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Academic Level at Time of Creation
Date of Creation
As human beings, we want to look away from something that makes us uncomfortable, but we can be enthralled by it. I am currently creating work about the idea of restriction and confinement, specifically addressing body image. There is an underlying theme of the attraction-repulsion concept. Confronting audiences with less than desirable imagery creates a tension between my work and viewers. Creating that relationship fuels my work and allows me to cross uncomfortable boundaries and discuss our bodies in a contemporary way.
I use charcoal and graphite to create work, occasionally with a limited but vivid color palette with soft pastels to emphasize a specific aspect of the drawing. I also have experimented with fabrics and branched into three-dimensional work. The use of watercolors creates very intense images. Utilizing color generates an even more disconcerting effect than plain graphite or charcoal, depending on the subject matter. Value shifts also evoke various emotions, allowing for strong contrast, or chiaroscuro, that creates visually pleasing pieces. My work includes both figures and human-like forms, and I also incorporate animals and meat as a way to communicate the same concept with different subject matter. Compositions vary in scale, and the imagery is often close to life size or larger. Because the human figure is often depicted, very organic forms are used to create a more accurate representation of a figure.
Figurative artists such as Jenny Saville, Lucian Freud, and collaborative artists Cara Thayer and Louie Van Patten are an inspiration to my work. I connect with contemporary artists but still admire those in the past, especially Greek artists that projected ideal, natural beauty into sculptures. Their work draws me in with the beauty and softness it possesses from a distance then finding intricate details that give the piece liveliness. I am very inspired by the human figure and the exploration of individual components of our anatomy; there is joy in exploring how to render flesh with two-dimensional medium. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder also lends a role in how I am process-driven by choosing to depict meticulous and detailed imagery that may include repetition, which comes from obsessiveness. This has also inspired an admiration for intimate details of works such as eyelashes or the shine on a fingernail. Using these small details allows viewers to get personal with my work as they delve into the piece. The obsessiveness also lends to consistent worries about health and our instinctual need to rid the body of our ailments.
Establishing a tense connection between unsettling imagery and viewers is how I discuss my obsessions with health and the small things we do not typically ponder upon. Joining the obsessive nature with the human figure starts a conversation between not only viewers and the work but also within myself as I explore various aspects of the human figure and how to present it in a way that attracts yet repulses.
T. Michael Martin
Assignments from advanced drawing, various materials and sizes
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
Cox, Sarah, "Professional Practices Portfolio" (2019). Professional Practices (ART 399). 68.