You Are You: VIE Speaks – Think Out Loud with Shantell Martin [VIDEO]


June 13, 2014

By Kelly Beasley

I must say I am simply loving the VIE Speaks – Think Out Loud events. They offer a very personal glimpse into the creative life of a fellow human—their path, aches, successes, struggles, accomplishments, and—most importantly—what drives them to be creative and how they nurture that creativity. The speakers are always inspiring to say the least, and they have driven a swell of creative longing back into my life. I am proud to share with you the experience of the second event of VIE Speaks at the Seaside REP Theatre on June 4, where we met Shantell Martin, a line-drawing artist who creates an intricately detailed storyline of rambling faces, creatures, and characters with some wordplay intertwined. She does it all with only a black pen or marker on any white background, occasionally adding color when she collaborates with others. Some of her work spans seven-foot-long book pages, some of it now adorns walls of giant corporations, and she draws on everything in between. Her world is a canvas. (She even draws on her fans!)

At the event, Shantell was easily identifiable before she appeared on stage. She had her big curly hair mounded on the top/side of her head and wore a white button-down shirt with her signature art rambling all over the fabric. She was unassuming and confident and, once on stage, she spoke with ease. She sat perched atop a simple stool with her laptop beside her on a small table.

Shantell used a pen to write on a computer pad, which was projected onto the big screen. I found it interesting but logical how she would write on the pad without looking at it, and it came out perfectly legible on the screen. Ever try to write on a piece of paper without looking? It looks like a five-year-old’s handwriting. Hers did not. No surprise there I guess … but I was still curiously fascinated by it.

She told us that she grew up in London with a slew of siblings that could not have looked more different from her. She explained that she was not adopted, but had a different father, so she had dark skin and hair against her bleach-blonde brothers and sisters. She attributes this difference to the possibility that since she looked different from them, it gave her a passport to be different in many other ways as well.

Her art was certainly different, but she liked that. She didn’t care if she couldn’t draw a face as well as the kid next to her in class; she liked her face because it was her face, drawn the way she liked it. Many of us will put the brakes on our creativity once we see someone else do it better—myself included—but not Shantell.

She did not succumb to that mindset; she embraced it and turned her creativity into a very successful business. She has been featured in many of the world’s biggest publishers of art, design, fashion, and beyond. Additionally, she has been featured several times at Digital Graffiti in Alys Beach—including the recent 2014 festival June 7 and 8.

I am amazed. If you see Shantell’s drawings, they are detailed yet simple, almost childlike. To take simple drawings and to find the amount of success that she has with them is something I can hardly fathom. I had to ask her how she became successful with her art, figuring she must have had a killer agent or something, and she had a stock answer. I will try to quote her to the best of my memory:

“I pictured myself in the middle of a lake standing up in a green boat. I shifted my weight from side to side to make ripples in the water. They got bigger and bigger, and finally they hit the shoreline and they started to come back to me. This has been how I created my success.”

So she has talent, is creative, and she achieved her success through self-promotion.

YOU ARE YOU (YAY!) is one of Shantell's favorite messages.
YOU ARE YOU (YAY!) is one of Shantell’s favorite messages.

Shantell’s mantra is to do what feels right. To move from within. She promotes staying true to yourself and figuring out who you are as a human. She draws but she believes that the pen controls her; she just learned to follow it, being moved from some internal or external voice from the universe. We all have that voice, but seem to learn to shut it down as we grow up. Shantell’s work is the result of rejecting that notion that we aren’t good enough and nurturing that voice that says we are whatever we want to be.

The VIE Speaks lecture series has been a cornerstone in guiding me to plug back into my natural-born creativity. It’s there, but it’s buried under years of self-repression. I find it incredibly helpful and inspirational to take the time to listen to the story of another person who has successfully harnessed her own creative nature and nurtured it until it truly shined.

Way to go, Shantell! You are a true inspiration. Thank you for sharing your story with us at VIE Speaks – Think Out Loud.

{Photos by Troy Ruprecht}