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By now, you should be getting your copies of Torres’ powerful sophomore album, Sprinter. With that copy of Sprinter you also got an original art print that is as tumultuous and weary as the album itself.
Nashville-based artist, Aaron Martin. who works with a group of muralists that call themselves Creek, is the man behind the print. Martin, who met Torres’ Mackenzie Scott when he got her to play a show he was throwing, grew up in nearby Monterey, TN, and went to art school in Nashville in 2010 with not much by way of an art background except for “doodling” as he says.
Martin got involved in the local Nashville indie music scene by throwing increasingly bigger parties that he’d create the original poster for, including a huge Halloween Bash. He’s since branched out into doing some work for album covers, and whatever other art bands in the scene and around the U.S. may need.
I talked with Martin about his piece for Sprinter, using art to deal with big life questions, and what it’s like to create pieces inspired by music.
Vinyl Me, Please: How did Torres end up having you to do this print?
Aaron Martin: Mackenzie actually played her first show as “Torres” at my house at one of the parties I threw a couple years ago. The Vinyl Me, Please issue of the album came up, and she thought of me for it. It’s kinda cool it gets to come full circle.
VMP: Yeah totally. That’s cool. I want to talk about the piece specifically. Did you listen to Sprinter while you were working on the piece?
AM: Normally I would, and I usually always do, but I didn’t. I’m obviously familiar with her music, but I instead focused on some of her older videos and songs and got inspiration from that. Her music has always carried a pretty heavy emotional load so I wanted to illustrate how the subject matter of her songs is pretty hard to pin down. I wanted to sketch out a “mental landscape” essentially; oversaturate it with different moods and try to get an emotional response out of the piece that works well with what she has to say on her songs.
VMP: How long did it take you to create the piece, from start to finish?
AM: I think 20 hours or so? I went down to a coffee shop and listened to the sound of the room, eavesdropped on people, got the mood of the room and started doodling. When I started the piece it was always changing, following the mental landscapes of the room in a way.
VMP: Did it start as a sketch? Or is it a painting? How did you create it on your end before it ended up in all these records?
AM: Just a sketch. Basically everything I do is pen ink, so that way I only have one chance to do it, unless I decide to ball it up and throw it out. So I use a good old Uniball fine point pen that cost $2 anywhere, and that’s cheaper than whole pad or easel thing. I’d rather do something cool with a cheap pen. People can sometimes be impressed because it’s just a basic pen that everyone knows.
VMP: I mean, I’m literally using one right now to take notes during this interview. I have a Uniball in my hand.
AM: That’s what I’m saying. I like to say my art pieces are an “extreme doodle.”
VMP: Extreme Doodle. I like that. How did you end up deciding to just use a pen to make art? Because, I mean, you went to art school. Did they have you painting or whatever?
AM: I actually ended up going to art school for only two semesters, and then I quit. I was a born again freshman—I was a civil engineering major for three and a half years—and then some stuff happened with my dad (he passed away), and I started drawing a lot more to kind of get away. It helped me be ok with what was happening with my dad, and understanding that sometimes shit happens and that there’s not that much about life you actually control, so drawing and making art became something I could control.
But I dropped out of art school because I realized there were cooler things I could do with my art than drawing a circle when they tell you to draw a circle.
VMP: Like doing the stuff for bands. How does it feel to have your artwork going out with these eight thousand, or however many members there are now, records?
AM: I mean, it feels awesome. I’m really really lucky—more lucky than blessed—to get this opportunity thanks to Torres. And you know, I’m hoping this will open up a lot of opportunities to work with more bands and more labels. I’m really excited.
You can hit up Aaron Martin at Thealtaredstates@gmail.com and find him on Instagram at @smilelikethewindboy
Andrew Winistorfer’s art career is limited to some weak sponge painted pieces hanging on his dad’s wall, and the furniture he splatter painted while high on salvia when he was in college. He’s on Twitter–@thestorfer.
Andrew Winistorfer is Senior Director of Music and Editorial at Vinyl Me, Please, and a writer and editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need in Your Collection and The Best Record Stores in the United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 30 VMP releases, co-produced multiple VMP Anthologies, and executive produced the VMP Anthologies The Story of Vanguard, The Story of Willie Nelson, Miles Davis: The Electric Years and The Story of Waylon Jennings. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.