A few times now, I’ve picked up a beautiful book, turned it in my hands and opened it. Then I would sigh. Yes, of course, Marc Martin.
A River recently arrived in the sunshine house. It’s poetry. We gently follow a river through a child’s dreamscape. Marc creates a vibrant yet delicate world where we travel with the narrator on her journey.
I was lucky enough to get to chat with Marc about his creative process.
A River was inspired by picture books I read as a child. Authors such as Jenny Baker and Maurice Sendak are two author/illustrators that nurtured my imagination and gave me the creative spark to make picture books. A River is a story about letting yourself dream and about our relationship with the world and how we choose to interact with it. We can either fear it and separate it from our lives, or we can be bold, embrace the unknown and trust our imaginations to guide us through the stormy weather.
Where do the ideas for your children’s books generally come from?
They can come from anywhere. I listen to a lot of podcasts and the radio, so sometimes there’ll be something I hear that piques my interest, and an idea will come from that. Ideas also come when I’ve got time to think – so going on holidays, traveling and taking time off is a great way to refresh the creative mind and gain inspiration.
I’d love to know how you first came to illustrate and write children’s books.
I originally studied graphic design at university, but it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve transitioned away from design and into illustration. I think I always knew that I didn’t want to work in the graphic design industry, so in the periods between graduating from university and working as an illustrator, I’ve also studied sculpture, social sciences, and furniture making, as well as being part of a publishing collective. Becoming an illustrator was a natural progression for me, and I’ve been working as an illustrator full-time for the last couple of years now. Predominately I write and illustrate my own picture books, as well as doing a mix of editorial and commercial illustrations. My training in graphic design still influences my illustration work today, however I’m continually battling between the learned restraint and principles of graphic design, and the creative freedom and fun that illustration allows.
What style of painting do you prefer to use when creating children’s books?
I’ll use what ever style is appropriate for the subject matter and mood I’m trying to create. Lately I’ve been using a lot of gouache, pencil and watercolour paints – they give my work a textural quality that you just can’t get on the computer. I try to do as much of my drawings by hand as possible, and then move onto the computer if they need cleaning up. I also like using textures and patterns, which are usually scanned in from left-over experiments I’ve made with ink rollers or paint. Textures can turn a flat page of colour into something more interesting to look at. When I’m starting an illustration, I’ll usually have an idea of the medium I want to use before I start on the artwork, but I like to experiment with different mediums as well. I often find that the tests and ‘mistakes’ I make whilst experimenting can later develop and inform the finished artwork, so it’s good to be open to new ways of working.
What’s your workspace like?
It’s pretty cluttered. I’ve got a standing desk, which is great for drawing and working at the computer, and very tall chair for when I want to take a break from all that standing. I’ve also got a lot of posters, cut out images and pictures stuck to the walls, and a big bookshelf filled with illustration and picture books. It’s funny because I’m very neat at home, but my studio space can get very messy!
Can you tell us what a typical day in the life of Marc Martin looks like?
I’ll normally start the day with a quick breakfast at home and then a bike ride through Edinburgh Gardens and into the studio. I ride my bike into the studio every day – rain, hail or shine. It’s a great way to start the day, and helps keep me fit.
At the studio, I’ll start by checking emails and doing a bit of admin before getting stuck into illustrating, but lately I’ve begun to experiment with different ways of working – I’m finding that not checking emails until after lunch is a great way to get focused on the tasks at hand, before getting bogged down by emails and paperwork. It’s very rare that I’ll spend the whole day working on one thing – I’m usually juggling multiple tasks.
At lunch, I’ll make a sandwich in our shared kitchen and chat to people around the studio – there’s about 15 people in our studio, so there’s always people around to keep things lively.
The afternoon is usually filled with more work, and then it’s back home around 6 for a home cooked meal and a bit of relaxation.
What’s next for you?
More books and other exciting projects! In the coming months I’ll be launching an interactive game/story app for tablet devices that a friend and I have been working on, having an exhibition, and starting work on my next book. Plenty to keep me busy!
Thank you Marc!
I have four copies of A River to give away. Just comment below or on Facebook and tell me about a river special to you. Share with your friends too!
You can check our Marc’s website here.