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Martin Shantell | Photo by Ryan Bevans

Shantell Martin: Make and Share!


1. Shantell Martin is a very unusual name. It sounds like a big brand name of very high quality products. Could you think about yourself as a brand? Do you think that artists names become in some way a part of their actual works?

Thanks but I don’t think my name is that unusual. Martin is one of the most common surnames in the UK and I’ve met quite a few Shantell’s admitilly with various ways of spelling it.

It’s not the name it’s what the person does with it and how consistent they are with it…. Look how normal a name like Stan Smith is…. But the big reach and familiarity we can have with it.

If an artist, designer, architect, scientist has a recognizable style, product, way of thinking and being this can quite often be packaged up nicely in their name.

2. You were born in London, you lived in Japan for a number of years and then you moved to New York. It sounds maybe obvious for several reasons why you chose New York and one of them must be the art scene there, but I am wondering if you could have the same success, if you were living in a small town in the United States? Do you think that the place where we live determines our identity and kind of art we are creating?

When I was ready to leave Tokyo I considered moving to Melbourne, Berlin or New York all because I had met people from all those cities in Tokyo who told me about the communities these cities have and the energy, support and growth that that can bring. It just happens that I visited New York first and loved it, so I moved there. If I had moved to a smaller American city perhaps it would have been easier, maybe not. When I moved to New York I was broke and slept on people’s couches for a year and a half and I’m not sure if that support would have existed elsewhere? The fact is the bigger the city, the bigger the struggle, the bigger you imagine. For me my environment totally shapes my work, my thinking and my present.

3. You have a familiar phrase, “Make and share, make and share!” Do you think when people hear this phrase they automatically think of you and your drawings?

The repetition of lines and words are fun for me especially when they are positive I imagine them as seeds that I spread out into the world….. If people hear phrase like Make and Share or Are You You or drawing on Everything and they think or me and my work – amazing! If not but on some level the words make them question, be inspired or  provoke them I’ve also succeeded in successfully planting that seed.

4. What are your drawings about? As you draw a line with your marker, what is that line representing to you? Is there any particular emotion related to the moment when you press the pen to canvas or paper?

I’m sure this has changed over the years but now when I draw my line is free, open, fun, searching for its own path…. It’s inspired by being present, being vulnerable, being honest and transparent and that’s why I like to work live…. Not because I’m a performer but because I expose what I’m doing so it’s as me as it can be.

5. What inspires you to create your work?

Wish I really knew the answer to this. Essentially there is something inside me, a part of me that’s always been there that needs and wants to express itself in the form of lines, words, characters and more recently music. Inspiration is something that already exists within us, that we extract overtime it’s not just something that we can go out looking for – well you can but it will most likely lead you to the same place – Back to YOU.

5. There are a lot of struggling artists. Some who struggle are able to hide that fact. Some of the lucky ones never seem to struggle, they quickly make it in the art world. What do you think it takes to make it in the art world? Will you tell us your story? How did you make it and how important was it for you to stay true to yourself?

It’s an interesting question… And it’s funny as now I’m starting to see a few comments on my YouTube channel for example like “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” and “Go support a struggling artist instead” etc This is bazar to me as I’ve been that struggling artist for most of my life. So people are hating on that very same artist that they are trying to advocate for. I grew up on one of the roughest council estates in London, I’m the first in my family to finish secondary school, the first to go to college/art school which I paid for with student loans and working part-time jobs for years, I then graduated in 2003 and have been working my butt off ever since.

I don’t believe I’ve made it in the Art World – I’m not represented by a gallery, you won’t find my work at art fairs or auctions. I’m simply creating my own model and working on projects that I feel proud and excited to work on regardless of the industry and medium. I just happen to be an artist who work is becoming more and more visible because of the years of hard work behind it. Now you could say I’m a fairly successful artist, but WHAT does that actually mean ?! Right now all that means for me is that my overhead costs to make art, store art, transport art etc have gone up a lot and everyone now wants my work for free because im “successful” for charity, silent auctions, raffles etc… How can I survive and grow as an artist ?

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6. You are involved in a DRIP project that is co-founded by Kickstarter and appears to have a similar purpose to Patreon. Could you address this idea? I heard you in one of the videos where you said that once artists graduate from school they hear from their teachers ‘good’ luck’ and they’re off on their own. Do you think that DRIP will change that? I’m asking because I spent some time on the DRIP site researching artists and I am wondering if the subscribers are helping artists to stay in touch with the art world and if this kind of connection is as successful as they want it to be. What is your opinion on that?

Right now its in its very early stages so it’s hard to tell what the overall impact will be. For me I’m using it as a way, as a resource to think out loud about new works that I want to continue to make like my dream drawings and music. I guess keep an eye on this space – but I do hope that they open the platform up so people are able to have discussions and build communities on there.

7. Last year with the help of Casey Neistat you were able to build up your YouTube channel quickly. Would that success have been possible without Casey? I remember my art teacher saying that your success depends on who you know and it is of course related to hard work. How important is networking, making connections? What is your advice for artists? If you could give us a small motivational recipe, what would it be?

If your at art school take a look around you as you are already in a room/in a school full of some of the most talented people you will ever meet and these people  will become those future successful artist of the world. When I look back at who was in my year at art school and those who “made it” many of those people were the ones not just doing school work, but were out making their own projects, collaborating and doing as much out of school as possible. Maybe for a handful of people it’s about who you know or who your related too but if your like me (just a girl from Thamesmead that no-one cared about) then you basically just have to work really, really hard and never stop!

8. Of course I need to ask, how are you planning to maintain your YouTube channel? What are your ideas? Do you think every artist should have a YouTube channel?

Subscribe and see!

I’ve just posted my first vlog 😉

9. You had exhibitions in museums and you worked commercially with big companies like MAX MARA. Would you tell us WHAT you did to make these projects so successful?

I chose working on projects that were a great fit for me and that’s a big reason as to why they work.

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10. Can you tell us a bit about your daily routine, and what your standard work day looks like?

I wish I had a standard routine….. I wake up and between going to bed – I probably met some people, emailed, went to the gym, watched sci-fi, worked a bit, made some music.

11. Could you tell us about your SOMEDAY, ONEDAY and TODAY goals?

To become more organized.

2018 – to make videos, to make more music

12. Are you planning to stay in New York or do you have plans to move away in the near future?

I hope to stick around – no plans to start all over again 🙂

13. I have asked the following question to artists in different stages of their career. Do artists need galleries? What is the future of galleries in your opinion?

I just read an article “Why Many Artists Still Need Galleries in the Surface Mag- which I don’t really agree with:

To help support artist we really need to give them the general overview of the tools that they need to be successful business people/artist. Why at art school did they not teach me that I will need to read contracts, do taxes, negotiate prices, sign NDA’s, work on all sorts of paperwork, make a price list etc. At the end of the day galleries take 50% then the artist gets taxed on that and has to pay for material, transport, rent, studio, food etc….

Unless you are lucky enough to be able to afford to hire lawyers and accountants etc from the get go you are set up to fail and to have to rely on other people who sadly for the most part take advantage of the artist and power away from them.

No we don’t need to get bogged down with the bizz side of art – but Art school should at least be teaching us about what to expect and shiny some light on the resources available to us.