Meet the Artist: Lesley Martyn


Coloured Pencil is a deceptively difficult medium and one that requires an endless amount of patience and skill.

This month I asked coloured pencil artist Lesley Martyn a few questions – I had the privilege of meeting Lesley at the Degrees of Realism Exhibition in October and if I remember correctly, she still owes me a couple of tips on using drafting film!

Lesley and her husband settled on a farm in the Eastern Cape Highlands quite recently.  This little piece of heaven inspires her work greatly – as is evident in her drawings of the Nguni Cattle they also farm with. She admits a lot of different things inspire her – it could be the way the light falls on a subject or the vibrancy of colour.  Lesley also loves creating pet portraits for people – particularly for the reward in seeing the emotion and joy invoked when they open the portrait and see their beloved pet recreated on paper.

I asked her about her background and whether she studied art and she answered with a smile. “I didn’t study art nor did I take art at school (I studied Industrial Psychology at Rhodes University). However, I have always enjoyed being creative and was always looking for something to fulfill that need.   I have tried various crafty things like decoupage, needlework, quilting, fabric painting, and pottery, but nothing really did it for me.  At the end of 2017 I was feeling particularly stressed at work and I saw a weekend course being offered by graphite artist, Vincent Reid, whom I have always admired. So I signed up for it and thoroughly loved it.  We all persuaded him to make it a regular Saturday morning get-together which we did for a few months.  I then started exploring coloured pencil as a medium and was hooked and haven’t looked back.  My great grandfather was quite a well known watercolour artist in the UK and I possibly inherited some of that from him!!”

Lesley’s day depends very much on what is happening on the farm, as well as her commission line-up.  She usually wakes up early, feeds the horses, then checks and feeds the sheep.  She does her own housework too and prefers getting the big chores out of the way as she admits to not being able to concentrate if the house is a mess!  Lesley also still does some administrative work for the game reserve they used to run, as well as the books for their own farm, so she fits that into her day too! Drawing normally happens throughout the morning until mid afternoon and then the animal feeding and checking cycle starts again.  She’ll sometimes work on her drawings after dinner too if her schedule demands. 

Lesley is a coloured pencil fan although she started drawing with graphite and likes to go back to it every now and then.  Its the fine realistic detail and delicacy that she can achieve with coloured pencils that Lesley adores.

When I ask her about her favourite pencils and paper, she answers without hesitating.

“This depends on what I am drawing and on what surface – although I must say the first coloured pencils I tried still remain a firm favourite – and those are my Faber Castell Polychromos.  I can get beautiful fine detail with these on any surface.  Caran D’ache Pablos are my other go-to pencil for fine detail and they have some super special colours in there which I haven’t found in any other brand. The softer Caran D’ache Luminance are fantastic especially for people portraits and also on drafting film and although I haven’t used them much, I am quickly falling in love with the Derwent Lightfast which also have some fantastically different colours.

For pet portraits, my favourite surface is Clairefontaine Pastelmat (the board is especially nice and slightly smoother) although it did take some getting used to. It comes in some wonderful shades which you can use to complement almost any animal you are drawing.  At the moment my favourite shades are sand, light blue and dark grey.  For people portraits, mount board is definitely my go to – and this also comes in a huge variety of colours.  You can get these from your framer or art shop. Drafting film is a fun surface and you can get a superb vibrancy on this particularly if you use the double sided one as you can deepen your colours by using both sides.  For graphite, Fabriano Artistico 300gsm hot press is my favourite.”

As artists we all have moments we’re either secretly or insanely proud of.  For Lesley these moments include being asked to do a step-by-step drawing demonstration for The South African Artist Magazine, which also included being on the cover – after she had only been drawing for a few months!   She has also featured in Coloured Pencil Magazine and Ann Kullberg’s Colour Magazine in the USA.

Lesley is a huge coloured-pencil inspiration and someone we are proud to call a Founding Member of the Drawing Guild.  We look forward to witnessing the heights she will reach!