20 Cheeky Questions: Marc Martin

Melbourne-based artist Marc Martin has a clever sense for nature. His commissioned works have popped up in an impressive range of places – everywhere from the pages of Monocle to Luxury Traveller – but the natural world is the prevailing focus for Marc’s personal projects, including his illustrated books. The latest, ‘A River’ winds progressively through landscapes that the likes of Charley Harper and Henri Rousseau would have felt at home in. If we could live in the pages of any book, we’d chose one of Marc’s lush, illustrated worlds in a heartbeat.

Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself, and your life with plants?
I used to be a graphic designer by trade, but I’ve always been an artist at heart. I studied graphic design, however I often found myself moonlighting as an illustrator and involved in the arts via publishing collectives or other projects. After many years struggling to balance design and illustration, I made the leap into full-time illustration a couple of years ago, and haven’t looked back. I’ve had four books published by Penguin/Random House in Australia, and my latest book, A River has just been picked up by Chronicle in the US.

In terms of my affinity with nature and plants, I’ve always had an interest in themes of connectedness, the environment and our relationship with the natural world – and that’s translated into my books. My first book, A Forest was very much a homage to the beauty of plants and nature – and A River continues in that vein.

How many plants did you draw for your latest book, A River (Penguin, 2015) – and more importantly, please tell us all about the book?
Too many plants to count! I just made sure there were lots of them! A River is an imaginary journey from the city to the sea, captured through the eyes of a young girl as she gazes through her window. It takes the reader on a journey through cityscapes, farmland, forest, jungle, and oceans. Each page is a unique landscape, all linked together by one body of water, and there’s a diversity of flora and fauna to discover within.

What cheers you up?
Riding through parklands with the wind running through my hair on a gloriously sunny day.

What is the habit you are proudest of breaking, or want to break?
I’m yet to crack my procrastination habit.

Have you ever been in love with two people at the same time?
No, thankfully!

Name a skill you wish you had?
Playing a musical instrument, or to be able to sing like Lou Reed or Johnny Cash – it would greatly improve my karaoke kudos.

What is your favourite word?
Turquoise. It’s also my favourite colour.

What is the most played song on your playlist?
I just checked my iTunes, and apparently it’s ‘Amber’ by Dick Diver. It’s a particularly Australian sounding song with some really vivid imagery in the lyrics. ‘Atomic Bomb’ by William Onyeabor is a close second on my playlist.

If you had to make a garden with 3 plants, what would they be?
I’d definitely choose all natives:

1. I’d plant a giant Moreton Bay Fig that would spread out and provide plenty of shade, and branches to climb.

2. Eucalyptus caesia (commonly known as Silver Princess). This tree is endemic to a small region of Western Australia, but I often see its distinctively languorous white branches and red flowers dotted around Melbourne suburbs.

3. Banksia of any sort. I particularly like the bulbus Banksia hookeriana and prionotes.

What makes somebody sexy?
Confidence, sensitivity, warmth and great sense of humour.

What do you miss most about being a kid?
Those wonderfully long school holidays.

What’s the first thing you notice about people?
Their smile.

What qualities in people do you admire the most?
Integrity, honesty, curiosity.

Art – what is it good for?
Art has the power to challenge beliefs, pose questions and nurture the spiritual.

Who/what inspires you?
I’m inspired by my surroundings, by nature and by my friends.

What would you be doing in an alternate life or career?
I’m pretty happy doing what I do now, but in a parallel universe I might have been a professional cyclist climbing the peaks of the Pyrenees.

What’s your perfect three-course meal?
Somehow I’ve ended up with three versions of the pancake theme:

Entrée – Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake)
Main – Traditional Peking duck with spring onion, cucumber, and sweet bean sauce served in thin pancakes
Cheese – you can’t have a meal without following with cheese. (I am French you know!)
Dessert – Crepe Suzette

What is special about where you live?
I live in Westgarth, Melbourne. I like being close to the Merri Creek, and close to parks where I can enjoy the warm summer days.

What’s your favourite kind of weather?
Swimming weather!

How many people are you completely yourself with?
I can be a bit of a chameleon, but I’m myself with my friends and loved ones.