Originally published in The Taos News, Tempo Section >>

By Tamra Testerman Aug 30, 2022 Updated Sep 2, 2022

In the Old Masters style — William Martin at Chimayo Trading Taos

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Artist William Martin began painting in oils after studying architecture and garnering many awards for his architectural watercolor renderings – soon after he realized his passion was painting and never looked back.  

Martin’s style is influenced by painters William Bouguereau, William Merritt Chase, Sir Lawrence Tadema, and the Pre-Raphaelites. Although Martin is revered for his classical oil still-life paintings, using the Old Master techniques, he has the skill and range to paint in many styles and subjects. His work is in private collections all over the world and he’s exhibited in Beverly Hills, Carmel, Palm Springs, Laguna Beach, Aspen, Mexico and Santa Fe. In Taos, Martin is represented by Gabe and Alicia Abrums, co-owners of Chimayo Trading Del Norte.

Gabriel Abrums said Martin is “a passionate artist, and a professional in everything he does – He has own still life style, impressionistic and realistic at the time, and it’s an exquisite blend of both. We are very excited about Bill and his wife Ráe, also an artist, joining us again.”

Tempo spoke with the artist who is moving with his wife Ráe from Tucson, Arizona in October – here are the highlights.

What brought you to Taos and what sustains you?
The light, the beautiful landscape, the history and artistic traditions of the area and my relationship with Gabe and Alicia of Chimayo Trading Post del Norte, who represent me in the area.

Where did your journey as an artist begin and where has it taken you?
I have been drawing and painting since I was a child and I started with oils when I turned 19. And began studying with a professional watercolorist from the Virgin Islands who had moved to Los Angeles, California and started an art school. I started as an apprentice and after a year, I started teaching with him, taking over most of the classes. I founded my school with a fellow artist where I taught and concentrated on developing my own skills for the next 15 years.

One day, I realized I had an extensive business and was spending most of my time teaching rather than painting, so I closed up shop and dedicated myself to painting full time, all the while still teaching a handful of students. I always stress the fact that I learned to paint by teaching and I will always teach and consider it to be a great honor for me. I have painted ever since, showing in Beverly Hills, Carmel, Palm Desert, and Laguna Beach in California. Then Aspen, Colorado, Santa Fe.

In 2005, I moved to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where I opened my gallery/studio/school where I worked for 12 years, meeting and marrying my wife, fellow artist Linda Ráe Miller. We moved back to the States in 2018, landing in Santa Fe for 6 months then we discovered the magic of Taos for a year but we had to leave for Tucson to care for Ráe’s mother until we moved her into a beautiful facility where she is happy and we are off again, back to Taos!

What is your creative process?
I am inspired by the world around me. Once I feel it, I sit at my studio and try to communicate that feeling through my painting. It is a little difficult to explain. If it wasn’t then I’d be a writer. I am inspired by so many subjects, the Native culture and their art, i.e., weaving, pottery, jewelry carvings, music, etc. The landscape here, as well as the wildlife.

I paint in different styles and it is the subject and what I am trying to say about it that dictates the style or technique of the artwork. When I work on a still life, for instance, I am drawn to the pottery and weaving that are not only beautiful but, in most cases, are over a hundred years old and have survived to this day. I see a soul, an old soul in each one of them, as if they too have a story to tell.

I am drawn to the various textures and patinas that time and use has brought about in these objects that were in the beginning just utilitarian everyday tools to store water, to store seeds, to keep warm, to sit on, to eat on, etc.

When I am trying to convey my feelings about these special objects, I employ Old Masters’ techniques of painting. I paint something that is further away or fleeting such as the particular way the light is creating shadows and shapes of light on a particular subject, a landscape or maybe the side of an adobe dwelling, then I paint faster and looser, more of an impressionist technique. I find the world around me exquisite, and that is how I wish to portray it. No need to distort.

What books are on your nightstand?
Mostly Scandinavian mystery thrillers.

What does a day in the studio look like for you?
I like to be secluded. I play a little guitar while studying whatever is on the easel and pretty soon when the time is right; I put the guitar down and begin painting in the early evening, although sometimes I enjoy working late into the night, but nowadays I’m an early morning kind of guy.

For visual details visit the Chimayo Trading Del Norte website chimayotrading.com/ or stop by the gallery next to San Francisco de Asís Mission Church, a historic and architecturally significant building on the main plaza of Ranchos de Taos.