is an illustrator, designer and educator based in Portland, Oregon. His distinctive style, an interplay of marks, signs, and symbols spanning a diverse media context—has been recognized internationally for its dynamic visual exploration of life and culture. His images have won awards from the leading visual communication organizations across the United States, including Gold Medals from the Society of Illustrators in New York and Los Angeles.
Born in the San Francisco Bay Area, Martin has a BFA in Illustration from ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California. He spent 8 years as a designer and design director at Microsoft before launching Martin French Studio in 1996 while based in Seattle. 10 years later Martin moved to Portland where he designed the BFA program in Illustration at the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA). He is currently Chair of Design Arts and an Associate Professor teaching classes in Creative Professional Practice, Visual Thesis Development, and the intersection of Design & Illustration.
American Airlines, American Express, Apple, Atlantic Monthly, Barneys New York, Boston University, Candlewick Press, Coca-Cola, Consumer Reports, Christianity Today, Columbia Pictures, Discovery Channel, DreamWorks, Dutton Children's Books, ESPN, Fila, Foreign Policy Magazine, The Gap, Gatorade, Grammy Awards, Hardy's Winery (Australia), Hershey's, Holland America Cruise Lines, Honda Motorcycles, House of Blues, Island Records, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Joffrey Ballet, John Deere, JVC Jazz Festival, Kate Spade New York, Lucas Films, Major League Baseball, Macy’s, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Multnomah Publishers, Nagano Winter Olympics, National Geographic, NBA, New York Times, NFL, NHL, Nickelodeon, Nike, Nintendo, Nokia, Oracle, Penguin Putnam, Pepsi, Rossignol, Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, Smithsonian, Sony Entertainment, Sports Illustrated, Stanford University, St. Martin’s Press, Time/Warner, United States Olympic Committee, United States Postal Service, USA Today, Utne Magazine, Warner Brothers, Wizards of the Coast, and The Village Voice.
PRESS + RECOGNITION + PUBLICATION
The Artfuls (theartfuls.com)
Communication Arts Design Annual
Communication Arts Illustration Annual
Communication Arts Magazine Feature Article / March-April 2003
Drawing Inspiration: Visual Artists at Work
Icons & Images: 50 Years of Illustration / Society of Illustrators 2008
Idea Design Magazine (China) Feature Article / February 2008
Illustration Age (illustrationage.com)
Illustrator Illuminated Feature Article / Adobe Press 2003
Lines and Colors (linesandcolors.com)
Luerzer's Archive 200 Best Illustrators Worldwide
Society of Illustrators Los Angeles Annual Exhibition / Gold, Silver, + Bronze Medals
Society of Illustrators New York Annual Exhibition / Gold Medal
Print Regional Design Annual
Revista Ilustrar (Brazil) / Feature Article / December 2007
Step by Step Magazine Feature Article / May-June 2000
My professional practice has been focused on taking symbols from daily life and reworking them into images potent enough to strike passing audiences with an experience of aesthetic and intellectual encounter. I've been especially fascinated by how an individual artist's unique vision, when developed and honed, can be at once exclusively personal and yet widely transcendent. This fascination with the expressive and communal paradox inherent in artistic development is what led me away from a career as a design director to start my own illustration and design practice. Its contours and questions still energize my development and practice as a visual communicator.
Thankfully, my disciplinary fascination happens to overlap with what has turned out to be vital professional practice—namely the need for the modern visual communicator to find ways of distinguishing their images in a hyper-saturated visual market. That quest isn't, of course, something that ends with a degree or an award. On the contrary, its ongoing, evolving challenges form a large portion of what we refer to as professional practice. How does a visual communicator remain savvy and able to read culture? How does a visual communicator retain a vision robust enough to start or redirect zeitgeists rather than being conformed to them? As I engage with these tensions I'd like to think my images could have worked in 1909, or again in 2099—the point being that their appeal depends not on tapping the hype of contemporary culture, but, almost the reverse, on stripping away the hype to offer up an image conveying a timeless appeal.
My move to Portland in 2006 motivated me to explore and apply these ideas through projects aimed at connecting with the city, most notably, the formation of the Illustration Department at The Pacific Northwest College of Art. My hope for student development in and through cultural engagement is the pedagogical extension of my ambition for my own work. I am seeking to deepen the unity between my own professional practice, artistic voice, and cultural involvement. I am energized by seeking greater rigor, expression, risk-taking, and clarity in my work. Naturally, my general teaching philosophy reflects that kind of ethos: I want students to experience my classroom as a laboratory where processes, ideas, and historical/cultural backdrops are live-wires, highly-charged and dynamic elements through which we can better understand, better share, and better tell, our own stories. What's more—and this is core to my overarching goal for myself and my students—I want the classroom to be a place where we learn how to press ever deeper into that powerful personal/communal paradox that a well-developed vision and a highly-sensitive mind can come together and create.