You can’t very well have an Instagram audience of 43,000 and not feel at least a little self conscious. But it helps freelance illustrator and Eastern Mennonite University alumna Madeline Kate (Hostetler) Martinez ’17 to remember that the people who keep tabs on her artwork don’t have complicated demands:
“They just want to see what I’m creating, pure and simple,” she said.
By day, Martinez is a full-time graphic designer in Portland, Oregon, for the children’s apparel company Hanna Andersson. The rest of the time, she draws as much as possible – for several hours every day, she said – and sells her work – more, as her following has grown – through an online store.
Martinez majored in photography and digital media in EMU’s visual and communication arts program, which offers a breadth of studies that “gave me skills to move into a broader field of design and illustration that I might not have explored otherwise,” she said.
And because EMU is a not a traditional art school, she said, she was able to also minor in Spanish, plus study abroad for a semester in Guatemala, Mexico and Cuba, geographic regions that are reflected in her work.
“I think people resonate with my art because it comes from such a deep well of my own human longings for not just a place or a thing, but for a moment of feeling,” she said. “I try to bring together the different things I love – places I’ve traveled, fashion, the feminine spirit and nature, mostly – into one visual representation of my everyday daydreams and wanderlust.”
A city ‘made for creative souls’
Martinez grew up surrounded by nature near Harrisonburg, Virginia.
“I spent much of my childhood barefoot in the woods, looking for salamanders and building forts,” she said. “That’s why I deeply appreciate Portland’s readily-available green spaces and collective love of trees!”
In 2017, just six weeks after graduating from EMU, Martinez and her husband, a chef, “picked up and moved” to Portland for a restaurant position, and Martinez worked for a year as a junior designer for a small marketing firm before finding her current position.
“I think Portland was made for creative souls,” she said. It has a small-town feel: she and her husband live in a friendly and green neighborhood that is “filled with great food,” there are many parks, and they live just an hour’s drive from the coast.
A ‘simple and clear’ signature style
Martinez often begins a piece with a sketch on paper, but finishes it digitally.
“My techniques are largely informed by fine art painting and printmaking,” she said. “I like to use textures and strokes that echo traditional mediums like gouache, charcoal and graphite, but part of what I love about using digital software is the ability to layer textures and mix ‘mediums’ that wouldn’t necessarily play well together in reality. It’s fun to layer a watercolor texture over a swath of chalk, which wouldn’t work the same way if you tried it on paper.”
Her subject matter and use of colors are “pared down for a minimalist vibe,” she said. She intentionally limits her palette before starting, to “keep myself in check.”
“I tend to use flat colors and simple line work so the final piece stays simple and clear,” she said. “It took some time for me to develop my signature style, and it continues to evolve, but this is part of what makes my work identifiable as mine.”
Just look at her Instagram posts, and you can see what she means.
And then, click “follow.”