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Working with Pictures: Marc Martin

Read Friday, 18 Dec 2015

Marc Martin is an illustrator, artist and book maker based in Melbourne. He’s the author of A River, an extremely charming picture book tracing an imagined journey from city to sea, and has created work for Monocle, Wired, the Emerging Writers’ Festival and more. We chat to Marc about stealing hats from beloved bears, and using illustration to explore the relationship between humans and the environments in which they live.

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What was the first piece of illustration you had published?

One of my first stepping stones to becoming an illustrator was working as a graphic designer for Voiceworks magazine. The first issue I worked on was themed Rat Race, so I illustrated a giant dystopian maze made of concrete buildings with little office workers wandering around. In the middle of the maze was a mousetrap with money set as bait. It was pretty fun to illustrate, but at the time I considered it to be a piece of graphic design rather than illustration.  

What’s the best part of your job?

Being able to realise my ideas in book form, and having those books read by thousands of people. 

What’s the worst part of your job?


What’s been the most significant moment in your illustration career so far?

My latest book A River, is soon to be published in the US by one of my favourite international publishers. It’s a major milestone for me as it’s the first time I’ve been published in America, and it’s with a publisher I’ve admired long before I began illustrating books.

What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve received about illustration?

The best advice I’ve received is to learn to say, ‘No’. It’s easy to fall into the trap of taking too much on when you’re working as a freelancer, so the sooner you learn to decline jobs that aren’t worth your while, the sooner you can start concentrating on the things that are important. 

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever heard or read about yourself?

Hmm, I try and avoid reading about myself wherever possible. 

If you weren’t illustrating, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

Maybe I’d be painting, but that’s something I’m working towards anyway.

What’s your advice for someone wanting to be an illustrator?

Don’t wait to be discovered. Just start drawing and making things, take risks and don’t worry about what other people think. 

Do you buy your books online, in a physical bookshop, or both?

Mostly in bookstores. If there’s a book I really want that I can’t get in a store, then I’ll go online.

If you could meet any character from a picture book, who would it be and why?

I’d like to meet the bear from Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back, because I need a good hat. 

What’s the picture book that’s had the most significant impact on your life or work ­ and why?

Jeannie Baker’s Where the forest meets the sea has stayed with me since childhood. It’s a simple story about change and the impact humans are having on the environment. The message still resonates with me, and I like to think that my books will have a similar effect on readers. The book also has superbly detailed illustrations that allow you to become immersed in the story. 

What are you working on right now?

I’ve just finished working on a narrative based game for tablet devices called Night and Day. It’s been a massive undertaking and it will be great to finally get it out into the world. It also means I’ll be free to start thinking about ideas for more books and other projects. 

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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the traditional owners of the land on which we work. We pay our respects to the people of the Kulin Nation and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, past and present.