10,000 Hours: John Martel
By Michael Wicks
I didn’t know what to expect when Warren told me that I was interviewing a visual artist, I usually deal with musicians or business-suit types. So like any other interview that happens at the Exposure office, I broke out the rum and waited for this artist, John, to arrive so I could learn about him and his work. The artist had taken off work early to come and meet with me and Warren, which was very kind of him, and was going to bring us some of his art samples and tell us about himself. Warren seemed more excited than I was used to, even going as far to say he was one of the most badass artists he had seen, so I knew this guy’s work must have been good. That’s when John Martel arrived. That’s also when I found out what masterwork art looks like.
“What is it, 10,000 hours spent to become a master at something?” John jokingly asked, knowing the answer. My first impression of John was typical of any artist I meet, he was quiet and carrying a large art case, as well as latching onto a literal armful of journals. He seemed apprehensive at first, most people are around strangers, but after a glass of sailor, he livened up to us. I remember my jaw dropping as he opened his art portfolio and journals. The journals were page to page filled with drawings of all different sorts and styles. The portfolio was full of mixed media, heavily stylized works, that could only be described as fantastic. I had never purchased art before, but once he told me all of his work was for sale, I couldn’t resist. A piece that still stands out in my mind, is one he did of a pair of highly detailed lips with a water color background, which basically forced your brain into seeing a face. Masterful.
John then went on to tell us about one of the biggest ventures he had just completed. His artwork was featured in the movie “American Ultra” with Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. Apparently in the movie, anytime that you saw Jesse’s character doodling in a notebook, it was one of Johns. “We had a problem creating one of the characters in the movie, they wanted me to draw a space monkey, but they kept asking me to change it and change it when I would send designs. After a while Apollo Ape was born.” In addition to designing the characters, creating the sketchbooks and drawing on the set walls, the production design crew used his personal artwork to decorate the rest of the main character's house. There was almost as much of his personal work as there were stuff made specifically for the movie, and while he didn’t work on the animated bits at the end, his original character was in it. “The guy called me, and at first I laughed it off as some college film producer, but when I looked him up, I thought, wow, this is big.”
If You Want To Get Good At Something
John Martel is a working, family man as well as an accomplished artist. He works during the day and come home at night to his wife and children, and then practices his craft. “If you want to get good at something just do it. People always ask me, ‘How do I get better at art?’ and I tell them just to practice. That’s literally all it takes.” John told me, after I asked how I get as good at art. It’s also worth noting that he has a humility that surrounds him, and a dry wit that compliments it perfectly. He had kindly invited me to dinner with his family twice, but due to work and an act of nature, I wasn’t able to attend either time (but I appreciate it still John). It was nice to see an artist that wasn’t pretentious about what he does. He was a sincere, tact person, and his brevity spoke volumes about his wit. If you ever have the chance to meet John Martel, or view his work in person, please do so. I promise, you will not regret it. John has a show coming up in Lafayette on October 23rd, and if you want to view more of his artwork, you can find “American Ultra” online somewhere to watch, but please check out his websites at:
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