A Brush With Nature
March 2022 Issue
by Jacie Elizabeth Millen
Photography by Bob Speare
Joyful is the one word that describes Martha Worthy. With her kind, soulful demeanor, Martha shows her true colors through her beautiful artwork that not only inspires her, but others, too. It’s easy to see that nature, particularly wildlife, ignites Martha’s passion to create, so it’s no wonder she has nested on Hilton Head Island, a nature lover’s dream.
Hilton Head wasn’t always Martha’s home, but for the past 41 years she has called it her happy haven and found her place of peace. From short family vacations over the years, to eventually helping at her mother’s vacation rental business, Hilton Head has always been a staple in her life. Finally making a permanent move to the Lowcountry, Martha decided to live a more simple life so she would have time to enjoy what she loved the most—art.
From painting to sculpting and creative freedom in between, art has been a part of her since childhood. Sharpening the skills of her passion, Martha continue her artistic pathway, studying art at William and Mary, which is just a few hours from her hometown of Martinsville, VA.
About 10 years ago, Martha added a delightful studio to her property that features floor to ceiling windows, giving it amazing natural light. With beautiful bird feeders hanging about among the lush surrounding flora, the spirit of nature can be felt echoing through the little studio’s walls. This building not only brings her a safe space to let her thoughts run free, but also provides a workplace that she doesn’t have to hassle over cleaning after herself after each paint session. It is truly a place meant for art and art only.
Martha's work is a culmination of many years spent perfecting the techniques of her craft. “There are so many hours put in before success happens. Every artist struggles to get moving and make dreams turn into reality,” Martha said. Years ago, her biggest problem was getting into the studio and nailing down what she wanted to achieve. Today, she can’t seem to get out of the studio.
Martha wants to emphasize that she has had plenty of failures over the years. “Self-doubting and that negative voice that seems to creep in occasionally has always been my motivator, but it’s all fun at the end of the day. I love what I do and wouldn’t change it for anything,” Martha said.
During the hot summers of South Carolina, Martha heads to the North Carolina mountains to partake in hiking trips to enhance her enthusiasm and to see different flora and fauna than Hilton Head can offer. “I see bears, foxes, local birds, but I’ve never seen a coyote in person; I’ve always wanted to see one,” Martha said. She takes it all in with her partner, Bob Speare, who is a photographer and shoots the most amazing photos of nature. His work inspires her, as she has painted many of Bob’s photos, making the two of them an artistic dream team! It adds a special connection to the paintings.
In each piece, Martha strives for beauty, originality, realism and even knows the stories behind all of her art. She has recently gotten into studying folklore and how nature has so many connections to stories before our time. Focused on nature, animals, foliage and natural patterns, Martha said, “Birds are my favorite to paint, but I have this love for bears; they are so intelligent.”
An example of tying story to art can be found in her painting of a handsome buck with two magpies flying around his antlers. Martha explained that in folklore, having one magpie around brings sorrow, and if there are two, they bring joy. In this particular painting, Martha is the deer and she has joy all around her. Her peace, love for nature, incredible skill and especially her ability to pursue it, are all layers of her joyous nature.
“A lot of happy hours have been put in. I prioritize keeping my life simple so I can focus on my art.”
Bob Watcher: “Bob is an expert bird watcher and it’s so fun going to watch with him. He can identify almost every bird we see. We also have our bird sound identifier apps out to listen to what kind of birds are all around us.”
Favorite Painting: “One of my favorite subjects to paint are Painted Buntings, sweet little colorful birds. They are all over this area and they are just so beautiful.”
Big Family: Martha is one of four siblings, though she is the only “artist” in the group. She keeps in touch with them, and one of her sisters lives on Hilton Head.