“When invited to speak about my work, I like to start with showing a photograph of my younger self with my brother and sisters. In the photograph I’m about nine years old with a little afro, brown skin, and Michael Jackson shorts standing next to my very blond and blue-eyed brother and four sisters. This is the beginning of my story.”
The work of Shantell Martin is a meditation of lines; a language of characters, creatures and messages that invite her viewers to share a role in her creative process. Part autobiographical, and part dreamlike whimsy, Martin has created her own world that bridges fine art, commercial and the everyday experience — conversations, objects and places.
Using her simple trademark – black ink and white surfaces, Martin’s illustrations transform everything from walls, found objects, ceramics, luxury goods, sneakers, and even faces into a visual narrative. Martin’s diverse portfolio illustrates her gift of navigating many worlds.
In our sit-down with Shantell, she shared all things from her recent projects, what success looks like to her, managing a healthy work/life balance, and even let’s us in on a few upcoming projects she has in the pipeline.
DNP: What does a typical day look like for you?
Shantell: Actually my days are very different from day to day. Unless I have scheduled meetings planned for a day, I mostly wake up and ask myself what I want to do. Which could be anything from going to the studio for a couple of hours, seeing a friend, watching movies or catching up with emails. I also travel a bunch.
DNP: What projects have you recently been working on?
Shantell: A few collaborations just launched, some of which include: amfAR – Beach Towel, Slow Factory – The Little Prince Silk Scarf, and Martone Cycling – a collection of hand-drawn on bicycles.
DNP: What do you find most challenging and exciting about your career?
Shantell: It's super challenging trying to keep up with myself and everything I want to do and create, you could say that is what is exciting about it too – I get to create, draw, collaborate, travel, meet awesome people and so on
DNP: Where does your passion derive from?
Shantell: That’s a pretty hard question. I’m not sure it derived from anywhere, I’ve always had this urge to progress, to work hard, and to move forward; I’m unhappy if I don’t.
DNP: How do you manage a healthy work/life balance?
Shantell: Well right now its summer, so I’m taking the weekends off and getting out of the city.
DNP: What does success look like to you?
Shantell: For me success if being able to live a healthy life, to be able to take the time to do what you want to and say no to anything that does not feel right. Success is about finding your WAY, but also understanding when you get there you have to start all over again.
DNP: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Shantell: Getting out of Thamesmead, where I grew up.
DNP: What’s one word that best describes your personality?
DNP: What is your greatest fear?
Shantell: My greatest fear will never happen, as that time has passed. Although I have fears of driving, flying, of swimming that are just smaller pains.
DNP: What is your most treasured possession?
Shantell: If health were something that can be possessed, that would be it.
DNP: If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
Shantell: If that were the case I would not be me. This is it; this is what I’m meant to be doing!
DNP: Do you have any upcoming projects in the pipeline?
Shantell: September is a big month for me. You can find me giving a talk at the Reasons Conference in Brighton, UK, at FITC in Calgary and creating an installation at the Affordable Art Fair in New York.
DNP: Where is your favorite place to travel and why?
Shantell: From my fast travels it looks like I like traveling to different cites. I don’t have favorite one, new cities where there is a friend or two to show me the sights, sounds and eats.
DNP: Where would you most like to live?
Shantell: Quite happy where I am in New York at the moment. Unless someone would like to offer me a much bigger apartment house to live in and studio to work in for a fraction of what I pay now.
DNP: How do you spend your down time?
Shantell: Mostly watching TV shows and cartoons.
DNP: If you could spend a day with any person (living or dead), who would it be and why?
Shantell: Also a tricky one. But I have a great movie idea, so would love to have breakfast with a talented movie director to help shape my ideas. I'd also love to create an EP so would want to have lunch with a brave music producer and I dream about designing buildings, so perhaps dinner with a great architect.
DNP: If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
Shantell: There are very few people or things that get to go thru life and not experience hate, pain, destruction, I’d like more time to see if I could come up with a thing, an idea that would be able to live another life time without any of the pains of humankind.
DNP: Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Shantell: Say no if it does not feel right, exchange your skills and talents fairly and don’t work for free, have someone you trust read your contracts and agreements before you sign them, follow through with anything you say you will do, pick up some trash every now and then.