Martha A. Thompson won First Place in the Other Media category and First Place in the Watercolor category this year at the Susan K. Black Foundation workshop, plus her award-winning watercolor was purchased for the Roger Petersen Collection, earning Thompson a handsomely sculpted trophy. The unassuming Tucson artist has evident talent, but another trait that a conversation quickly reveals is a determination to improve. She talks of going to the gym. She takes drawing and watercolor classes she’s enrolled in for years. She works at getting better.

After one false start, Thompson began taking a weekly drawing class through the Pima County Parks & Recreation Department in 2001. She’s never stopped going. “I really fell in love with graphite pencil,” says Thompson. “It’s something I really really love. This is my passion, art.”

"In the Mist of Yellowstone," by Martha A. Thompson, 2013, graphite 7 1/2 x 12.

“In the Mist of Yellowstone,” by Martha A. Thompson, 2013, graphite 7 1/2 x 12.

She took the drawing class for seven years before branching out further into watercolors. Now, she goes to both. Many might stop going to such a class after a while. It’s the same instructor, it’s the same environment. But Thompson likes it because there is enough turnover to infuse the classes with new students. This means that the teacher takes the time to reinforce the basics, the foundations of drawing (or watercolor, in the other class). Thompson says this always helps her. “Plus, a lot of times if I’m so busy that if I don’t go that week ,I don’t do any painting or drawing. I still attend because when I have classes I have to go and do it; I make the time.”

Thompson’s graphite drawing “In the Mist of Yellowstone,” which won First Place in the Other Media category, was based on an experience Thompson had last year in Yellowstone National Park. “It wasn’t mist; it was actually smoke from the forest fires,” she says with a laugh. “It gave a really peaceful look to the landscape. The bison were standing or sitting–not moving. It was very peaceful. I wanted to show that haziness in pencil. It was a little challenging but I very much enjoyed it. I walked a long way to get the mountains where I wanted them to be in the picture.” Thompson used a cotton ball to make sections of the drawing soft before putting in the bison. The artist uses pencils in four degrees of hardness: 3H, H, F, and HB. She works on Bristol board.

The watercolor piece that earned Thompson a First Place ribbon was based on reference photos take underwater by her husband, Glen. “He got some really good pictures of trout in their natural environment with rocks and branches,” says Thompons. “I didn’t want to just paint the trout in the water. I wanted it to be surrounded by the environment.” Thompson was as excited about the setting as she was about the fish. “I love that log,” she says. “I repositioned it and changed the main trout–I straightened out the tail so it would be a better depiction of the whole trout. I enjoyed all the little sticks on the log, and the rocks underneath, and making that cave dark and safe for the fish.”

"Wiggins Fork Hideout," by Martha A. Thompson, 2013, watercolor, 7 1/2 x 12.

“Wiggins Fork Hideout,” by Martha A. Thompson, 2013, watercolor, 7 1/2 x 12.

This was the third year that Thompson attended SKB with Glen. The couple had decided to travel each September to celebrate their wedding anniversary. After the first year in Dubois, the travel arrangements were a no-brainer. “We decided to visit Yellowstone and the workshop, that was our plan,” recalls Thompson. “I love nature and being outdoors, and seeing beautiful landscapes of any kind. We had so much fun here–both of us–that we decided to come back. And now we don’t even talk about it, we just go!” Ω

"Martha With Green Scarf," by Stephen Left, 2013, oil on linen, 18 x 24.

“Martha With Green Scarf,” by Stephen Left, 2013, oil on linen, 18 x 24.