Chris Martin is a creative illustrator, a D&AD winner and part of the BLUP 50. He takes us through his journey of the last 12 years working with huge brands including couture fashion Louis Vuitton, tech giant Samsung and many more.
/ GIVE US A WHISTLE-STOP TOUR OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE
Well…Graduated from what is now Southampton Solent Uni. I got a 2:1, and wrote my dissertation about a week before it was due in. Came back to London and worked in bars for about 9 months while trying to push my work out and this was also way back when we were still showing physical portfolios…makes me feel old saying that! I had a website but Instagram wasn’t a thing just yet. I started getting small jobs for Dazed, The Guardian, mostly editorial stuff, but I was pushing my personal work hard. Then I got an email from an animation studio to show my portfolio for a job, and that place ended up being NEXUS studios, which at the time, I naively knew nothing about. So I ended up being a designer and illustrator on a HUGE Comcast ad campaign and was there for about 5 months. After that it just exploded, lots of animation studio work/character and conceptual design, lots of advertising.
I won a D&AD award in 2012 for my work with johnnie walker in Shanghai, art directed some great animated ads including a reboot of the classic cartoon Mr Benn, and I’ve also got a permanent mural up in The Old Vic theatre. I’ve also designed characters for the TV show Devil May Care on SYFY channel. Other highlights are murals in Nike London HQ and Portland and designing record sleeves for Maribou State and dance legend Radioactive Man. Oh yeah, doing the branding for a Louis Vuitton exhibition of their one off pieces and having my work on their trunks at the exhibition. That was mental. I’ve essentially been drawing non-stop for 12 years!
//WHAT DOES 24 HOURS IN YOUR LIFE LOOK LIKE?
It’s pretty boring to be completely honest. Depends on the day. Thursday or Friday will be a lot different to the rest of the week. Just depends on how busy I am. If I have a lot of projects on I’ll be in the studio for 8am and work till 9pm; a bit of a workaholic for better or for worse. It’s much more interesting when I’m quiet with work, but I’ll always be spending the majority of the day creating whether it’s client work or my own.
// WHAT DO YOU DO TO SWITCH OFF OR CHILL?
This is something I’m really working on as anyone that knows me knows, I find switching off extremely hard. I enjoy exploring other creative avenues on my time off, also learning new programs (cinema 4D for example).
I box which is a great leveller and cycle a lot. Trying to read more but at the moment it’s just the cinema 4D help document that gets most of my attention.
// WHAT HAS BEEN ONE OF YOUR BEST CAREER HIGHLIGHTS?
My D&AD award, it’s 10 years ago now but winning a yellow pencil is pretty special in the creative industry. Job-wise the work I did for the Louis Vuitton french Art de Vivre exhibition at Thor Space above the Bond Street flagship. Very surreal seeing my work on the LV trunks.
// WHAT PROJECT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF AND WHY?
The Old Vic theatre mural. Because The Old Vic is such a famous institution in London and the world of theatre, so to be asked to be a part of their refurb and create a 4m mural was incredibly special. It turned out perfect in terms of tone and style too for the theatre. It was also one of those perfect jobs where there was minimal interference and I was allowed freedom with it – the people who work there are brilliant in that aspect. And having that freedom means you repay them with something you hope is seen as above and beyond what you have done previously.
// WHAT DO YOU SEE IN YOUR FUTURE?
I’d like to be doing a lot more large scale hand made artwork/murals, more 3D work and taking a more art direction/director role in animation.
// IF YOU COULD COLLABORATE WITH ONE CREATIVE/BRAND WHO WOULD IT BE?
The obvious one would be Tottenham Hotspur considering it’s where I’m from and is a lifelong season ticket holder for my sins. It would be great to work with more Luxury fashion brands too. Factory records if it still existed.
// WHAT’S YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS?
I like to try and approach each project differently in terms of style and art direction, but there are definitely some constants in how I work for illustration/3D/animation. Everything starts in my sketchbook, first to get ideas down/compositions etc. I’ll then do research on any specific references needed but that only really matters for real-world architecture or if I can’t remember what a specific thing looks like exactly, I try and do everything from memory/imagination especially people.
For illustration, I’ll take my sketchbook compositions and use that to do a first draft on my ipad- it’s essentially my digital sketchbook. As most of my illustration work is pretty big I do the final pieces on my massive wacom. Ideally, I’d love to do all of my illustrations by hand but there’s not enough time when it comes to commercial work, nothing beats the look of natural line work.
// WHO IS YOUR GREATEST INSPIRATION?
In terms of illustration Probably Ralph Steadman and Quentin blake.
// YOUR FAVOURITE SONG OF 2021 SO FAR?
Well, only 3 weeks in, a toss-up between Earl Sweatshirt – sick! (the whole album actually) and Dwarde – Where Do I Go, which was technically last year but I’ve only just bought it. Also Burial – Strange Neighbourhood.
// WHAT DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO SAY ABOUT YOU AT THE END OF YOUR CAREER?
God, what a hard question, I don’t know…that I was good? Haha, Depends on how long my career lasts I suppose. I may have a midlife crisis and pack it in, who knows!
// WHAT IS THE BIGGEST ADVICE YOU WOULD GIVE TO NEW CREATIVES?
Don’t create work that you think you should be creating just because a certain style is on-trend and everyone on Instagram is doing it. Use social media to promote but do your own thing creatively. Look for inspiration away from a screen.
// WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO YOU IN YOUR WORLD RIGHT NOW?
Focusing on pushing in different creative paths this year, it’s been a long time coming.