A Q&A with artist Martin Rollins

Martin Rollins (martinrollins.net) is one of the best-known artists in town, with a highly recognizable style. He’s also a teacher. Both of those jobs give him the right to stand on a soapbox and say, “People need to make a conscious effort to be in support of visual artists in the community. It’s very underserved.” Amen, brother.

LEO: What type of artist are you?
Martin Rollins: I am basically one of those kids who never stopped drawing. While other classmates moved on to sports, Cub Scouts or science kits, my interest remained with drawing with crayons on the good side of recycled copy paper. Over time that interest broadened to include painting and paper constructing, but, at heart, I remain most interested in drawing with colored artist crayons and drawing media.

Please explain your artistic process.
Much of what I develop into larger drawings usually proceeds from preliminary sketching and drawing. There may or may not be an obvious reference to what you find in my sketchbooks, but there is a direct relationship insofar as idea/inspiration development. From there, I am off and running, and where the drawing may develop is what keeps me engaged.

I like to work in brown Sharpie marker in my sketchbook as it makes me stand and deliver with what I am drawing. You can’t erase Sharpie, so you best have some idea of what you want to say before the marker’s tip hits the page. The drawings are laid down quickly, with a visceral and vigorous attitude. Stray marks or screw-ups are worked back in as I plunge ahead. I half know where I am going, and truly that’s the impetus for continuing the drawing.

After a drawing has lived in my sketchbook for a bit, I may then take it into a more developed drawing. I generally work in the 18-inches by 24-inches range, though few works are actually those dimensions. The surface for most drawings is hot press watercolor paper prepared with a watercolor wash or gouache. There may also be remnants of an earlier drawing that didn’t go the direction I’d hoped and that I then scraped off. I prefer the drawing surface toned rather than simply blank. As with people, those pages with a previous life are far more interesting to get to know.

Though I do work in oil pastels, I also work a lot with an artist crayon called NeoColor 1. A densely pigmented hard crayon, it affords me the sturdiness and color density in both my sketchbook work and as a preliminary layer drawing on larger pieces.

“Pennsylvania Ave.” by Martin Rollins

You have a solo exhibition coming up soon. What can viewers expect to see?
My exhibit at the B. Deemer Gallery will feature 16 works, primarily drawings but with a couple of oil paintings as well. The exhibit is titled ‘Town and Country’ as the subject matter features both urban architecture and more park-like or rural settings. The works range in size from 9-inches by 12-inches to about 24-inches by 48-inches. Some of the urban works are as close as the backyard, and several of the rural pieces from outside Lexington.

What’s on your art bucket list?
Traveling with my sketchbook, Sharpies and NeoColors. Destinations: Vienna; Austria to see the ‘Labors of the Months’ paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Return to Iceland to draw landscapes.

Is there a local artist you think is doing great work that hasn’t been noticed yet?
No one specific, but new artists are coming on the scene all the time. The woods are full of them. Look.

About the Author

A Q&A with artist Martin Rollins

Jo Anne Triplett is the contributing visual arts editor at LEO Weekly. She’s a past member of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Public Art, was the content advisor on the Glassworks Building video, and has written for Louisville Magazine, Kentucky Homes and Gardens and the national publication Glass Craftsman. Jo Anne came to Louisville from Washington, D.C. where she worked as a researcher and writer for the Smithsonian American Art Museum.



All Articles by this Author >