“My hope is that my work evokes some kind of conversation about mental health”
David Marteney is an American artist located in Columbus, Ohio. He has a strong passion for the human figure and currently his favorite mediums are charcoal and black pastels. Marteney speaks openly about depression and his art has been strongly influenced by personal experiences related to this condition. His series “Lost to shadow” show different characters struggling with dark emotions, the viewers can see the tragic beauty in each piece.
Even though David’s artistic career has had its ups and downs, he has managed to learn and improve his work by studying through different online platforms. A few days ago, David received two grants from the Greater Columbus Arts Council and his work and talent have been recognized in the community.
In this Q&A, artist David Marteney shares with PoseSpace how his depression had and impact on his work, what are his rituals, who is his favorite living artist and how he has used online platforms to improve his art:
Can you tell us about your background and how you got into art?
I got into art from a pretty young age, but my struggle with depression never let me get too far with it. I tended to have a pattern of trying to make art, struggling, my depression flaring up, and then just giving up. A lot of people think that art can be a panacea for people with mental illness, but it has never really worked like that for me. It could distract me at times, but, in truth, it tended to make me feel worse more often than anything else. I really wasn’t able to focus and improve until I got into therapy and proper medication. The result of this waffling in life was me not entering into a formal art education. At this point, I do a bunch of online classes—the two major sources being proko.com and nma.art. But I’ve also learned a lot from various Youtube creators as well.
How do you start a work —do you have any rituals?
I tend to start by turning on some kind of music that falls into the background, lots of vaporwave or synth music. Then I go through a process I call “Getting the ugly out.” This could be a few quick sketches of my intentions, or just some warmup gesture work. Sometimes this process lasts minutes or could be my whole session. I’ve had to learn to go with the flow on this. If my idea doesn’t have a solid enough foundation to push me through, it usually means I need to think about it more or do more concepting. I’ve had to learn to have more patience with myself and embrace any failures that come out of this process. I keep telling myself that a success teaches me one thing, but a failure teaches me many. If I make it through this process, I often find myself in an almost meditative state where the rest of the world falls away.
You are active on social media. How have these platforms influenced your work?
Social media is a bit of a sore spot for me. However, I understand its importance, especially if I want to transition to a full-time artist. I really only use it for my art. I don’t spend any time on it for personal use. To be honest, my wife is my teacher for that side of things. I often have to ask her some really silly questions about how stuff works, or why doing specific things on a service makes an impact. When it comes to Facebook, I find myself completely lost. That’s a structure far too byzantine for me to wrap my head around.
As far as how it has influenced my work, I try to not let it. I know that I should be posting more often, but I feel like rushing through things to do that would be detrimental to my work.
What do you think of PoseSpace? Do you have a favorite PoseSpace.com model?
I love PoseSpace! It’s been really useful for my work. It’s really great to have this huge resource of body types and poses to work from. A lot of the photos have a strong use of chiaroscuro that is super useful for the type of visual arts that I like to make and has been a great education on lighting for when I work with models locally.
Picking a favorite model is tough. For a masculine body type, I would have to go with BenP, as his musculature is well defined without being overly bulky. Whenever I work from one of his references, it always feels like his muscles flow gracefully with the gesture of the pose, rather than breaking it. For a feminine body type, Thea manages to make any pose look graceful with a water-like flow of anatomical structures. I always find myself inspired when seeing one of her poses.
But there are so many models! I doubt I’ve seen all of them.
Do you have a favorite living artist, whether famous or completely unknown?
One of my favorite living artists is Steve Houston. His work has so much friction and energy. I get lost in his pieces all the time. They have mesmerizing quality to them. He is also a fantastic teacher. I’ve learned so much from his classes at New Masters Academy.
What life experiences have influenced your work?
A lot of my work deals directly with depression. After my suicide attempt in 2017, and getting proper mental health care, I decided that I wanted to create a body of work around mental health. After my attempt, I was willingly placed in a mental health facility. My conversations with the other people in there were incredibly helpful. Being open and honest about this aspect of ourselves, that we are often told to hide, was liberating. It really took some of the teeth away from the monster. I want to help other people do the same. My hope is that my work evokes some kind of conversation about mental health.
Do you have any shows or activities on the horizon that you’d like to tell our readers about?
I do have a show coming up this year, but all of the details haven’t been hammered out yet, and I was asked to keep it private until that is all done. Other than that, I’ve started work on my next series Where Life Once Was where I am mixing the anatomy of abandoned buildings with the human figure. I’m excited to see where it goes and the immense challenge it’s presenting me.
David Marteney’s website: davidmarteney.com
Interview by Andrea Miliani