There is something slightly tragic about living in the most landlocked city in the UK and missing the sea daily, but that’s the life of a Scarborough exile. I know I’m not alone, because friends from Sheffield visit my neck of the woods more regularly than I do. So bear with me. This one is […]

There is something slightly tragic about living in the most landlocked city in the UK and missing the sea daily, but that’s the life of a Scarborough exile. I know I’m not alone, because friends from Sheffield visit my neck of the woods more regularly than I do. So bear with me. This one is personal.

Machado splits his time between art and various jobs at sea, from cargo ships to crab fishing. The dedication and sole pursuit of something cohesive and real – as my dad (15 years in the Merchant Navy) would say ‘proper work’ – comes across in every image. Paint what you know.

Vague Turner-isms and a massively keen attention to detail make the complex, exhaustingly painted seas next to abstract skies, and the yawning hugeness of nature with the many ways human enterprise takes them out onto the water, jump out of the page. Stern stuff.

BASICS, PLEASE. WHAT STARTED YOU DRAWING?

I was lucky to have very encouraging parents – a cartoonist grandfather, a huge supportive family actually. Pretty dorky beginnings. I always had phases growing up, where I thought I was a Native American and only drew them, which then turned into a Robin Hood obsession for a while. I shot a hole in my wall with a homemade bow and arrow, when I was actually having a face-off with Kevin Costner on my poster of the 90s American movie version.

CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE PROCESS OF STARTING A NEW PIECE?

It’s always random really. Recently I started about 20 pieces quickly and finally stopped on one to work for a while, but I like to bounce back and forth. I’ve also been working on more found stuff from some different jobs – nautical charts from a containership, driftwood, old fish packing boxes from an abandoned cannery in Alaska. I like that it gives me a starting point, rather than just a blank canvas.

WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION FROM?

Mostly from work, travel, the people I meet, the land and the sea.

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TOOLS. WHAT DO YOU USE REGULARLY AND WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE?

I use a lot of different paints, usually starting with waterbased like Gouache or Acrylic for traveling ease or working in confined quarters. Then I switch back to oils at some point because they’re the only paint I can sort of predict. I’ve worked with epoxy resin for a while, and stacking semitranslucent paintings on fiberglass cloth. I like the effects, like a physical technique of creating Photoshop layers, and the resulting finish like a surfboard or fancy sailboat. But I’ve been using less resin recently, because I’m trying to get away from the nasty chemicals as much as possible.

WHAT OTHER ARTISTIC MEDIA HAVE HAD AN EFFECT ON YOUR ART?

Photography and film definitely play a huge role in both my process and ideas. I capture most of my images while working at sea, when I can’t really break out the easel and paint, so the photos become my sketchbook for many paintings.

HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR DAYS?

When home in San Francisco, I do my best to stay in the studio as much as possible, but I try get out and enjoy the outdoors when I can – ride a bike, surf, row on the bay. I love this place.

WHICH OF YOUR RECENT PIECES HAVE YOU ENJOYED MAKING THE MOST?

A recent piece was the most agonizing but has now become the most fun towards the end – some fairly detailed water painting. I should have used a projector or grid but was either too stupid or too masochistic.

HOW HAS YOUR ART EVOLVED OVER TIME?

I hope that my images have become a little more developed. I definitely realized I had to work harder to be happy with them. I think I’m more comfortable now making a piece that may be seen as cheesy. I’ve always liked cheesy really, like the décor in an old harbor fish restaurant or in Christian illustration. To me it is more like research and collection. I’m just interested in seafaring culture in all aspects. My artwork and jobs have always just led from one thing to another, and I’ve never felt like I could make work about something I didn’t really know personally.

HOW HAS ART IN GENERAL CHANGED SINCE YOU STARTED?

I think high art has finally started to realize how stale and isolating it can be. There definitely have been some outstanding painters and photographers getting noticed recently. It seems like it is finally ok to re-present the world around us, to tell stories about life instead of only inside the artist’s head.

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON?

Some stuff that is more illustrative, showing places and people from my
six months on the containership. They might find their way into a short
documentary type video about the same topic.

ANY TIPS ON HOW TO SURVIVE MAKING MONEY FROM YOUR ART? DO YOU FIND IT IMPORTANT?

I can’t really say because I’ve always worked real jobs in chunks to be able to come home and work on art till the cash runs out. I like working outside of art for a while. It allows me some time away from the studio to reflect. I don’t think it’s vital for an artist to only make art. You definitely have to be disciplined to get back into the studio and make up for lost time, but I think it’s grounding to occasionally surround yourself with people who don’t give a shit about the art world.

WHAT DO YOU DISLIKE IN ART?

Pretentious, preachy work, silly little puzzles set up for us to figure out, or anything that ignores the viewer or was only created to confuse.

WHAT MAKES YOU SMILE IN ART?

Creative, original work that makes you think, “Hey, a person made that!”

GOOD ADVICE YOU WISH YOU’D BEEN TOLD EARLIER?

If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

Contact the man himself to buy his work at martinmachado.com

Interview by Jones.