The acclaimed French Quarter of New Orleans is home to dozens of art galleries filled with both local and international art. One of the many success stories found in the Crescent City is that of painter Martin Welch.
Martin is a contemporary impressionist who uses acrylic paints with a gel medium and glaze. He is known for taking small gulf coast sea life animals and presenting them at a large scale. Crabs, crawdads, and fish are magnified in bright, striking colors. The artist says he chooses colors that reflect his emotions at any given time. He paints every day and feels out of sorts when he doesn’t get his “fix”. “I need my jolt of art like a morning cup of coffee. When I don’t paint or follow the creative side of my emotions, I get into a mood that is not pleasant,” the artist says.
When asked about where inspiration is found, Martin says Vincent Van Gogh is his favorite artist. “I relate to his emotions and the reasons he painted. If I don’t paint, I feel restless. I feel the process of painting is like creating an emotional melody in my body that calms and sooths the untamed animal inside me,” he says.
In his youth, Martin heard what many creative people with big dreams hear quite often – that he would not be able to “make a living” as an artist. Martin grew up in the South and after a stint in the U.S. Navy attended Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, graduating Magna Cum Laude. He was named the President’s Scholar of the Art Department of his graduating class. It was at that time that he began to realize that painting was his passion, so he decided to get serious about a career in art. He studied and painted every day, developing his signature style.
He started by purchasing one canvas and using whatever paint he could get his hands on. He mixed latex, acrylics, oils, and even house paint. He would paint something on that one canvas and sell it, which would then give him enough money to buy more canvases. “I kept doing this and slowly built up my painting inventory,” says Martin. “I was able to have art shows and sell my works in places other than the parking lot out in front of my house in Mobile!”
Martin now lives with his partner of fourteen years, Tim Buckless, who is also the business manager of their gallery in the French Quarter. They have four pets: Daisy (an eighteen year-old cat), Bosco (a thirteen year-old Lab mix) and Ziggy and Tyson (two three year-old Boston Terriers.) Photos of all the animals can be found on Martin’s Facebook page, and the studio critters often end up featured in many of his paintings. Martin says Boscos’s eyes are so expressive that he sometimes paints his eyes in some of his wildlife pieces.
Martin’s favorite work he’s produced is a crab he painted years ago on a large wooden box. This work is significant to him because it established the style he still uses today. The piece also has an interesting history. He originally sold the painted box to a friend as a gift for someone’s new house in Florida. The house went through two hurricanes before the untimely death of the owner a few years later. The painting was sold along with the owner’s other personal property. Several years later, a collector of Martin’s works stumbled upon the painted box at a secondary market in Florida. He brought it back to New Orleans where it became a part of his collection.
After many years of hard work that included selling his work at outdoor art markets on weekends for twenty-five years (rain or shine), Martin steadily built a brand that is now recognized by collectors all over the world. He has been a full-time professional artist since 1998, and now owns a 2,500 square foot self-named art gallery in one of the top art destinations of the United States. At some point on the journey, Martin realized he was indeed making a very comfortable living as an artist, thus proving the naysayers wrong.
The Martin Welch Art Gallery is located at 223 Dauphine Street in New Orleans, Louisiana. Information about the gallery and a store filled with items featuring Martin’s art can be found on his web site at www.martinwelchart.com. His Facebook page is Martin Welch Art, LLC.