Sketch Master Shantell Martin Shares Her Love of Minimalism, Doughnuts and Toronto

By Courtney Balestier |
FWX ENTERPRISING WOMEN SHANTELL MARTIN ARE YOU YOU

© Roy Rochlin

To call Shantell Martin an artist seems like an understatement: The London native known for her black-and-white line drawings—often executed on large-scale formats like cars, windows and people—has created one-of-a-kind works for venues as varied as Bonnaroo and the Nashville restaurant Rolf and Daughters, collaborated with brands such as 3x1 Denim and Kelly Wearstler, and shown at the likes of the Brooklyn Museum and MoCADA. She was even a VJ in Japan for a while. We talked to the current New Yorker about inner inspiration, minimalism and doughnuts.

Can you talk us through a typical day?

I don’t really like to keep schedules. Apart from waking up, having breakfast—which is usually avocado toast or gluten-free granola with fruit—and going to CrossFit three days a week, my weeks vary. I usually have a couple studio visits and meetings, then I’ll draw at the studio and go home and have dinner. I think for my entire career, 90 percent of my work has been outside the studio. My studio is more of a thinking, meeting and tinkering place.

Your studio is in Tribeca. Where do you love to eat in your neighborhood?

Baked has really good pastries and tea. If it’s a good day and you want a treat, there’s Billy’s cupcakes. But I have to try not to walk down Franklin Street too often to avoid them—they look so good through the window! For lunch, I usually go to Hampton Chutney for their dosa with avocado, tomato and cheese. I try to be gluten-free as much as possible, and I’m mostly veggie.

What's one food you can't say no to?

Doughnuts. If I’m traveling, I’ll find someone and be like, “Where do you go for great doughnuts here?” That’s my weakness. Here in New York, it’s Dough.

You must travel a lot for work. What are some of your favorite cities?

I really enjoy Toronto. There are a lot of great places to eat, record stores and a lot of art. I was part of an exhibition at the BATA Shoe Museum in 2013. It’s a peculiar museum—almost like a shoebox on this glass frame—and I was able to draw on all of the glass.

Funnily enough, I go to the Gulf Coast of Florida quite a lot. I’ve been going there for a few years, this small community called Santa Rosa. They have a festival called Digital Graffiti, which is one of the world’s biggest outdoor projection festivals. I initially went out to headline it in 2009, and I’ve been performing pretty much ever other year since. It has beautiful beaches, parks and dunes.

Tell us about your style.

I tend to wear a variation of the same thing. First, a white, hand-drawn-on shirt. And black jeans, mostly by 3x1, or shorts, especially the pair of Kit & Ace that I just got. Then white canvas shoes by Converse, Kenneth Cole or Vans. I draw on them, too.

What are your home and studio like—is everything really minimal?

Everything ends up being black and white. [Laughs.] Right now, my studio is full of art, and everything’s black and white. Home is a little different, but it’s still pretty minimal. And I’ve drawn on a couple walls.

Care to shout out another woman maker?

My friend Jie Qi makes Chibitronics to help kids learn switches in a fun, sketchbook way. And Erin Wahed of Bande des Quatres.

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