“Every time I find myself fortunate enough to be on a hike or out surfing or scuba diving, I always try to mentally remember these moments and recreate them,” local artist Katie Martin says. Her close relationship with life outdoors continues to be the muse of her colorful work.
Born in New Jersey, and slowly finding herself down south inEmerald Isle during her high school years, Martin has fallen in love with the coast. “I’ve been pretty fortunate to live in some beautiful places,” she notes. Today, considers herself a Wilmingtonian, where she’s lived here for 10 years—longer than any other home. Quite frankly, Martin can’t bee too far from the ocean.
“My mother had been a surfer, and the one to teach me how to surf,” she says. “Tragically, she passed away from ALS when I was 24. The ocean has always been my connection to her as well as the natural world.”
Inspired by oceanic scenery here, as well as hiking trips in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, Martin migrates to where nature is at its finest during the year: summers in North Carolina, winters in Colorado, where she is a snowboarding instructor. Her work reflects such inspiration: In one piece, “Golden Hour,” coastal waves can be seen next to another piece, “Spring Awakening,” featuring a black bear. They’re currently on display at “Life Alive” at Flytrap Brewery (319 Walnut St.). Martin’s solo exhibition opened May 5, and her closing reception will take place during Fourth Friday Gallery Night on June 24.
“‘Life Alive’ has been very rewarding,” Martin admits. “From an exposure standpoint, it has seemed to open a lot of doors for me professionally. The opportunity I have been offered has been a blessing, and it’s humbling and motivating to hear such kind feedback from viewers and customers.”
Martin only started seeing her art as a serious career throughout the past two years. She originally pursued a degree from UNCW in marine biology, but connected with acrylic painting early during her college years. So she switched her major to study studio art. This inevitable pursuit actually came inspired through family; her grandfather was an artist. He passed away before Martin was born, but she still works on his old drafting table—a gift from her mother.
“He applied his skills to working in advertising in New York City at a time when graphic designers had to do things by hand,” she says. “I have a lot of his artwork and it’s fun to see the subtle stylist similarities in our work.”
Martin’s colors and mediums have expanded. Her paintings are most notable for their use of bright colors, like blues, greens and yellows that practically vibrate off the canvas.
“It’s something I didn’t initially set out to do, but the more I thought about it, the artists I always admired were similar in style,” she says. “Those big blocky uses of color [make my work look] realistic but almost abstract. And just by not using black or brown in my paintings, I think it makes the range bigger with color.”
Martin has a wide variety of talents using multiple materials in her artwork. Occasionally, she works in chalk and pencil, yet she also has past experience with custom-design tattoos, inspired by nature and scenery. Her friends have allowed her to design the images for them.
“I’ve had a lot of worthy souls—my friends let me practice on them,” she notes. “I still enjoy doing them, and I will continue to design from time to time, but I try to make my main focus painting and trying to explore that route.”
The path she has worked so hard to continue on has proven to be successful at local street fairs and the Brooklyn Arts Center’s Made in NC and Art for All events, as well as at the New Hanover County Arboretum. During her two years of dedication, Martin has had eight shows. She has come a long way since her first debut.
“It’s a steep learning curve: how to make it as an artist,” she says. “But I’m really enjoying it, and everyone in the field has been really supportive. When I started out, I had no idea what I was doing, and my booths did not look great, but I’ve come a long way in the two years. I still learn something every single show.”
Martin’s work also can be seen at the Brewer’s Kettle and downtown at the Mike Bryand Gallery in the Old Wilmington City Market. “I’m still trying to figure out which direction will be best,” she says, “whether shows, galleries or commissions is going to make the art thing work for me. Right now it’s a little bit of everything.”