Marc Martin Paints The Perfect Bookstore

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ith a lucid painting style that plays on climatic atmospheres and contrasting shadows, Marc Martin makes the ordinary, extraordinary. The Australian artist has an eloquent manner to his work and how he interprets scenes. His prowess is in documenting dense urban depths but in a soothing nature, alluring to a harmonious calmness in often chaotic environments. Enlisted to paint an idyllic bookstore for the cover of Do You Read Me?, Martin reflects on his paradisal artwork and modern analog culture.

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(Marc Martin is an illustrator, artist, and bookmaker based in Melbourne, Australia. His illustrations have been commissioned by clients such as Monocle, Wired, T2, The Financial Review, and GQ.)

Painting compositions that make you want to live within them, his clean design and mix of tuneful colors lure you into his world. Figurative but almost abstract at times, they transport you into romantic surroundings. To celebrate independent bookstore culture around the world, we collaborated with him on a cover that encompasses the diversity of bookstore.

Martin created an atmosphere that draws on warm tones, the gazing shadow of a long-lasting summer day, and the animals that often reside in or around bookstores. The realism of the air-conditioning unit and the palette of colors he chose gives a nostalgic sensation to the viewer-a poetic translation of his perfect bookstore. It was a unique opportunity for something new and novel, which references several aesthetic cornerstones of this independent culture.

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(“My work is all about telling stories, having fun, and connecting with the viewer. The key to being a good illustrator is to constantly keep evolving and exploring new techniques and technology,” Martin explains.)

To coincide with Independent Bookstore Day, which is being celebrated virtually this year, Martin discusses what he sought to capture with this painting, how he’ll be marking the occasion, and why handmade design and objects still have space in the digital age.

Before studying Graphic Design, what was your relationship to illustration and print media growing up? What inspired this route?

I sort of fell into illustration. I didn’t particularly read books that much as a child, I was more interested in drawing and making things. At school I’d always done well in art and design subjects, so graphic design seemed like a natural route. It wasn’t until I’d been working as a designer for a few years that I realized that I was more interested in making images and illustrations than anything else, which eventually led me to work as an illustrator full-time.

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His work is a combination of hand-drawn and digital artworks. He previously said, “I think I might hold the record for the number of layers on a Photoshop file.” (Photo: Amelia Stanwix)

Your work plays on color blocks and has a strong aesthetic, how would you describe it to others?

I try to make my work feel as ‘human’ as possible. By this I mean I try to make as much as possible without the aid of a computer and include lots of textures and color to liven up the page. I’ll often use a combination of watercolor and pencil as I love the subtle color variations that watercolor creates along with the textural qualities of a pencil.

Can you tell us about the design process for the book’s front cover and what you wanted to capture with the work?

I wanted to capture the kind of bookstore I’d want to go to. I did a lot of research online of bookstore facades and architectural features I liked, and essentially just drew my favorite elements from each one. Essentially the kind of bookstore that appeals to me is something small and intimate. It doesn’t have to be the biggest bookstore, just a place where you can find something good to read and have a coffee out the front in the sunshine… and having a resident cat always adds some charm.

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(With a certain whimsical tint to his work, Martin says his design background gave him an Ray and Charles Eames, Charley Harper, Bruno Munari, and other designers from the 1960s.)

As a very analog illustrator yourself, handmade elements are very important. Do you have a strong relationship with printed books too?

I definitely appreciate a well-made book when I see one. A book with a well-designed cover and a strong aesthetic can really make me want to pick it up. Right now I’ve been buying a lot of children’s books for our son, and I’m very much influenced by the design of the book more than the stories inside!

Today is Independent Bookstore Day, a celebration of indie culture in print media. What role do independent bookstores play in modern society? Will you be participating?

Independent bookstores are so important because the people that run them are so knowledgeable and passionate about books. Indie bookstores are there when you need a recommendation, or need a present for a friend, or want somewhere to go for inspiration. In our busy modern lives, indie bookstores are a place of quiet sanctuary away from the noise and fluorescent lights of big box stores. On Independent Bookstore Day I’ll be ordering a bunch of children’s books to keep our son busy over the coming months, and maybe one or two novels for myself.

Our showcase of bookstores around the world, Do You Read Me?, will be available in German and English. The release date is May 7 for worldwide and June 9 across America.

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