Market Day in Brittany

with Marilyn Allis

PA Marilyn Allis uses the spontaneity of watercolour to capture the vibrancy of a bustling street market in Brittany

The Cote d'Amour in Brittany, France, is an amazingly inspiring location. One minute you are admiring a tranquil harbour or bustling cross channel port with nearby long sandy shores to never ending open seas, the next you are gazing up at châteaux standing grand on the edge of the sea, and the canals and estuaries that are constantly changing with the tide.

Peaceful villages and bustling towns play host to the most amazing markets which I particularly love; the bright colours of the produce and the elegant French shoppers make for fantastic compositions.



Where accurate product matches
are not possible we have selected
the closest match

1 I drew the scene with quite a lot of detail, so that I could apply the paint very quickly and create a loose and atmospheric watercolour.

Using a Whopper brush I made up a pale wash of Cobalt Blue and a second wash of Raw Sienna, both with lots of water and very little pigment.

I washed the blue into the distant path and whilst that was still wet continued into the foreground with the Raw Sienna, creating a sense of recession. Whilst the foreground was still wet I washed in a little neat Raw Sienna just to break up the wash slightly.

2 Using a big wash brush I applied a pale wash of Alizarin Crimson onto the girl's jumper; I added a stronger mix where the tone is darker.

I applied a very pale wash of Cobalt Blue to the girl's trousers and darker Cobalt Blue to the middle toned areas.

I tried to let the colours bleed into each other to add a sense of movement to the walking couple.

A good mix of colour for the skin is Light Red with a touch of Sepia; the skin is usually darker in tone than you think it is. For the hair I used Raw Sienna for the light and Sepia for the shadows.

3 I established all the other people in more watery colours, using Prussian Blue, French Ultramarine Blue, Light Red and Intense Violets.

I did this with very little detail. Next I added some colour using Cadmium Red, Cadmium Orange and Cadmium Yellow for the awnings. Where the light hits the awnings I used very pale washes and intensified them where the awnings were in slightly more shadow.

4 Squinting at the reference photo helps you to identify the darker shapes and the creases in the fabric of the clothes and shadows on her trousers. I painted the man in exactly the same way using an Intense Violet for the shadow of his white shirt, and Prussian Blue and Sepia for his trousers.I used a well watered mix of Cobalt Blue and a touch of Light Red for the distant buildings. I wanted to keep them in the distance, so I kept them on the blue side and gave very little detail.

5 With clear water I wet the paper where I had drawn the vegetables on the stalls then dripped in neat Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Red, Lemon Yellow, and a mix of Prussian Blue and Lemon Yellow for the greens.

6 Once this had dried I painted in the negative shapes using Intense Violet.

7 Using Sepia, I dry brush marked the legs for the tables. I then used Phthalo Blue for the tablecloths and the stripe of the awning in the distance.

8 I wet the areas between the awnings and the tops of the stalls and just dripped in Cobalt Blue and Light Red, so that it dried bluish and very pale. Finally, using a mix of French Ultramarine and a touch of Light Red, I added the shadows.

I have tried to simplify this delightful market scene and aimed to capture the atmosphere and warmth of the day. It was only February but the sun was very strong, I have exaggerated the colours to imply the warmth that was there.

For full details of Marilyn's workshops and exhibitions please visit or email her at [email protected]