Introducing Joseph Martinez, highly acclaimed Denver artist and newest member of the Black Hound boys.
How does an artist become an artist?
Is there some inherent ability to create? Or are the skills and capabilities cultivated over time? In the case of Joseph Martinez, the newest Black Hound boy, perhaps the answer lies in the middle of that spectrum.
Joseph Martinez is a Denver artist who has received national, critical acclaim for his paintings and murals. He’s a master of both big and small. From his incredibly intricate matchbook painting series, to his well-known cheeky, currency collages, and his high-profile urban murals, Martinez has proven time and time again that he is a master of his many crafts.
Martinez has such a wide portfolio and skill set because he places major importance on staying fresh and learning new things. He’s never had a fear of stepping outside of what he was known for, even though that deviation might cost him some fans out of his extensive social media presence. “It’s easy to get comfortable,” he says. “A like button is easy to reinforce the same thing over and over. But likes from insta don’t pay bills.” Still though, popularity comes easily to this skilled artist, with works appearing in Huffington Post, Playboy Magazine, Juxtapoz Magazine and more.
He started as an artist almost out of necessity. As the third child out of eight, he relied upon self-entertainment to keep himself occupied. He recalls drawing a lot as a child, setting out Disney movie boxes and recreating the covers on his own. He grew up in a rough neighborhood in Bakersfield, California. Staying inside and drawing was one way to avoid gangs, shootings and violence in the streets.
He was consistently curious as a child, and now, in retrospect, feels that talent is simply recognizing that you have something that can be cultivated. He says, “The journey to becoming an artist in any form is whether you have innate fire and chose to pursue it...or ignore it.”
In Martinez’s case, he definitely chose to pursue it. In fact, his tenacity is so fierce that he invited himself to his first art show. He was so interested in the show that he made 16 pieces of art and took them down to the gallery and asked them what he could contribute. They replied, “All of them!.” He ended up with his own dedicated corner at the show, and all of his pieces sold out that night.
Subsequently, the gallery then asked him to hold a solo show. For that show, he couldn’t figure out what to display. He was sitting in his studio one afternoon, and a matchbook on his desk caught his eye. An epiphany struck and he decided that he wanted to create intricate paintings that are smaller than a dime.
He created 75 matchbook paintings for that show, and now about 300 are floating around out there in the world, bought by people all over the globe.
Then and Now
Since then, Martinez has pursued- and crushed!- a myriad of mediums. One series that he's especially proud of is "Baggage," which displayed at galleries from LA to Miami. Martinez painted heartbreakingly realistic images of homelessness on designer bags, like Prada and Gucci, accompanied by stark facts about the homeless.
"While some people shop for luxury, some people don’t even have basic necessities," he said. All of his work contains an aspect of social commentary. "I'm not a vocal person physically," he said, "But my artwork gives me a platform to speak up."
Notable to the Denver art scene, he’s collaborated on several high profile street murals as The Palabros — aka Jaime Molina, Pedro Barrios and Martinez. The New Belgium Brewery commissioned this breathtaking mural on Larimer between 34th and 35th.
Another incredible work by Palabros is the wood mural below, combining multi-dimensional elements into astounding 2D graphics.
Martinez is also responsible for the modern whimsical hummingbirds on the Cherry Creek Bike Path, at Champa and Speer.
Why Create Art?
In his mind, artwork allows you to let go of the things in life that can build up and cause mental clutter. “If you don’t rinse the dust of life, it turns to mud,” he remarks. Artwork allows him to perform this cleanse consistently. For all of us out there dealing with a bit of mud, perhaps art is the answer.