Artist Q & A with Lily Mae Martin

Term: 3 Year: 2020

Lily Mae Martin is an artist from Melbourne. She graduated from VCA in 2008 with a BFA in Drawing. She was awarded the Lionel Gell travelling scholarship and went to Berlin. Lily Mae’s distinctive style is influenced by the mark-making of etching and the layering techniques of master printers and painters.

How important is drawing for art students?

I think drawing is fundamental to a visual arts practice – teaching you to observe, to notice and translate; it builds your visual vocabulary. Challenging yourself to draw differently to what you feel comfortable with – gestural, from life, with time limits, etc, gets you comfortable with making mistakes. I think this is imperative to visual art practice. When you’re not worried about perfection you are freed up to focus on what matters – generating ideas, exploring, developing your own voice.

Did art help you with a sense of identity/purpose?

I made art because I needed to. I had a rather tumultuous past and was denied my sense of identity. Every young person needs to explore their identity – to test it, to push up against and pull away at it, but to also feel safe and accepted when doing so. Now my drive comes from a different place, but identity was absolutely the beginning of it all for me. All of this shaped me into the artist and person that I am today. I learnt that I must do all the work. all the learning and unfun stuff and make a heck of a lot of mistakes. Then, I must process it, learn the lessons and get back to it. I’m so lucky to have art, and I have stubbornly held onto it throughout my life. I think it has saved me, more than once. And yes – I get up every day thinking maybe I’ll make a kick ass drawing or find a solution to whatever it is I am trying to resolve. Of course, this doesn’t happen, but it’s nice to think about. I absolutely recognise how lucky I am to have this and that it keeps giving me a sense of purpose.

What is your process for making of a body of work?

To begin with I read, I walk, I think. I do terrible sketches. I look at art that is very different to my own, now I’m looking at Sonia Delaunay and David Altmejd. I have begun conversations with professionals in other fields – scientists, historians, writers, a potential astronaut, teachers, doctors. I think it is wise to be open and interested in everything and everyone around you. Inspiration comes from everywhere, especially from places that you do not expect. Art is made in response to the world around you – I think if you are only looking at similar art to your own, you run the risk of simply creating facsimiles. I’m still at the beginning stage as I write this, so I better take my own advice.

Nic Plowman
(Zart Education)
in conversation with Lily Mae Martin