Art Under Fire

Article Published: Nov. 4, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Art Under Fire

To painter, sculptor and ceramicist Jeff Martin, fire isn't destruction. It's another source of creativity. Catch his exhibit this month at Downtown Boone Art Crawl. Photo provided

To painter, sculptor and ceramicist Jeff Martin, fire isn't destruction. It's another source of creativity, one he plans to utilize this weekend through a unique charity art show at Shear Shakti.

"It's basically using a big huge blow torch," Martin said.

Step 1? Layering the paint on the surface of the wood.

Step 2? "I set it on fire," he said.

The fire ripples the paint in unique ways ("It will do what it will do," he said) and, after going in with the torch to bring out details, an artistic creation rises from the ashes. It's a project that's been years in the making, one he first got the idea for in school after lighting a structure project on fire.

"The wood did a very interesting thing to the texture," Martin said, "and I thought, 'How could I bring that to the canvas?'"

He started by placing found objects onto large plywood and burning them to see how they affected the surface.

"Later, I found that if I just burned the actual wood, it would bring out that texture," he said. "It was a process of self discovery, really."

Martin, a Boonie for eight years, started in ceramics before turning to paint. To him, everything's got potential to be his next project. On top of his lawn business (Martin's Mowing) and status as a full-time student (studying metallic sculpture), he sticks to creating. You may have seen him at places like the Watauga County Farmers' Market, his work in places like the Nth Gallery and Char Restaurant. His best masterpiece so far? His 4-year-old daughter, Emma.

"Having Emma really kind of opened my eyes up to not taking myself so seriously with my work and being more free and playing and letting things happen," he said.

Emma's more than an inspiration. She's an artistic partner.

"She and I paint and draw all the time," he said. "A lot of time her paintings, the childlike quality of them is so original and free ... that is what creativity is about."

As a father, Martin knows the importance of a child's upbringing. It's part of the reason proceeds from Friday's show will go directly to the Western Youth Network (WYN), an area youth advocacy organization.

"I feel that I've been blessed with being able to make art, and I really want to give back to my community that supports me," he said. "Because I'm in school full time, I don't have much time to do the service work that I like ... so this is a way for me to give back ... I think it's important that kids, especially at-risk kids, have options in the community, have people that are good role models, and the mentoring program at WYN is exceptional."

And, with a lack of state funding, WYN, more than ever before, is in need of donations, particularly for gas cards that allow mentors to travel with children they are helping.

For Martin, who hopes to pursue a master's degree and teach art, helping kids is a community responsibility, one he hopes art lovers will take advantage of Friday.

For more information on WYN, visit For more on Martin, visit Shear Shakti is located above Lucky Penny on King Street. The exhibit is part of the November installation of the Downtown Boone Art Crawl.

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