Artist Snapshot: Jon deMartin

Exploring the mind and habits of an artist in twenty-five questions

Jon deMartin interview
Jon deMartin with model in his studio

At what age did you decide to become an artist?
My mid- to late 20s after I graduated from Pratt Institute as a film major.

How did your parents react when you told them you wanted to be an artist?
My father in particular was not happy because he couldn’t see how I could make a living as an artist.

Who are your favorite artists?
The Tiepolo’s, Jean Francois Millet, Honore Daumier, and Edward Hopper.

Who is your favorite artist whose work is unlike your own?
Subject matter wise: Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.

Art book you cannot live without?
I haven’t read it in awhile, but I find Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit always uplifting.

What is the quality you most admire in an artist?
Their imagination.

Do you keep a sketchbook?
Absolutely! The artist’s sketchbook is their journal with visual and written information, and ideas come when you’re unaware, so you want to record them before they’re lost. That little nervous sketch could turn into a very special picture, or sculpture. Also, we artists should draw every day, so when your flight is delayed, you can draw your hand or the folds of your sleeve.

Whats your favorite museum in all the world?
I was there only once, but the Prado made a big impact on me.

Whats your go-to NY museum?
I find myself going to The Met the most, but we New Yorkers are so lucky because we also have the Frick and the Morgan.

Whats the best exhibition you have ever attended?
In recent memory I can only think of the Michelangelo drawing show at the Met a coupe of years ago. Shows like that don’t come around very often.

If you were not an artist, what would you be?
I think I’d be doing something in the visual arts, I studied filmmaking in college with a concentration in cinematography, and so I probably would have pursued cinematography.

What is one thing you didnt learn in art school that you wish you had?
Since I studied drawing and painting while I had a full time job, I would say art history and art theory.

What work of art have you looked at most and why?
Honore Daumier’s The Laundress, and Jean Francois Millet’s The Angelus, and so many others, but for me those have a spiritual dimension that resonates with me.

What is your secret visual pleasure outside of art?
I would say movies, especially the classics like Fellini’s La Strada, and great cinema in general.

Do you listen to music in your studio?
No, actually I’ve grown to like silence.

What is the last gallery you visited?
The Ca’Rezzonico Museum in Venice, Italy.

Who is an underrated artist people should be looking at?
Giovanni Battista Piazzetta 

What art materials can you not live without?
My Ticonderoga No. 2 HB pencil and my sketchbook.

Do you paint/sculpt/create art every day?
I draw everyday, and I paint as much as I can.

What is the longest time you went without creating art?
When I was convalescing after an operation for about three weeks, but even then I drew everyday.

What do you do when you are feeling uninspired?
I find that nature is a never-ending source of inspiration, especially when you’re trying not to look for inspiration. Also, revisiting the great works of art never cease to inspire me. 

What are the questions that drive your work?
Does the work stay true to the inspiration and feeling that I had before I painted it?

What is the most important quality in an artist?
I think individuality and imagination, and the technical means to deliver the artist’s idea. I just named several but if it had to be one, it’s imagination.

What is something you havent yet achieved in art?
Ultimate creative freedom, but I’m working on that.

What is the best thing about art in the era of social media?
Social media is great for getting your work seen by many people, but it’s a double-edged sword. The presence of galleries is shrinking, and there’s still nothing like standing in front of a work in person, to see the paint and the way the artist handles the brush or the chalk. It’s interesting but even with social media, I heard that museum attendance is up. I think it’s because it’s more human to see a work in person. Social media gives us great access to information and images, but it also isolates us.

Jon deMartin teaches Life Drawing at the Art Students League of New York.

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