Martin Whatson is born in Norway. He discovered stencils and the urban art scene while studying Art and Graphic design at Westerdals School of Communication, in Oslo. After following the development in the street art scene closely, he started his own artistic production in 2004.
Martin has a continuous urge to search for beauty in what is commonly dismissed as ugly, out of style or simply left behind. He looks for inspirations in city landscapes and old soon to be demolished buildings. His interest for decay has helped develop his style and composition. He enjoys creating either unity or conflict between materials and motives.
Since his artistic debut in 2006, he has had several solo exhibitions and participated in many group exhibitions, both nationally and internationally.
Martin was nice enough to fit us in his busy schedule for a Q and A.
Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a 30 year old Norwegian stencil artist. After doing graffiti for many years I got into stencils and been working with the medium for about 10 years now, and full time for the last 2-3 years.
How or when did you start doing art?
I’ve been following the graffiti and street art scene since the mid 90’s, after discovering Banksy (of course) and realizing I wasn’t good enough painting graffiti pieces, so I decided to try stencils. I still love watching, and painting Graffiti, but trying to incorporate it more and more into my stencil art now.
Do you Have a formal arts education?
Besides the basic high school art education, I’ve studied graphic design. And as a child my father drew me cars and Disney cartoons. Other than that I’m basically self taught.
Have you always been an artist? If not, then what where you before you became an artist?
For the better part of my life I’ve been painting and drawing, not to the extent I do now, but I can say I spent most my years at school sketching, drawing letters and characters instead of doing maths or science.
Are there any artists who particularly inspire you?
Funnily enough I’m not a big fan of stencil art myself, although I respect and get inspired but some I mostly enjoy abstract graffiti inspired art. Some of my recent favorites are Borf, José Parlà and Smash137.
Do you have any favorite surfaces?
Recently I’ve mainly been working on canvas, but I really enjoy painting on aluminum and metal, and found objects like wood and metal.
What was your most memorable “street art” experience?
I’ve had a lot of fun, and met many great people over the years, but one of the most memorable have to be helping a fellow artist paint a stencil in -30 Celsius after a drunken night. Can’t say it was fun, and the result looked shit, but I will never forget that. On the other side of the scale, I have to mention participating in last year’s NuArt. Fantastic crew and met so many great artists!
Have you collaborated with others?
Yeah, I’ve been doing a couple of collaborations, among them with Dot Dot Dot for a charity show in NY and with both Roamcouch, Pure Evil and Snik. I’m just doing the collaborations for fun and to see what I can add to other peoples work and what they can add to my work! So far I’m very happy with everything we’ve done!
What percentage of you time is devoted to art?
At the moment I’m working almost around the clock. But trying to spend as much time as possible with my son. The easiest way to explain it is that you never have time off when you’re an artist. It’s always in the back of your head, and I always carry a pen and a sketchbook.
Do you have a message in your art?
I do try to put some emotion and message in my work, but not as in your face as many street artists do. At the moment I’m trying to put more emotion and hidden messages in my stencils, staying away from the hard hitting political messages! Not going to get into just why I’m doing what I’m doing. I like to give people the chance to discover it themselves and interpret the messages as they understand them.
What do you think about the politically charged street art, like that of Banksy?
I like to see political street art on the streets, but it’s not really my thing to put on my walls.
In your opinion, the street art that takes longer to paint and with more intricate detail has more of an effect than the spontaneous stencil street art?
Not really, I find the simplest black and white stencils to be the most effective as a street piece. On canvas its a whole other story!
How do you feel about the role of the Internet and social media in making your works more accessible to the public?
The internet has really helped today’s artists get their work spread a lot more. And I use several social media sites to spread my work. Most artists working with street art or graffiti wants as many people as possible to see their art. When Instagrafite post work on Instagram they receive 30000+ likes and thousands of comments. You can’t really complain about that!
What is the best advice you have ever had about how to be creative?
Just do what you want and don’t care too much about what everyone else says, there will always be haters out there. Do it for the fun and pleasure. Creativity don’t really have any boundaries.
What do you do when you are not creating art?
My hobby suddenly became my job a couple years ago when I started to live from doing art. So I had to get a new hobby! I love collecting other art, work out and I do try to spend as much time as possible with my family.
What about festivals? Have you participated in any street art festivals or special events?
Have been involved in a few events and festivals and have some interesting stuff in the pipeline. Among them Italy, New York and Los Angeles.
Any words of advice for aspiring new artists?
Just do what you want to do, don’t bother too much about other people and do it for yourself. As soon as you start doing stuff to please others some of the passion is lost.
We would like to thank Martin for taking the time to answer our questions. We wish him the continued success, and hoping to keep us in mind when he is stateside.