Thursday, August 5, 2010

Not Your Mother's Decorative Art: Interview With Martha Marshall

Martha Marshall is a full time professional artist who works closely with the corporate Interior Design trade and private collectors throughout the US and abroad. Creating stunning custom works while retaining the individuality of her strong artistic voice has been the key to her success in a market that is often overlooked by many artists.

acrylic on panel
8" x 8"

JG: In 1997 you left the corporate world behind to become a full time artist. How did that world influence your style?

MM: I don't think it had much influence on my artistic style, but being in the corporate world did influence my approach to the business side of being an artist. It gave me a very practical grounding in marketing my art, keeping good records, and presenting myself professionally.

JG: You are a self-proclaimed "decorative" painter and say your pieces are "meant to be more experienced than analyzed". How so?

MM: My work is nonobjective. I like to have viewers bring their experience to it and interact with it without a lot of prompting. It is not art with a message. It comes from a more emotional place, expressed in colors, subtle shapes and textures.
Regarding the word "decorative", I also present work for the interior design trade. That's the commercial side to what I do, which pays the bills. But there's a separate body of work that isn't commercially driven but reflects my own explorations and creative growth every day in the studio.

JG: I, personally, find it refreshing to see the word put out there by a fellow artist, actually. There is snobbery, I think, about the word because many feel art is supposed to only be raw and temperamental and couldn't possibly be real if it caters to a specific decor. I just don't buy into that school of thought. Design and decor are very real markets and yet so easily dismissed by many artists. It just makes for many missed opportunities, in my opinion.

MM: I'm so glad you brought that up. It reminds me of something a soap star said years ago in an interview. He said there are two kinds of actors: employed and unemployed. I have taken that wise counsel to heart. I'm not a snob about my art, and am thrilled that I can enjoy some income from it.

Elements 7
acrylic on panel
8" x 8"

JG: Your most recent work is executed almost exclusively on cradled panels measuring 8"x 8". As a faithful reader of your blog, I know just how excited you get when a new shipment of panels arrives at your door. What is it about panels (vs. canvas or paper) that bring out the child-on-Christmas-morning in you?

MM: Practically speaking, I like the panels for their rigidity. Their uniformity of size allows them to work in all kinds of configurations as groupings. I love to work in multiples, so it is exciting when I have plenty of them around. Maybe it's because I know that out of a dozen tries I will get a fair percentage of successes.
Their creative appeal for me is that each small square is a little window into some imagined larger world, or may suggest a fragment of something discarded, aged, or worn down by nature and the passage of time.

JG: In your paintings, texture certainly does not take a backseat to color. Is there much planning or do you work instinctively to achieve these rich variations?

MM: I try to be as spontaneous as possible and not over-think the process. That's one reason I like to work on several at a time, to keep from getting "stuck." I keep moving from one to the next improvising as I go with texture, color, and marks, and then if the process slows down in any way, I leave that one and come back to it fresh later.

Haiku 34
acrylic on panel
8" x 8"

JG: There is a beautiful "grit" in a lot of your work, yet the overall effect remains quite chic. How do you achieve this balance?

MM: I think that balance is exactly what I am going for all the time. It just isn't something I can push too hard. It's a matter of starting out in a big bold way with a wide brush stroke or a strong textural passage, then responding to that in a way that builds on and deepens the richness of the surface. There may be many subtle layers going on between that big stroke and the final surface of the painting, allowing it to peek through. I love lots of translucency and patina. The more layers, the more mystery.

Martha Marshall shares much of her artistic process through her wonderful blog, An Artist'sJournal and is represented by various galleries, including Michael Murphy Gallery in Tampa, FL.


Martha Marshall said...

John, thank you for this opportunity to talk with you about my work. I'm honored. You are a fantastic writer. Congratulations on your gig with Huffington Post. I look forward to many future writings.

John G. said...

Thank you so much Martha.

C. Robin Janning said...

John, wonderful, wonderful article about a wonderful, wonderful artist.