Seascape Watercolor Painting by Martine Jacquel Saint Ellier - France

GUEST ARTIST: “Finding The Perfect Picture” by Martine Jacquel Saint Ellier

My name is Martine Jacquel Saint Ellier and I am a self‐taught French watercolorist. I have been painting with watercolors for 5 years and, before that, I had never tried painting or drawing anything. As long as I can remember, I thought I was not good at all at drawing.

Instead of painting, I was taking pictures with my camera. I was born in a family of photographers, and as a child I had already taken a lot of pictures. I was always looking for the “perfect picture”, the one with the good light, the good subject, the good framing, and it was difficult to find it.

One day I thought that perhaps I could try to paint what I was looking for, and that was the beginning…

Lighthouse Watercolor Painting by Martine Jacquel Saint Ellier - France

I chose watercolor because I thought it was easy, only some paint and water. I didn’t know anything about painting. I experimented and I soon fell in love with watercolor. Of course, my first paintings were not very good, but I had a lot of pleasure painting them and that was essential.

I think that I have learnt composition and colors with my camera, and with my work as a web designer. Now I keep taking a lot of pictures but I only use them in my studio for my paintings. I still think I am not very good at drawing but I am able to draw simple things, and I keep learning.

Studying & Working

As soon as I began painting, I bought a lot of watercolor books to learn as much as possible. I am in love with colors and Making Color Sing by Jeanne Dobie is a book I have read and read and read. I also admire a lot Ann Blockley, with her wonderful mixed medias landscapes, and I own several books from her, and even from her father John Blockley.

Landscape Watercolor Painting by Martine Jacquel Saint Ellier - France

I paint every day and it allows me to progress. I think this is the key : WORKING!! I have also been attending some workshops with well‐known watercolor artists and all of this helps me to improve my art.

Painting Materials & Equipment

I like to test something new: new paper, new color, but always good quality papers,
usually 140 lbs ‐ cold pressed, rough, and for flowers hot pressed. My paper brands are various ones, I like to change: Arches, Saunders Waterford, Langton Prestige, Fabriano Artistico, and also some papers handmade in small french mills.

It is interesting to often change because it is always a discovery. You cannot have habits. When I began watercolor, I couldn’t resist all of the beautiful colors that are sold, and I bought a lot of them.

But now, I realize that I regularly use only some of them. And a lot of these beautiful colors remain on my palette most of the time. I like to mix the primary colors to obtain beautiful colored grays, for example transparent red oxide, primary blue, and magenta.

My favorite watercolor brands are Winsor & Newton, and Daniel Smith especially for their Primatek range, for example, Burnt Bronzite Genuine, when it remains on the paper, has a subtle lustrous sparkle.

The brushes that I prefer are Aquarellys from Leonard, and also pure Kolinsky red sable brushes. I also have dagger brushes to paint flower stems and foliage.

My Way Of Painting

I do not want to be a prisoner of a single type of painting, and I like to challenge myself to paint different subjects. I do not want to be precise, instead I try to render an atmosphere, the feelings that I have in front of my subject.

Snow Village Landscape Watercolor Painting by Martine Jacquel Saint Ellier - France

At the beginning of a painting, I only draw the main lines. For examples I draw the buildings, but I do not draw trees or background vegetation. I paint mostly wet on dry, but it can also be wet on wet at the beginning of the painting. Usually I wet my paper on the back and I put it on a plexiglas surface, and that prevents it from curling.

I use a lot of water, and I like to splash water and/or paints. I can use drawing‐gum for small thin areas. I also use paper towels for lightening the sky for example. I often layer washes until I obtain the right value, or to correct some too cold or too hot areas. One exception for layering washes is when I paint white flowers in negative painting. I immediately try to get the right value and ‐ it is magical ‐ the white flower appears.

If I do not succeed in painting a special subject I do not try immediately to paint it again. Instead, I wait for several weeks to try again, when I have totally forgotten my first painting, in order not to be influenced by it.

What Do I Paint?

I like to paint what is around me: landscapes, seascapes, mountainscapes, animals (especially cats, as I have 2 cats) and flowers. I am lucky to be living in France, in the beautiful region of the Loire Valley where there are a lot of beautiful sceneries, and well‐known monuments.

When I am on vacation, I like to carry with me a very little travel kit with only a few colors, a small sketch book, and some watercolor postcards. It is very pleasant to gather memories through my paintings, and to send unique postcards to my family.

Landscape Watercolor Painting by Martine Jacquel Saint Ellier - France

Sharing My Art

Here in my town in France, I am a member of a group of artists. I participate in local exhibitions in my region. But, of course, I share my art on the web and it is always a pleasure to see that my art can be internationally appreciated, and even sold.

Martine Jacquel Saint Ellier
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32 thoughts on “GUEST ARTIST: “Finding The Perfect Picture” by Martine Jacquel Saint Ellier

  1. Fantastic work! I can really recognize my own introduction to painting in yours. I started three years ago, and had never painted a single painting since kindergarten. Now I’ve tested both oils and watercolour, and it’s so much fun! No masterpieces, but it gets a little better each time 🙂

  2. “I thought I was not good at all at drawing”, well you have a real aptitude for painting. Love your loose style, and I’m heading for the Loire on Thursday (thought I recognised a chateaux or two) and wish I could paint as you do.

  3. Thank you for sharing your experience and your art. I love how fluid/liquid your paintings are with lots of wonderfully puddly areas pulled into focus with some more detailed work. Great tip about the plexi glass too. Thanks.

  4. Hello Martine – I love how you have so much softness in your paintings, but also have the degree of detail in some areas. Your work is so wonderful! Thank you for sharing your art journey with us!

  5. Your work is so alive, so real… I can feel myself inside the towns and landscapes, feel the fur on the cats…. The most detailed and realistic works don’t often have the same magic that I love.

  6. Thank you for presenting us with this fantastic body of work. You have given us something special that we all get an opportunity to appreciate. Your talent and unique way of expressing how you see is inspiring and liberating.

  7. Thank you for sharing your story and your wonderful paintings. What shape brushes do you use the most in your paintings? And what is your favorite brand of paint, if you have one?

    1. Hello Barb !

      Thank you for your comment !

      I prefer sable brushes. I use round and also flat brushes. The ones I use the most are the round ones.
      I use many brands of paint : Winsor&Newton, Daniel Smith, Blockx, Sennelier, Rembrandt.
      My favorite are Winsor&Newton and Daniel Smith for their Primatek range which is very beautiful.


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