James Martin worked primarily with gouache on brown paper, and sometimes added ink, graphite, charcoal, or collage while framing his own work. His figurative scenes are at first glance humorous, with a myriad of characters from parrots, fish, and monkeys to Shakespeare, Picasso, mermaids, and pilots. A closer read reveals Martin's ingenuity; he often utilized subtle visual word play, veering headlong into topics that without his deft hand might feel weighty. Martin used his free-flowing style of painting to depict a never-ending stream of characters. He certainly wasn't one to shy away from ideas or issues that at the corners of our collective psyche.
Martin held a BA from the University of Washington, Seattle, and showed his work at Foster/White Gallery for nearly two decades. His work was shown across the Northwest, including the Museum of Northwest Art, La Conner, WA; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA; and Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA, and Bellevue Arts Museum, Bellevue, WA. His paintings were shown alongside other Northwest Artists such as Morris Graves, Kenneth Callahan, and Mark Tobey, of whom Martin was a contemporary. James Martin is also the subject of Sheila Farr’s 2001 monograph, “James Martin: Art Rustler at the Rivoli.” His work is in collections such as that of Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA; the Museum of Northwest Art, La Conner, WA; and the University of Washington, Seattle, WA.
James Martin passed away on December 15, 2020. He was 92.