Meet the Artist: Lily Mae Martin

Lily Mae Martin is a Melbourne mainstay. You've probably seen her work and you've probably loved it. She approaches art in an authentic and visceral way, showcasing her subjects in their raw form. Lily has had a few big exhibitions this year and will continue to exhibit throughout 2017, so keep your eyes open!We had a chance to chat to her about her work, her family and what she loves for breakfast.

Tell us a little about your yourself & your work.

My name is Lily Mae Martin and I am an artist living in regional Victoria. I draw mostly, and paint sometimes. My drawings are done in ink, mainly with fine liner pen and they are built up with layers and layers of crosshatching and shading. I draw primarily the female form. It’s a political act, I guess - because we are so limited with our knowledge of bodies, even though we have had them forever.

What’s your favourite breakfast food?

Paleo pear and banana bread

How did you first get involved in art - were you one of those little kids who always loved being creative, or is it something that came later?

I have always been creative, it’s just always been the way I express myself. As I got older I kept going with it as a way of keeping myself from burning out, I was very lost for a time and drawing was always there for me, and still is!

There’s many different layers to art, some I enjoy and some I don’t. I like that though; I enjoy the complexity and the fact that I am constantly learning new things. I don’t think I’ll ever get bored with it, in fact I worry I don’t have enough time in my lifetime to work through all of it!

Where do you make your art, and how long is the process for you? Is it a slow burn and you find yourself working on pieces over a long period of time, or when inspiration strikes, it's all done and dusted relatively quickly?

I make my art in my studio which is on the same property as my home. So essentially, I work from home but it’s detached enough I don’t have to think about home. I like to work on large pieces of paper, with fine liner pens. I build my images up with tiny cross hatching and this can take many many months of very solid work. Sometimes it causes me physical pain, it’s not natural to be doing that but I just get so involved and enjoy the process very much.

Some works happen pretty fast ( in a matter of weeks ) but others can take their time, many years to articulate and then be expressed on the page. The landscapes I have been recently drawing have been many, many years in the process and I feel like I am only at the very beginning of those.

How does living and working in Melbourne influence your work?

I was born in Melbourne and I lived there up until my early twenties, until I moved to Europe and lived there for a number of years and I now live in regional Victoria. I am represented by Scott Livesey Galleries in Melbourne and they have played a big part in fostering my confidence in exploring my drawing and particularly the nudes. So I’d say the influence of Melbourne is huge on my work!

I’ve always preferred the country though, I love Melbourne for it’s food, politics, art, writing, film and theatre but I do need the space, I do need the quiet and I do need the birds.

Who or what do you turn to for inspiration on days when creativity just isn’t flowing?

So I used to truly struggle with this, when I can’t do it I feel like I can never do it again ( don’t know if this is an artist thing, or a borderline personality thing ) but I have gotten so much better with accepting that I just can’t create and letting that go. A pal of mine from Berlin Ray Mann said “time away from your work is just as important” and that is something that I still think of often.

So when it isn’t happening I step back and  I go for walks and take photographs, or I smash things out at the gym. I also garden and cook.. Things with my hands that are creative as well but carry less emotion for me help me move through feeling stuck /blocked / frustrated.

What is your favourite piece of work of yours and why?

My favourite piece of work is always the next work. I always feel so driven to create the next piece, I’m convinced it will be the best thing I have ever made. But for the purpose of this, I will say Seated Nude and Waterloo state forest.

Seated Nude because I am very proud of the drawing technique. This is also an example of a work that just worked really well, I drew it with hardly any hiccups in two weeks. Well, conceptually it was in the works for a long time. I had had a session with the model a couple of years prior, but I was just starting out on this body of work and didn’t do a good job. I was so very lucky she agreed to sit for me again and I got it right.

Waterloo State Forest because this is a significant work in many ways for me; it’s about my father in law passing away which really changed the course of my little family’s life. I wanted to explore this in my work but had to approach it in a very different way to my past work as it involved other people. I also wanted to do it in a way that was respectful to him as even though he is gone, he’s still forever with us.

Also drawing landscape is really hard and I like challenges.

What is your favourite artwork of someone else’s, and why?

Again, this is hard but for the purpose of this I’ll say the two Hilda Rix Nicholas’s hanging at the Art Gallery of Ballarat; The Masquerade and the still life beneath it. This is honestly my favourite part of the gallery and whoever thought of putting the two together - well, it was genius. Her work is startling, and lush and full of joy and complexity. I honestly despair at how underrated women artists in this country are, but I try not to think about too much as it makes me deeply depressed.

I’ve included a photo of my daughter having a full response to the works, this is how I feel whenever I see them. Joyful and open - to view the works you should really just make a day trip of it and go to the gallery!

What's your plan for this year?

Well, I have a five week residency at Q Bank in Queenstown, Tasmania. I am excited about this; five weeks completely dedicated to my work. This comes at a much needed time as I feel like I am at a crossroads with my work. Having time is such a gift - but I am also terrified. (I should add, I am terrified most of the time, so)

I had works in a couple of exhibitions in Melbourne and Sydney, they are coming down now and I hope to show again in Melbourne before the year closes out. More details soon!


For more info and to follow Lily:



Instagram: @lilymaemartin