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Inside the Artist’s Studio: Randy Martin, Fish and Bats Like Meat and Potatoes

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Randy-Martin-11By Derrick White

It is August in Texas and it is hot, I write, stating the obvious. Recently, my family and I spent some time out in Emory, Texas, at the Weeping Willow Ranch, fishing early in the mornings before the heat set in and then later in the evenings after the immense heat starts to subside. It is nice to feed the horses, look out over the fields, trees, and the lake and just slow down and unwind. It is peaceful.

I made plans to meet with local East Texas artist Randy Martin at his home and small workshop studio in Van, Texas. I have been familiar with his artwork and sculptures and been friends with him on Facebook for some time, but for whatever reason, we’ve never actually met in person. My visit was time well spent. Randy is a modest, sociable, approachable and open-minded guy. He seems very satisfied with his life, wife, and their tastefully renovated home. His life appears peaceful.

Randy-Martin-5Martin is an outsider or folk artist. Folk or outsider art is an art form embracing the human impulse to create whether the creator has any formal or academic training whatsoever. Outsider art is typified by a personal style, in which the maker creates their own individual set of rules of representation, proportion, and perception. Often, folk art will repurpose discarded or abandoned objects into new creations. Outsider art is generally modest, straightforward, and mostly as oddly interesting as the people who make it.

Randy-Martin-10A self-described military brat, Randy moved around as a child and then lived his teenage years in Elmo, Texas outside of Terrell. This is where he discovered piles of rubbish and would “go junking” to dig out scrap he found fascinating: metal springs, gears, and other rusted mechanical parts. Randy Martin served in the U.S. Coast Guard in the rough seas of the Arctic (1969-1972). He has lived in Van for more than 30 years. His is the house with the groovy, hippie van in the driveway. He has been featured on Channel 8’s “Early Morning News” (Dallas) and “Texas Country Reporter.” Thirteen years ago, Randy Martin had a store selling his artwork in Mineola, Texas, but when the retailer next door caught fire, all was lost. Randy has also suffered through two bouts with cancer, but said he decided to “take the battle on,” and he credits the U.S. Veteran’s Administration with the detection, treatment, and saving of his life. Now living with diabetes, Randy just keeps truckin’ on.

Randy-Martin-6Martin didn’t come to a life of art making until the age of 43, after a layoff from a career at Southland Distribution. Referencing the change he states, “Real life gets in the way sometimes.” His wife and fellow artist is an avid gardener, and she asked her husband to make a birdhouse for their backyard. He did and soon his birdhouses became very popular. He would sell his unique, one of kind artworks at Canton’s First Monday Trade Days and other venues. After a while, one thing lead to another and Randy eventually found himself in the business of making and selling elaborate, wooden, Victorian-style birdhouses, adding metal copper adornments and running a shop with employees. Randy Martin admires the craftsmanship and extra effort. His artwork reflects it. Randy and his wife Sherri have been married for 44 years. They have three children and five grandchildren. He and Sherri have been supporting themselves and their family for the last 22 years through the creation and selling of their artwork.

Randy-Martin-8After the birdhouses had run their course Martin decided to learn more about the skill of melting metal together and enrolled in a welding course designed for artists at Mountain View Community College (part of the Dallas County Community College District) and drove the 200-mile round trip route to classes. His teacher, Dewayne Roy (a welding artist, consultant, business owner, author and instructor who has taught welding at Mountain View College for more than 30 years) took Randy’s final project, a metal “Super Chicken,” and tossed it across the shop’s concrete floor. When none of the attached appendages broke off he stated, “Congratulations, you pass.” The super chicken sculpture still resides outside of Martin’s studio to this day, still intact.

Randy-Martin-2Randy Martin works almost exclusively in metal and found object art now, creating kinetic, moving, wind-propelled whirligigs, spiritual stepping shaman sculptures, fifty-five-gallon barrel chairs, and ice scoop/salad bowl windmill mobiles. He specializes in complex and intricate copper fish sculptures and lawn art spinning bats, which make up the bulk of his business. Selling the fish and bats he states, “Those are the meat and potatoes, that’s what feeds us.” Randy previously had the Flying Fish Gallery in Ben Wheeler, Texas, though he no longer does. It was the first art studio in the rejuvenation labor of love project by the late Brooks Gremmels who renewed Ben Wheeler. Randy now sells his work through art shows and art fairs around our area and recently in a show in Rockport, Texas, where his eclectic fish sculptures were very well-liked. He has also shown at the Artisan’s Collective (410 N. Bishop Ave., Dallas). Randy says he strives to have about six good shows a year while still participating in local art events. He has many connections through social media and Facebook.

Randy-Martin-7Randy Martin gets his inspiration from many sources in life but stated, “Artists and sculptors who make work like this consider Alexander Calder the godfather,” (American sculptor and originator of mobiles, moving sculptures made by skillfully balancing shapes).

Randy has overcome many obstacles and found art there for him to feed his creativity and his spirit and make him self-sufficient. He is a peaceful cool guy and a regional artistic talent. Randy works in a small studio workshop next to his house, cutting and brazing. He now considers himself in semi-retirement creating his art in the cooler early mornings before the heat sets in or sometimes in the evening after the heat begins to subside. “These days I don’t make much, but I don’t need much,” says the artist.

“Truckin’ got my chips cashed in, keep truckin,’ like the do-dah man, together, more or less in line, just keep truckin’ on.” – Grateful Dead.

For more information about Randy Martin and his artwork, find him on Facebook and Pinterest.

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Tyler Museum of Art Creativity Camps Begin

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Tyler Museum of Art Creativity Camps 2018

9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. M-F * Ages 6-12 * $40 per day/$175 per week

TMA World Tour 2018      June 25-29

We’ll expand the visual arts to include music and performance. In addition to our visual art activities, our young artists will make musical instruments, learn a song, and play a mini-concert at the end of the week.

Upside-down and Backward      July 9-13

Everything looks different from a fresh perspective. Drawing underwater, painting with spaghetti, there’s no telling what will happen when we change the way we make art. This camp is all about real creativity, and our young artists will help us brainstorm up new, exciting projects all week long.

Beachcombers’ Paradise     July 16-20

Love the seashore but hate sunburns and foot-scorching sand? Come explore marine environments through art! Biology, art and fun merge into one great experience as we learn about the weird, wonderful world of sea life and environments, and express our new knowledge through art.

5 Days Away from Rose City   July 23-27

Some of the country’s greatest artists call the Lone Star State home. We will explore the geographical regions of Texas and the artists who gain inspiration in them, ending up right here in East Texas.

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6×6@110 Continues at Gallery Main Street

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Skip the line, purchase tickets in advance HERE.
Purchase VIP tickets HERE.

The annual 6×6@110 is an art fundraising project to benefit Gallery Main Street in Downtown Tyler, Texas. The gallery is a City of Tyler facility operated with the cooperation of the Downtown Tyler Arts Coalition, an all-volunteer group of artists who schedule and jury fine arts exhibits and organize projects. All of the net proceeds of 6×6@110 will go to support those activities.

The annual 6×6@110 fundraising project will be held June 6th at 6pm. Each piece will be sold for $20, with all proceeds going to help fund the City of Tyler Main Street Department, which operates Gallery Main Street.

The name “6×6@110” reflects the fact that all artwork sold in the show will be 6”x6”, and will be shown at Gallery Main Street at 110 W. Erwin, Downtown Tyler.

For more info on this project go to downtowntylerarts.com, call (903)593-6905, or follow the Downtown Tyler Facebook Page.

The 2017 6×6@110 featured over 1000 works by hundreds of participants. The project earned the distinction of receiving the Best Promotional Event award from the Texas Downtown Association.

First Solo Show Opening

Help celebrate the opening of Gallery Main Street’s first fine art solo artist exhibit on Saturday, May 12th, 5:30-8pm. This free event will feature the opportunity to meet the artist and be among the first to see and purchase pieces from the exhibit. The exhibit will run through June 4th.

The jury will select the top three groups of submittals and then additional information and show descriptions will be submitted. The jury will review all additional information and will announce the solo artist on April 28th.

Other Upcoming Exhibits

Remaining shows this year are:

  • Solo Show #1 – Opening May 12th
  • “6x6x10” – Deadline June 1st, opening June 6th
  • Solo Show #2 – Deadline June 17th, opening July 14th
  • “Assemblies” – Deadline July 29th, opening August 11th
  • “Alternate Perspective” – Deadline September 30th, opening October 13th
  • Holiday Market – Deadline November 25th, opening December 8th

You can enter your art at DowntownTylerArts.com. For more info call (903)593-6905 or go to DowntownTylerArts.com.

Gallery Main Street features a new exhibit of original art approximately every eight weeks. Each exhibit opens with a Saturday evening reception that features music, an opportunity to meet the artists, refreshments, and more. The Opening Receptions are free and open to the public.

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Art Events Warming Up For Summer

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June 16th (11am-11:30pm) June 17th (11am-4pm) – Junebug Art and Music Festival – Calling all artists! Junebug is an annual community Art and Music festival with an afternoon farmers market. This event encompasses art in its many forms. There will be teachers of weaving and soap making, along with hands on pottery wheel demonstrations. Attendees’ senses will be engulfed by the sights, sound, smell, and feel of all that is to be offered at this very unique art event in a very quaint little artsy community. The show will offer up a stage filled with eclectic musicians, bands, and songwriters. Saturday there will be a community Farmers Market where locals can sell their organic and/or locally sourced products. Vendor and artist applications are available at theforgebenwheeler.com. The family-friendly festival, which is located in the tiny art enclave of Ben Wheeler,TX, highlights the work of artists, musicians, and artisans from the Lone Star state. Headquartered on the three-acre park-like property surrounding the FORGE (a local restaurant, bar, and music venue), the festival will give attendees an opportunity to witness the creative process through “live art” displays as well as the chance to actively join in the process. For more information email junebugsummerfair@gmail.com.

June 22nd (7-9pm) – Paperbark Studio Pop Up will be held at Strada Caffe, 302 E. Front St., Tyler. Come join us for a pop-up art show featuring Paperbark Studio as well as craft beer, wine, and small plates, espresso bar and pastry case. Come enjoy a wonderful summer evening of local art!

June 26th (6-8pm) – Kids Canvas Paint Party – Tyler Parks and Recreation is hosting a Kids Paint Party at the Glass Recreation Center for children ages 7-12 years old. For more information, please visit TylerParksandRec.com.

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