting, 3-D appeal. In fact, because of the reflective qualities and insubstantial, subtle colors framing the painting’s focal point, the concretely painted building seems to almost be projecting outwardly from the canvas.


Martha is able to create detail and intrigue within the painting with the slightest of brushstrokes. It makes me think that, without a second thought, she painted the scene as if it were a memory of some landscape she had driven by once, or remembered as a fragment of a dream.

I also love the earthen colors dripping down in the foreground, and the variety of bright hues found in the old barn. The combination of colors are simply charming, making something old seem fresh and young.

Of course the few paintings above don’t even scratch the surface of what Martha is capable of painting, so be sure to check out her daily painting blog if you’d like to view more of her work, or learn more about her many watercolor techniques.


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