Saturday, January 15, 2011

Interview with Bill Martin

Artist Interview with Illustrator/Designer
 ~William David Martin~
1.  What is your name?
    Bill Martin, my full legal name is William David Martin, which I also like and use on occasion usually when signing contracts, writing resumes, or sometimes bios or descriptions of my work. I guess William David Martin is for times when I talk more about what I take seriously, Bill is for social occasions.

2.  What do you do?
That’s a tough question. It implies “how do you see yourself?”, or “who are you”.  Like most people I don’t fall strictly into one role.  I see myself as an artist because it is how I process the world around me, and it is what informs my behavior in the other roles I fill in my life, husband, step-father, friend, student, teacher, thinker, senior developer. It might surprise a number of the people who only see the one role I I relate to them with – but I’m an artist first. It’s who I am

3. Do you support yourself financially with what you make?
Another interesting question.  The answer is “yes” of course, but a piece of art isn’t always the end result, sometimes I’m programming or planning. What I do to make money regardless of the outcome is think and solve problems in the abstract and turn my thoughts into a product.  I guess that makes me a professional thinker.  Its an important distinction for myself and for the art field as well, or it seems, most lines of pursuit these days. It isn’t uncommon for people to want to deal with you as only a skilled set of hands. I’m not really interested in that kind of work.  Don’t get me wrong, I still need to pay the mortgage. However whether freelance or employer, working for a client that isn’t interested in my ideas isn’t my first choice.  I think most people feel the same way.

4. Do you ever think about doing anything else as a profession?
Yes – but all of them a theme on the same thing. I’ve been a lot of things over the years that I have enjoyed.  Taught some college classes for a while, been a creative director, have always freelanced as an illustrator, and since 1996 have made my living online in both the creative and technical disciplines.  I’m still interested in using all of what I do.  Part of that is art, part of that is problem solving, and part of that is helping people.  I always have things I’m working on to keeping learning and growing. Currently I have a great job working at a company that really cares about people and helping them.

5. What is your earliest memory of making something?
In terms of drawing I can’t really remember.  I remember having a subscription to boy’s life as a child and there would always be some amazing stories in there accompanied by drawings.  I would lay on the floor of the living room or in the room I shared with my brother and read the stories and then stare at the drawings and daydream.  Years later when I was flipping through and old annual I was surprised and pleased to find that one (probably more) of the drawings I used to stare at were made by David J. Passalacqua a man I was privileged to study for many years under. The other memory I have is when my sister Cathy brought home a copy of Amazing Spiderman #167.  The artist that drew that book was Ross Andru.

6. How do you come up with your ideas?
I read a lot and draw whenever I can.  Both of those lead to ideas whether it is a visual or a sequence of drawings or a project idea.  It usually starts with the question “what is needed here” or the thought “isn’t that interesting”.  I don’t always have answers, but I find work combined with an interesting problem or idea is a great point of departure.

7. Do you consider what you make to be art?
A lot of it yes – but not all.  I guess someone will come around later and make that call.  I lot of what I’m doing is making pictures and thoughts or even just feeling on paper, I’m just as interested in the doing as in the result.

8. What are some of your creative influences (other artists, nature, music, etc.)?
Master artists, Rico Lebrun, Hokusai, Degas, Van Gogh, Picasso, Rembrandt, Ash Can, Futurism, N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle, Art Deco, Disney – it’s kind of tough to limit it I have a ton of stuff I love. I was also tremendously privileged to have studied for many years with David J. Passalacqua who exposed me to these influences. Also been lucky enough to study with Ronnie Lawlor and Margaret Hurst at the Dalvero Academy. All along I’ve also enjoyed the company of some amazingly talented peers.

9. Do you ever get emotionally attached to things that you make? 
Yeah, although mostly I get attached to the memory or feeling associated with when I was making the drawing, or the idea.  There are a couple of pieces I’ve gifted over the years that I kinda wished I still had. But mostly when I’m attached to a piece it’s because I want to extend on it further and haven’t had a chance to yet.

10. Do you think art has a purpose?
For me it does, it is how I solve problems and relate to the world, it is like breathing, it nourishes me and makes the world around me feel a little more sane. I don’t know – maybe a discussion between myself and what is, a pulse, or a thought or a moment of aliveness. It can also be a dream for what could be or a way of calling attention to how I see what already is, sometimes it is just happiness or a visceral excitement. I art therefore I am??  I’m also getting to a point where I have other ideas for what to do with it, maybe how I change things.  Maybe that’s it’s purpose as well – it’s a question and an answer – “What’s next??”.

Thank you so very much Bill for your thoughtful answers and your outstanding artwork.  Your creativity and skills never cease to amaze.  Keep the pencil flying!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The "Funny" in Art

"Clown Painting", A. Dubsky, from book titled "Clown Paintings", by Diane Keaton

Have you ever looked at a work of art and broke out into uncontrollable laughter?  Giggled? Smiled?  I have always been a fan of art that has a good dose of the funny.  A few years ago my wife gave me a great book entitled "Clown Paintings" by Diane Keaton and I loved it.  I realize that clown paintings fall into the low art category of "kitsch" but I think that it makes my appreciation of them even greater. If you ever get the opportunity to visit the MOBA (museum of bad art) in Dedham, Massachusetts, do it. It is a curated collection of "found paintings" that are embellished by very important descriptions.  It is in the basement of the Dedham Theater in a small space before you enter the restrooms.  Somehow the smell of urinal cakes add to the art experience. A big difference between the paintings at MOBA and those in the Diane Keaton book is that the clown paintings are beautifully painted in bold colors and express strong emotions. Good-good-good.  To make this book even better it contains interviews with well known comedians and celebrities known for their humor.  They all comment on their opinions and experiences with clowns.  My hands down favorite is "Steve Martins" essay on the mating rituals of clowns.  I think I actually wet myself the first time I read it.
"A Wild an Crazy Guy", 1978, Steve Martin

Steve Martin is one of my earliest artistic influences.   I thought I was a 12 year old laugh riot when I would recite the comedy routines from his 1978 album "Wild and Crazy Guy". That was a difficult time in my young life and humor and Steve Martin  helped me cope and laugh through it.  Even at a young age I was realizing how much power there was in "funny".
"Klown", 1978, Robert Arneson, Ceramic

As far as my art education goes... I have been so lucky to have studied under some great artists.  When I was accepted into the graduate program at U.C. Davis to study under Robert Arneson I again probably wet myself.  One of the largest figures in Ceramic Art, he was also someone that I admired almost more for his drawings, sketches, and yes his humor.  "Bob" was constantly addressing humor his work and constantly criticized for it.  His sculpture was often referred to as "too jokey" by the serious new york art world.  He always spoke back to his critics in his work and always challenged their notions of what art was? He was a true maverick.
"Romantic Fool", 1996, Chris Theiss, Graphite, charcoal, pastel, on paper.

I'm not in any way saying that art has to be funny although I do believe that art that expresses it has a greater ability to deliver powerful meaning.  So here's to "funny"!
What makes you laugh? 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Year

Happy New Year! 
My wife Kristin has captured some of the greatest pictures in 2010.  Many of which can be seen on her cool design blog.  This is one of my personal favorites and I don't think it is because I'm at the center of the composition.  I'm sticking my head out the front door of a junk store (not our house) probably saying to kristin that I don't think that it will be a good photo.  As always she proved me wrong. Another reason I'm posting this pic to end the old and begin the new year is that one of my goals every year is to get rid of so much unnecessary "stuff" that clutters up our life.  I'm sure that many of you have a similar objective.  "Less is more."  
Thanks to everyone that has frequented my new blog this past year.  I'm truly enjoying the process.
Do you have any interesting or unusual resolutions?