Shantell Martin is a visual artist and YouTuber. She draws on anything and everything and is known predominantly for her black and white stream-of-consciousness drawings. She has traveled around the world and lived in the UK, Japan, and now runs her studio in New York. You can find more of her work in her portfolio here.
Interview conducted by: Tiffany Chan
Edited by: Morgan Moore & Tiffany Chan
Cover Image by: Connie Tsang
Q: What is your story? How did you fall in love with the visual arts/design?
I’m not sure if it’s something I feel in love with, more like something I’ve been discovering and extracting from within myself for years and years.
Q: What was your professional path like? What were the different paths that led you to do what you do today?
As you may have seen in the video that Casey Neistat made with me – I was told by a teacher not to apply to art school, and I was in a place where no one in my family had finished school before me and there was not much of a positive model around me. So I did the one thing someone told me not too. After art school, I then ended up moving to Japan where I started my career as a VJ/Visual Jockey…. I did that for about 4-5 years, then started all over again when I moved to New York in 2009. Since then I’ve been drawing and drawing and drawing.
Q: What is the weirdest/quirkiest side job you’ve ever worked?
Not sure if I’ve had a quirky side gig. But for years I worked in Sport stores or Camera shops in London.
Q: What does a normal day look like for you?
Wake up and if I’m good the gym, breakfast, emails, then I’m heading to the studio if I don’t have meetings in the city. I’m not a night time person, [at] around 6/7pm I’m already back home watching Netflix or something.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you faced at your job?
An ongoing challenge is that there is no real support system for growth.
Q: What are the greatest rewards of your job?
That I get to put smiles on peoples faces and inspire people.
Q: What was it like to start your own studio? What were some unexpected challenges/lessons?
I still don’t have staff, so that’s hard as I’m doing everything myself.
Q: What is an unexpected but essential skill you had to learn “on the job”?
Being organized, staying on top of taxes, and boring stuff like that.
Q: What inspires you? What motivates you? How do you work yourself out of a creative rut?
There is no rut – only moments to take a break from what you’re doing. I love to collaborate and learn new stuff. I just started taking acting classes, and I’m getting into photography.
Q: In your opinion, what are the most important considerations that make up good design?
It’s got to be balanced and visually pleasing.
Q: What is the funniest/snarkiest/generally most memorable reaction that someone has had to your work?
A kid can do that!
Can anyone create a line (something we all do) but make it recognizably theirs ?
Q: How have your travels influenced your work? Where has been your favorite place to visit so far and why?
Love Toronto for the people, chilled vibes, and food.
Q: Were there every moments throughout your career when you doubted yourself/what you were doing? How did those moments resolve?
Yes, quite often – I catch myself asking why would anyone want to be any artist, what’s the point in what we do, does it and will it actually have an impact ? When I fall into this hole – I’ll just call or meet up with a good friend.
Q: What is one contentious issue in the art world that you are very passionate about?
The fact that they pretend that art and artist are not a business.
Q: What is the best advice that someone ever gave you? Alternatively, what is the advice you would give to your younger self?
Best advice I was given is that it’s all a wave – with ups and downs.
The advice I would give myself AND have done for years is to create your own opportunities and do that by using what YOU have access to.
Q: What is one (or two) things you would like the general public to know about your field/the arts world in general?
That I had a whole career in Japan where I used colour 😉
Just for fun…
Q: Can you recommend a wine and cheese (any comfort drink/food combo) to us?
Not really…. I do love donuts and mint tea, though.