Illustrator Sara Antoinette Martin

by Julie Wolfson


Beautiful and haunting, Sara Antoinette Martin's work depicts gorgeous women with long eyelashes sitting next to fish with teeth, skulls and mythic sea creatures. An animal skeleton dances with a chupacabra (a mythical hybrid creature) drinking red wine. An adorable dog wrapped in bandages sits on a bed of roses.

Upon the release of her new skins for Infectious and her plans for Alternative Press Expo APE and upcoming shows, we asked Sara to tell us more about her imagery, her plans for the future and working with Tara McPherson.


You grew up in Eastern Long Island and now live in Brooklyn. In what ways does your environment makes its way into your work?
I grew up on boats on the Great South Bay. I used to surf and fish and go beach camping. That is a big influence on my work, it is always about the water. I know how to sail. I learned on sunfishes. You can get kind of the same rush riding a bike, but nothing really beats being out on the water. Brooklyn affects my work because I am exposed to so much art.


What is a recent image or symbol that struck you to include in your work?
I like trying to adapt symbols and turn them upside down and play with them until they have a different meaning. My lady heads, for example, are piles of skull heads in bathing caps that have gills behind the ears.

Recently, I started doing a painting of this ball of seaweed. It looks like an iridescent yarn ball. For the show at Last Rites, I painted a girl with it coming out of her stomach. It represents that pit of depression that gnaws at your insides, a little ball of dead seaweed. For my next series of paintings, I want to concentrate more on portraiture. That's the next direction.
Read more and see more images after the jump

What is your earliest memory of seeing art?
There was a book by Graeme Base called "The Sign of the Seahorse". His illustrations are detailed, bright, and colorful. Children books illustrators are really everyone's first exposure to art. I love Jose Aruego, who illustrated "Herman the Helper." I can still love and appreciate Maurice Sendak. My mom was a children's book author. She would take us to author illustrator nights.

The very first time I can remember being moved by a piece of art work, I think I was a senior in high school and part of a small group that got to go on a trip to MoMA. I stood before a Jackson Pollock and I got it. I'm not into abstract art, but I can see what makes a Jackson Pollock good, You can really see the rhythm when you let the painting fill your field of vision. You feel an emotion. You can't get that from a book.

You currently work with Tara McPherson. How much do other artists influence your work?
I have been working with Tara for about a year now. It makes me really appreciate how focused and organized you have to be to be successful. Seeing how hard she works is pretty inspirational. It has been a good experience and exposes me to other artists.

Before I worked for Tara, for about three years I was the in-house photographer for Kidrobot. I got to see how a company grows from nine people in the office to thirty people. Kidrobot taught me about branding and the power of limited edition. Working for Tara McPherson has taught me how to run a tight ship.

You are also studying tattooing. Tell us more about that.
That's my next goal. I've talked to a lot of different people about it and everyone tells you something different. What I would like to do is find an actual apprenticeship or at least a job as a shop girl so I can be around it more. Unfortunately, I know its going to be another year of hard work, because I will probably have to work for free at least for part of the time. I know how to draw and I can design things, so I am halfway there.

You now have two designs at Infectious. How do you decide what will work best for gadget cases?
I sent Infectious a bunch of images and those were the ones that they picked. I understand the power of merchandizing and learning how to make a living off of it. Putting my art on fun things, making it accessible—I am totally for it.


What are you working on now? What exhibits do you have coming up?
I am going to have a table at Alternative Press Expo (APE) next month. I'll have some new print releases. It will be my first time in San Francisco, so I will be spending the week out there. Then I am going to be in a show in L.A. called "The Golden Age" with Buff Monster and others.

Who are your favorite artists?
There are so many artist out there doing good work. Last year Marcel Dzarma showed these amazing dioramas, including one viewed through a pinhole in the wall, and an accompanying costumed piano player. Then there was the Shepard Fairy and Souther Salazar show at Jonathan LeVine in 2007. This show stands out to me because I felt such different emotions between the two rooms. Souther Salazar built this whimsical world that just engulfed you. Then I walked into the Shepard Fairy show in the main space and his art work just barges into your conscious because his work is so bold and powerful. That to me is inspiring. That's what I want to do. I want people to walk into a room with my artwork and feel a raw emotion. And my favorite comic artist is Eric Powell's The Goon.

What is your favorite museum?
The Museum of Natural History.


Where in the world you have always wanted to visit?

You have so many intense images in your work. What scares you?
Everything. The intense expressions on the ladies in my work is a reflection of frustration with where I am right now and with being a person in the world and dealing with all all the things in life that make you angry. And things that are unfair, but you can't complain about it too much because it's life. That and fear of mediocrity.

What kind of music do you listen to when you are working?
The Aggrolites and I listen to a lot of the GaragePunk podcasts with old soul and garage rock 'n' roll.

Learn more about Sara on her blog and purchase her work at Skelecore.