Muralist Shantell Martin on Creating an Arts Movement and the UK’s Special Separatism


Visual artist Shantell Martin was shaped by her birthplace of London, embraced by Tokyo, Japan and now calls Brooklyn, New York home. Shantell has successfully figured how to stay true to herself and travel around the world with her art as an independent creator. Martin crafts her freestyle drawings and animation in a variety of settings, expanding visual language across media. Luckily, Parlour was able to catch up with Ms. Martin between gigs to chat about her creative secrets.

How would you describe your art and what makes it unique? 

My art has definitely changed over the years from self-exploration writings, collages and photography to tagging and live digital projections. Now I’d say it’s very free, light and intricate drawing. It’s me.

When did you start your journey as an artist?
Around the age of eight or nine I started to draw my own little characters and gave them names, superpowers and so on. It initially began as a means of escape to deal with stuff around me that I had no control over as a child.

What have been some of your inspirations?
People who really set out to move forward and progress all the time. I have some of these people in my life, or hear about them in the media. The super brave, compassionate, and strong people who make you want to be a better you.

Shantell Martin in front of her work in Beijing.

Shantell Martin in front of her work in Beijing.

What influence did your London upbringing have on you?
London is my hometown, it will always be a part of me and it has helped shaped the person that I am. But not in the ways that you expect. Firstly, I have never felt truly home or welcomed there. I call myself British but not English as the rest of my family does. You can’t really be brown and English. [The culture stratification is] very subtle but keeps the lines drawn. That [environment] made me look overseas and out into the world to discover my own home.

What international support have you received?

Over the years I’ve built up a nice international fan and friend base, especially in Japan and Hong Kong. It’s great that I have people that have seen my career grow and who show their support by spreading the word about my work and coming to shows.

Any words of advice for aspiring artists?
Never wait for anything, just go and do it. Use what you have access to. If you want people to see your work, start with your friends and family. If you want to do a show then use a space you have permission to use. If you want to collaborate, then reach out to people you know!

Your work has a lot of movement and flow. Have you been inspired by any particular type of music or art movements?
I love to listen to music when drawing and that music is normally given to me by friends or friends of friends who are in bands or really collect and follow music. I also just started to take House dance lessons, so  I’m listening to a lot of House music right now. With regards to art movements, I’m too busy working on creating one myself.

Catch Shantell at the Afro Punk Festival in Brooklyn, New York – August 24-25 at Commodore Barry Park. Find out more about Shantell at ShantellMartin.com.

– Alicia Boone

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