Describing her childhood as being “brought up by making hands,” the now Brixton-based illustrator Molly Martin’s own hand is one that is extremely delicate. Both in her approach and choice of materials – even the paper stock she chooses to work with appears highly considered and comforting – Molly’s work immediately puts you at ease, with tiny pencil marks, a hint of gouache and a masterful approach to utilising white space.
Growing up in the Westcountry, Molly’s first introduction to creativity came from her parents. Her father was a special effects maker (and worked on Wallace and Gromit – a dream), although Molly now describes him “as a strange combination of gifted draughtsman, engineer, ceramicist and spectre artist.” Her mother, on the other hand, was a children’s psychotherapist “but she also dabbled in all things to do with sewing,” previously having a hat-making business in the early 1990s.
Her parents’ fondness for creativity influenced their approach to education too, sending Molly to a Steiner School, where students are “encouraged to learn at our own pace, and learn through painting and drawing, movement and song,” Molly describes. As a result, creativity as a positive act to indulge in was instilled in Molly from a young age, believing that “creativity is good and fulfilling when you are free to create what comes naturally from you,” she says. “I was dyslexic and found mathematics impossible, but I was never made to feel stupid at school, or at home.” Ultimately, this led Molly to study arts at university; she moved to Falmouth to study illustration where she stayed years afterwards, working as a waitress alongside practising her craft.
Now switching the southwest of England for south London, Molly still divides her illustration craft with another practice: textile repairs. Sensibly always knowing she would probably have to support her artistic output with another job, Molly began slowly picking up repair work from costume designers, eventually setting up her own “very little” clothing repair business. Splitting her weeks into one-day textiles, the following day illustration, “it’s nice to have two things that are separate from one another,” she tells us. “It makes me appreciate both things.”
But when it comes down to the practice of Molly’s we’re a little more familiar with, she actually describes herself as “something between an artist and illustrator,” with her work sitting “somewhere in the middle too.” Varied in subjects and depictions, Molly’s work abstracts familiar objects by placing sole focus on them. “The work I make tends to look at negative space, with a considered colour palette,” she explains, particularly “drawn to capture the beautifully ordinary moments of life; work, home, nature and everyday objects; with a tendency to draw straight from life.”
In their process, these works are also extremely delicate due to their size. With Molly always working to small dimensions, her final pieces are rarely bigger than A2 – at an absolute maximum. These pieces are then highly considered at the next stage of framing, where space continues to be important: “I like images that feel like they’re slightly floating,” she says, also explaining her decision to not draw absolutely everything in the frame. When it comes to her more immediate tools, Molly can also usually be found using “a soft led pencil, HB or B is good,” usually a mechanical pencil from Muji too. This leads her to create linework that feels “instinctive” and to get the exact quality, “I usually go through a lot drawings before I’m happy; learning from each one that goes wrong.”
When it comes to future plans, however, it seems that Molly’s two artistic worlds are colliding, currently working on a book on “the art of repair” diving into the history, philosophy and art of textile repair, to be published by Short Books. Outside of this, Molly is simply “trying to slow down currently” enjoying the process of painting, and maybe thinking of trying to do more oil paintings. “They have a quality about them that trumps all other materials in mind,” she says, imaging her future self to be using this material too: “I hope that, when I am an old woman, my house is full of paintings and drawings from my life – a still life from 40 years ago hanging in the bathroom.”
About the Author
Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.