Writing a statement about who I am as a visual artist is a difficult task, because, well I’d rather express myself with color and lines than with words. And that’s what painting or applying pen and pencil to paper is for me: an expression, an exploration using materials and my hands to take what is intangible and give it form.
I mostly work with oil paints on medium-sized canvas, although the canvas size does vary – the bigger the better so that I can involve my whole body. I also use acrylic gesso, charcoal pastels, wax medium, paper cut-out figures, India ink with brushes and palette knives, my fingers and my hands, towels and whatever is needed to convey the emotion or experience.
A finished piece is typically layers and layers of attempts. If a painting doesn’t seem honest, it’s not finished. Some can sit for months or years before I know how to dive in again and finish.
I’ve taken continuing education classes at the Cooper Union in drawing, calligraphy, and color theory but am mostly self-taught by the experience and the doing. Almost anything can be a teacher if you are interested in learning, and I’ve used my experience with writing, dance and acting, and mind-body exercise systems to gain insights I apply to painting.
After attending a liberal arts college in eastern Pennsylvania, where I also grew up, I moved to New York City with dreams of “becoming a writer.” I had dabbled in visual arts, but identified at the time as a poet and fiction writer. And yet! I got to the city and found I couldn’t write, or even read. There was too much to absorb for me to have my nose in a book or to try to find words to capture the millions of things I was seeing and experiencing.
I began to carry little notebooks around so I could “doodle” instead. I found acrylic paints stashed away and brought them out to paint on paper, and then my bedroom walls. My roommate was kind enough to let me draw lines and shapes that danced against the neutral color of the four walls. My doodles had come to life and were dancing around me! Not too long after, however, I moved to a larger space. I was gifted an easel, and so I began easel painting. That was 15 years ago.
Colleen Martin moved to New York in 2002 to be a writer. She arrived in a chaotic city with no realistic plan herself. Aside from a few jazz poems she can no longer find, she slammed hardcore into writer's block. She even developed reader's block. And so she began drawing in her notebooks instead. That grew to include pastels, and then under the influence of another painter, she got her first easel and began working on larger canvases.
She lives in Brooklyn but spends quite a bit of time in London thanks to lifelong friends. Colleen spent a few years studying acting at the Matthew Corozine Studio and taking art classes at Cooper Union, although she majored in English and Russian in undergrad. She is a fully-invested aunt who is lucky enough to see her nieces regularly, and she works full-time in midtown in the educational publishing industry.
Colleen's studio is now in her apartment, allowing her to live with her pieces and work constantly. It's a way of life and makes her happy to create and express.