Marty Baptist is an Australian contemporary artist working with creatives and brands around the world. Combining strong colours and cryptic bits of texts, his paintings, clothes, accessories, and skateboards bring out the strangeness and mystery of our daily lives. See the full story from Paul’s studio visit for Where They Create here.
Tell me a little about you and where we are right now…
My name is Marty Baptist. I’m a contemporary artist. We’re in the Northern Rivers area in Northern NSW.
It sort of came all from skateboarding, it’s all intertwined. Influenced by record covers and skateboard graphics in the late 80s, which turned into making zines and drawing art work on grip tape. In the mid 90s, I started doing a few skateboard graphics that went to canvas; I started having art shows in the early 2000s. Which brought me up to here! Along the way, I’ve done little T-shirt brands, a bit of commercial work, but mainly painting.
Where can I find you most days? Are you a creature of habit?
I’d say so. Most of the time, I’m down in the studio. Wake up, check emails, Instagram, all that rubbish. Mosey on down to the studio and paint, different times for different deadlines as well. If I have a show coming up, I’ll work into the early hours of the morning.
What were your previous studios like in Sydney?
Small. I was living in Potts Point, right in the guts of Kings Cross, and that was a tiny studio apartment. So, I had the bed in one corner, and all my paints, and I’d just basically drill a hole in the wall and hang the artwork and paint… And go to the pub across the road and come back, and paint more… And go back across the road. But a friend had a gallery in North Sydney, and I lived there for a bit, and that’s when I started doing a lot bigger work. I’d order a 10-metre roll of canvas and pin it up, and sometimes even chop it up into smaller works.
Was there an ideal workspace you were looking for when you moved out to Lennox Head?
Not really. I needed a larger space than I had in Sydney, but I can pretty much adapt. I find that a space does have an outcome on the size of the work. So, up here, I feel freer. Some of the imagery in the work has changed too — the environment does play a part.
So, what are you surrounded by?
We’re out on the deck that backs on a reserve. The block goes halfway into the reserve, and if you look a bit further, there’s an oyster shack directly across. If you go for a 5 minute walk, you’ll hit North Wall and Lighthouse Beach, and then onto Shelley. It’s a beautiful spot.
What is the heart of your work?
It’s always changing, to be honest. When I was smack-bang in Sydney City, it seemed I’d get inspiration from almost anything, like it could be an overheard conversation, could be a billboard on a bus — it was sort of more the city. Up here, I get inspiration from a lot of songs and music — but it can just come from anywhere.
Is there a favourite song while you’re working?
Not really, but I used to listen to a lot of Bob Dylan. For years, it was basically all I would listen to. I liked it because it’s a collage of words that ended up a painting. You can take from it whatever you want, like you would looking at art.
What’s the best advice you would give to aspiring artists?
It sounds cliche, but just keep doing what you love. You’ve got to push through the hard times — I’ve made pizzas, I’ve worked in bars, I’ve done cleaning, gardening, landscaping, and now, finally, I’m at a point where it’s all working out. You’ve got to be prepared to put the years in. And if you want a lot of money, you should study accounting or be a banker.
I always felt that I didn’t choose painting; it chose me. I remember working on an oil painting on Thursday nights when I was 12 years old. In someone’s garage — there was a group that would have cups of tea and ANZAC biscuits, and I was the youngest person there by 20 years, but I would do that on Thursday nights. And then skateboarding came in. And it wasn’t until the 90s, until I broke my ankle really bad that I went back to painting. Skateboarding is still in my life, but that’s when art really took over. That’s when it really began.
What are you doing when you are not creating?
I think that it’s all part of it. Whether you’ve got a dip brush in paint, and you’re hitting the canvas, or you’re processing thoughts — I see it all as one big journey.
I might be down on Shelley Beach having a walk with Emily, might be hanging out with some friends in Byron, might even go for a roll on the skateboard…
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