Shantell Martin's book, Wonder, with her hands holding a marker above it.
Courtesy Shantell Martin

Shantell Martin’s Debut Book Follows the Line of Her Life and Workπ

By Aileen Kwun
February 29, 2020
2 minute read

With a chunky marker in hand, artist and illustrator Shantell Martin is widely known for the distinctive black-and-white line drawings she creates in meditative, stream-of-consciousness grooves, live and in real-time, transforming everyday spaces and objects into canvases for her freewheeling compositions. The performative and often ephemeral nature of Martin’s works is partly why, despite being no stranger to pen and paper, working on her first book, the soon-to-launch Lines (Heni Publishing)with texts from Katharine Stout and Hans Ulrich Obrist—was more of an undertaking than she’d imagined.

While the book’s title was a no-brainer (“everything starts with drawing, everything starts with lines,” Martin says), revisiting her earlier works from the aughts was a trickier task that required digging through her old hard drives and tracking down photographic documentation. A graduate of Central Saint Martins, she got her start as a “visual DJ” while teaching English in Tokyo, partly as a scrappy way to forgo cover entry into the city’s clubs. “I attribute the acceleration of my style to those formative years,” Martin says, though the fast-paced nature of the work meant they were rarely documented. That’s since changed—as has Martin’s work. A number of solo exhibitions and high-profile collaborations (with the likes of Nike, Max Mara, and Kendrick Lamar) have given rise to a global fanbase. And while Martin’s works are arguably best experienced in live, in-person sessions—you can catch her in action this May, as the featured artist of our #HandMarkingTime series on the Instagramseeing her works printed and bound offers a satisfying second.