London Art Spot: Martin Hoare

Some people love to capture London on film, others in photographs, a few just in memory. Welsh illustrator Martin Hoare takes his sketch book out to the streets. Later, some of these sketches are transformed into more elaborate drawings or paintings. For a while, his pens & pencils sat in a drawer while he concentrated on his day job as a graphic designer, but now he’s set up a blog to revive them. It’s called Martin’s Doodles. If you enjoy his unique catalogue of London life below, pop over and have a look.

For this week’s London Art Spot, Martin tells us a story of frustration as a prospective art student, talks through the process of creating a new piece of work and about the satisfaction he’s recently discovered in a completely unrelated hobby that fills his spare time.

Piccadilly Line

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
London is an amazing place to live and work. I’ve lived here now for 12 years and there are still always new places to discover. I love the way that each area has its own unique feel, the way you can travel just a short distance and feel like you’ve gone somewhere completely different. It’s always been drawing people and the way the people of London interact with each other and the urban environment. That’s what really interests me. Someone once said: “There’s 8 million stories all playing out at the same time.”  That’s what I’m trying to capture.

Green Park

LLO: Graphic designer by trade, and here you are with a blog full of “doodles”, of sketches and drawings. What’s your artistic background?
I have always been a compulsive drawer. As a kid, I don’t think I was happy unless I had a pencil and a stack of paper. I left school at sixteen and took a training scheme at the local Ford Motor plant. I think it soon became apparent that I had no interest in producing axles and, fair dues to them, they set me up with an interview at the local art college. But without formal qualifications, they weren’t interested in taking me on, and at the end of the interview they showed me a perfectly airbrushed illustration of a motorbike and told me not to come back until I could produce work of that standard. This really discouraged me from perusing any kind of career in art. It wasn’t until years later that I found out the illustration was from a student’s final degree show.

I did a fanzine for a bit around this time, designed a few record sleeves, t-shirts and gig posters for local bands. Then when the need to get a proper job came along, I became a painter and decorator. So I was working as a painter, but just the wrong type. I still kept on drawing but didn’t think of doing anything with it until I started taking a life drawing class. There were a lot of art students there from the college that had turned me down a few years back and I was surprised to find that I was drawing at a better level than practically all of them. So I thought, what the hell, gave up my job and started a foundation course. I intended to go on to study fine art or illustration, but having discovered the wonders of what could be done on a Mac, did a degree in Graphic Design and have been sitting in front of a screen ever since. The down-side of this being that for a long time I put down my pencils and brushes and it has taken me quite a while to pick them back up again.

Brewer Street

LLO: Where did the initiative to start “Martin’s Doodles” come from and what do you hope to achieve by keeping the blog?
I had drawings all over the place, in numerous sketchbooks, on bits of paper, and it was hard to keep track of everything. I really needed to get everything scanned in, just to pull everything together. So the main reasons for setting up the blog were getting organised, getting my work out there and moving it forward. After all, what’s the point of producing a load of artwork if it’s just going to sit in a drawer in the spare room?

LLO: Best place in London to shop for art supplies?
Cass Art in Islington. I spend a lot more there than I need to, I have a thing for buying new sketch books, whether I need a new one or not. I also visit the London Graphic Centre in Covent Garden quite a bit.

North Lanes

LLO: Favourite place in London to sit with a sketch pad?
Probably somewhere on the South Bank, especially when the sun is out. There’s usually a chilled atmosphere and noone is in a rush to get anywhere, which is helpful when sketching.

LLO: Which piece are you most proud of so far and why?
It’s usually what I’ve just finished or am working on at that time. I’ve just finished a painting ‘Leaving Las Vegas’, which is Soho street scene. The thing that started me off on this image was the signage, which I just had to work into a painting. And being Soho it just had to be a night scene.

Leaving Las Vegas

LLO: Describe the process of how your artwork comes to life from the moment you conceive an idea to the finished product.
I’ll spend a lot of time wandering around just looking for somewhere that will work as a drawing or painting. I’ve basically always got an eye on the next piece of work. Once I’ve chosen a location I’ll do a few rough sketches and take as many pictures as I can. I’ll then put all these together in Photoshop, and usually work up a composite image, putting all the elements together. Print this out and make a rough pencil drawing sketch placing all the main elements on the page. Once that’s done I’ll start working up the drawing, with either a fine liner, or ink and pen. Once I’m happy the drawing is done, I’ll either add shading with marker pens, or I might scan the drawing and colour it in Photoshop.

The next stage is to determine which drawings may have the potential to be worked up as paintings. The whole painting process is a lot more involved and time consuming. Unlike drawing where the work can be finished in one sitting, a painting can be very much a stop-start affair, gradually taking shape, depending on the free time I have available. But it’s really rewarding when you finish with something that you’re pleased with.

Oceanic Leather Wear

LLO: What do you get up to when you’re not drawing/doodling/sketching/painting?
Aside from work which takes up a large part of my time, I have recently started gardening. For the first time since moving to London I have a garden, and have really gotten into growing my own vegetables; there’s something really pleasing about eating food you’ve grown yourself. I tend to go to a lot of galleries. One of the great things about London is that there is just so much art going on; wherever I happen to be, I can usually take a bit of time to check out whatever galleries are around. Being Welsh, I also often end up in the pub watching a bit of rugby.

LLO: Is there a place in the capital you’d love to sit for a day with a sketch pad but haven’t had the chance yet?
MH: Actually having the luxury of a day to sit sketching is not something I’m used to. Maybe it’s being a Graphic Designer, where everything is driven by deadlines, but there never seems to be enough time to fit everything in. I’ve never done any drawings on the tube; maybe I could sit on the Circle Line going round and round drawing people. Perhaps I should try that.

Smoking Man

LLO: Any impressive up-and-coming London-based artists we should keep our eyes on?
Print Club in Dalston (, has some really good illustrators and artists. I like a lot of the work they produce.

Sundae, Sundae

Thanks Martin! 

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

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