Artist in Focus: Martin Rolt
Hi Martin, thank you for taking time to chat to us.
How much planning do you do before you start on your work?
It varies, I have ideas, definite layouts for paintings stored in my mind sometimes for months, years even, before they ever surface or commit to canvas. Some may never see the light of day. Sometimes I have a definite idea of how I want a painting to look and feel, colours I would use, and at other times I allow the work to develop organically during the creative process, more spontaneous and flexible. For a work where I have a distinct outcome that I want to achieve, the planning process will involve colours I may use, level of texture in the painting, how the texture might affect the finished outcome, what shape canvas should I use (square or rectangular), would it suit being a diptych/triptych, or a single canvas. I need to consider the colours I have (do I need something new, can I create the colour I have in my mind’s eye with what I have), ensuring I have the right types of medium to create the textures that I want to achieve for the piece. Planning the sequence in which the painting will take shape, which part should I start first. Occasionally I will create something digitally to see how it might look and feel on the computer before committing to canvas. Lastly and most importantly I need to plan my time, juggling the demands of full time work with family life and the time I need to create my next masterpiece is a never ending struggle.
Do you prefer to have projects lined up or do you prefer to work within more freedom?
I tend to work more within the freedom of what piece I want to create next. Having so many ideas in my mind and jotted down on endless lists entitled ‘Paintings I want to do’ and such like, there are always plenty to choose from. If I have an exhibition where I want to create some new pieces with new ideas with a set deadline it can prove to be a little more stressful, which isn’t always a good ingredient for the creative spirit. So I would say that generally I prefer to work within more freedom. I think that to paint with freedom and less stresses can be far more productive. That said, there is nothing like a deadline or commission with specific requirements to focus the mind.
What do you feel the aim of your art is?
First and foremost it is to create something that comes from deep within myself. To lay something down on canvas that means something to me personally, something I may find difficult to express in words, and something that will possibly only mean something to myself. It is to create a work that I would want to hang on my own wall and spend countless hours staring at, listening to music that conjures the same feelings as the painting evokes for me. I paint for my own enjoyment, the process as much the final outcome. It is also to set myself new challenges and push the boundaries of my own abilities. My beach/seascape paintings are generally tranquil and atmospheric, relaxing on the eye. I suffer from extreme migraines and the paintings that I create are a real antidote to those difficult experiences. Intricate patterns, bright and bold colours are a difficult concept for the migraine to deal with. Ultimately I paint for me, if my work evokes similar feelings and brings relaxation, calm, wonder and enjoyment to others then all the better. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to give these emotions and sensations and to be able to bring these delights to others through the fruits of your own labours. That is something special.
What question about your work do you get most often?
For the beach/seascape paintings it would always be “how do you do that?” referencing the extreme texture and 3D appearance of them. My answer varies depending on how generous I want to be with the detail, after all I don’t want to give away all of my secrets. I always add though that their is one single ingredient that is most important and one which isn’t a secret…..patience. For my abstract paintings the same question would be asked “how do you do that?” referencing the swirling patterns within the paint. The same question to both styles receives a similar answer, specific but vague enough not to give too much away – “I buy some ‘stuff’ (vague technical term) and mix the paint with it and hey presto – something unique happens”.
What do you do when you don’t know how to proceed in a work?
Stop..!! Too many hours wasted and paintings ruined because of impatience and tiredness. If I hit a block then that’s the time to stop what you are doing and go do something else. A new day and a fresh pair of eyes are often a good remedy to a creative block. If i’m really unsure about something then you can be certain that someone else has encountered a similar problem previously. There is so much out there on the internet that some other kind creative soul will have shared the answer to your predicament, so, do some research and your questions will be answered.
If you could start with art again, knowing what you know now, what would you change?
I would have started earlier than I did that’s for certain. My background was one where you left school and got yourself a job. It doesn’t have to be that way and It certainly isn’t the case these days, but it did tend to be back then. If I had been made a liitle more aware of my options back then and how you could shape your future I’m sure my professional life would have taken a different and more creative journey. But it’s never too late….
What is the question you encounter most when you tell someone you are an artist?
“What do you paint”? Seascapes and beach scenes I tell them. It sounds so simplistic but it goes so much deeper, and without going into the depths of the detail with them I feel that I’m only giving a fraction of the real answer. And without wanting to bore them I leave it at that… “Seascapes and beach scenes” is my final answer.
Do you wish the place of art would change in society, if yes, how?
It would be nice if it wasn’t seen as being quite so exclusive as it is. I think that a lot of people, myself included, shy away from dropping into a gallery, especially a commercial gallery, just to have a look and enjoy what is there waiting to be found. Art should be for the many, not the few (sounds familiar). I would also like to see a society that doesn’t believe that they are doing the artist a favour, or giving them a great opportunity for ‘exposure’ by allowing them to put their creative talents on display on the walls of their cafe, restaurant or hotel. While it does serve a purpose, and I have done it myself before and would consider it again, I wouldn’t ask the restaurant owner to provide a sumptuous ‘free’ banquet at ‘my place’ for family and friends as it would offer excellent exposure for their culinary skills. If you like the artwork enough to have it on your walls….buy some. More awareness and understanding of what you are buying in to when you buy a piece of original art would be an excellent start. A realisation of the blood sweat and tears, the heart and soul, not to to mention the cost and time spent on creating your masterpiece.
What part of the working process do you enjoy most?
I enjoy the initial idea/concept stage and figuring out how I’m going to create this piece. Much enjoyment is to be had as the painting begins to slowly evolve and develop from the the raw material stage to the finished article. When you can really see the painting appearing as you hoped it would is hugely satisfying. And sometimes the disappointment of when it doesn’t, but the realisation that it is turning out ‘pretty good’ despite that it isn’t what I had imagined, is equally pleasing.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
The first time that I ever found the courage to exhibit my work resulted in a friendship with a total stranger, Tracy. On the strength of those 3 paintings Tracy decided that she would build my first website for me, just because she loved what she saw, and didn’t want a bean for it. On another occasion where I was exhibiting some work I was describing to a colleague the background and meaning of my painting ‘Into the Great White Light’. I had created it for and dedicated it to my late father. This brought a tear of emotion to her eye and was quite overwhelmed, that was nice. Some years back I had the good fortune to sell one of my paintings to the British actor Adrian Lester, it was a surprise birthday present for his wife. He loved it but there was always the doubt that his wife might not. Fortunately the email received from Adrian a short while later was to stop worrying as ‘she loves it’….what a relief. And lastly but not least: Children staring, mesmerised by what they are looking at, not saying a word, just totally lost in the painting. That says more than a thousand words.
Which artist would you like to be compared to?
That’s a tricky one. I would prefer to be known on my own merits rather than be compared to someone else. I think that my work is quite unique despite the subject matter, on the face of it, being commonplace. When I lived in Brighton I was inspired by the work of two local artists to develop something more unique. Dion Salvador Lloyd being one and Adam Arbeid being the other, both relatively unknown to the wider world. Neither will have a clue who I am. If I could compare my work to or at least the feeling that my work is trying to evoke would be that of certain musicians. Music that I listen to and immerse myself in when I paint: Robn Guthrie, Brain Eno, Harold Budd, bvdub, Joy Division, Durutti Column, ambient electronica, electronic dub.