When Martha Napier took the leap and became a full-time freelance illustrator in 2013, the world of fashion design lost a wonderful creator, but the world of illustration gained an excellent artist. Martha’s vivid watercolours and loose, almost naïve style, have given a lighthearted lift to all kinds of interesting projects in fashion, advertising, editorial and more. She also does live painting for clients, and was named a top illustrator to watch on Instragram by InStyle magazine.
Martha was born in the Midwest, grew up in Germany, and today splits her time between Chicago and New York. She loves fashion – that much is clear – and her most admired designers include Miuccia Prada, Marni, and Phoebe Philo. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri Matisse and Cy Twombly are three artists that inspire her.
Beyond art and fashion, she’s had a fascinating life. She’s travelled to the North Pole, and to the Galapagos Islands. “The only place I’ve seen a cactus, a flamingo and a penguin in the same location,” she says.
Martha has a BA in Studio Art from Wake Forest University, and was a Presidential Scholar at the same college in Fine Art. She discovered her love of fashion illustration at the Parsons School of Design, where she studied for a post grad degree in Fashion Design.
Watercolours are Martha’s main media, but she also uses markers, pencils and acrylics. She scans the work into Photoshop and uses the application to clean it up and colour correct it before delivering it to her clients.
Martha is very much a gestural painter, with a very fine skill in getting paints to flow from her brush and soak beautifully into the paper, and to mix with one another. Seen up close, it’s a gorgeous effect. Her work is vibrant and vivid as you can see, and full of joy and whimsy.