Marta is a graduate from the DrawPj Mentoring Program and is now ready to take on the world as a professional commission artist. Marta’s unique style is instantly recognisable, using a combination of graphite and coloured pencil in her works.
I asked Marta to chat with me about how she got started, her artworks, her DrawPj experience and plans for the future. Here’s what Marta had to say.
Interview with Marta Oliehoek-Samitowska by Cindy Wider
Q. Marta, please tell us a little about yourself and where you are from.
A: I was born in Krakow, Poland in 1977. In 2001 I moved to Delft, the Netherlands, where I still live and work. I have two beautiful sons Adrian and Alex and I love spending my time with them. Besides drawing, I also love (old, classic) films, reading, and listening to music.
Living in Delft is wonderful. I really love this town. It is not that big and crowded, but there are still many nice things to do, also for artists. Delft is famous for Johannes Vermeer and its beautiful and picturesque medieval centre and I find it very inspiring.
Q. So Marta, What you are doing in your life right now?
A: In October 2018 I started my own small art business, taking up commissions and working on my own portfolio as a fine artist. I hope to gain more clients locally and via internet, plus I also hope for some artistic recognition. In March I will take part in an exposition in my home town; this will be the very first time I will exhibit my works. I am very thrilled about that!
Where it all started
Q. When did you first seriously decide you wanted to draw?
A: I have been drawing all my life, on and off. It was my favourite activity while growing up. Later when I started my studies and moved to the Netherlands I had less time for that. But in 2014 I took up drawing again. First as a therapy after the loss of my still-born daughter Emma. It helped me to deal with my sadness and to communicate my emotions with the world. Soon I realised I wanted to get better and really learn how to draw properly. It had always been my big wish to be an artist, but I never thought I was any good and never dared do anything more serious with it. In 2015 I decided I needed to pursue this long-lost dream and I am very happy about that! It has enriched my life and given me a means to express myself artistically.
What’s happening for Marta
Q. What kind of artworks are you creating now?
A: I create mostly portraits in coloured pencils and sometimes in graphite. I am drawn to faces and I also love how much you can express with an emotional portrait. I always want my portraits to tell some stories, though it’s not always the case. But generally, my portraits are very personal and I always work with own reference photos or the photos that members of my family took.
Q. You’ve developed quite a unique style which is instantly recognisable. How did you develop this style?
A: Thank you so much! This is such a wonderful compliment! I think it is partly subconscious, partly my training with you and partly my taste for certain use of colours and preference for smooth shading and dynamic hatching. I always strive for emotional content and try to show my personal connection to the people I draw. I also like otherworldly and magical atmosphere and some of my drawings have little touches of that.
Q. What’s your favourite drawing that you’ve created? Tell us something about it.
A: At the moment there are two drawings I am most proud of.
The first one is “My Precious”. I think it marks the beginning of a new phase in my work, where I became more playful and more confident. It is also the first time I used Faber-Castell Polychromos and it was a great match! The drawing also tells a story and its title has many meanings. The boy in the image is my son Adrian. The title refers to Tolkien and his “Lord of the Rings”- trilogy. The drawing is also a hommage to Adrian’s love of fantasy. And of course, with this drawing I also wanted to express how precious he is to me.
The second drawing I am quite proud of is more recent. It depicts my sister. It is the biggest head-shot I have ever drawn. I think it marks a new phase in my work since I experimented with light, shadows, colours and contrast a lot here. In my future drawings I am going to do some more similar experimentation and my newest drawing “Green and Blue” reflects that.
When it comes to my graphite portraits, I like “Motherhood” and “The Dream” the most. I have a great personal connection to them. Both were created during my mentorship period with Cindy and she gave me some great advice then, especially about drawing the hands, which was very important for the message and power of these two drawings. And so they express exactly what I wanted to show while drawing them.
Q. How would you rate your drawing and art skills before you began studying?
A: I think I have always had some “talent” for drawing, if something like that exists and I always had many many ideas. But my technical skills were very poor and very often I would be frustrated that my hands weren’t capable of translating to the paper what I saw in my head. Now when I look at my old drawings I see all the mistakes untrained beginning artists make, like the lack of contrast, bad proportions, awkward shading and hatching, the lack of conscious use of colours, etc. I am not saying that I have now reached any technical or artistic top, but now I am drawing in a more conscious way and am taking many more things into account.I also know which tools to use and which effect they can have on my drawings, which is also important.
Q. How did you discover DrawPj.com?
A: In 2015 I wanted to take up a drawing course, but ideally an online one, since I had two little children and wanted to work on it in my own time. I googled some online art courses and I think the DrawPj course was one of the first ones I came across. It was exactly what I was looking for and I think that I immediately decided to sign up.
Q. When you started the DrawPj course you created a pre-instruction drawing. What do you think when you look at that drawing now?
A: Well, I like the rough quality of that drawing. And somehow it looks like me 🙂 But you can obviously see how untrained I was and how little I knew about shading and hatching and proportions.
Q. How did DrawPj and Cindy’s course help you to achieve the standard of artworks that you are creating now?
A. The DrawPj course and my time with you as my personal mentor were priceless! I learned so much! Not only about technical aspects of drawing, but I also grew as an artist and a person. The DrawPj course is so wonderfully and logically built-up. Some exercises might seem boring, but they are there for a good purpose. All the little skills you learn are needed to create an original and personal artwork.
I valued my mentorship with you enormously! You guided me so well through my first clumsy artworks to my later more accomplished pieces. You know exactly what a drawing needs and your instincts and advice are invaluable! Without your encouragement, patience and guidance I wouldn’t be able to draw my current pieces the same way. You also taught me patience.
Earlier, I used to think that if I cannot do something quickly and right away, then I’m no good at all. You showed me that a good drawing needs some research, patience and time. You taught me there is no rush and that it is OK to work on something much longer in order to accomplish what you really want. You also showed me that making mistakes is a crucial part of growing and learning. I so much appreciate your dedication!
Q. What’s been you favourite thing about studying with DrawPj?
A: I think the fact that you can really quickly see the progress you are making. And that you are discovering many eye-opening principles and solutions. And of course, my personal connection and guidance from yourself.
Marta’s Favourite Drawing Equipment
Q. What’s your favourite piece of drawing equipment?
A: I really love the Tombow Mono Zero erasers. They are precise and easy to use. They are perfect for graphite and they also work quite well with the Polychromos pencils. They are essential when it comes to drawing hair or fur.
Q. What kind of pencils and paper do you prefer?
A: I used to try many different brands of coloured pencils, but I think I have finally found my favourites! I like Faber-Castell Polychromos most. They are very reliable, they don’t break easily, last long and are easy to erase. The sharp point stays sharp very long and they are great for details and textures. Their range is also very impressive and I think they work very well on a smooth surface. Which brings me to my choice of paper: I love working on smooth surfaces. My absolute favourite is Strathmore Bristol smooth paper. I mostly use the 300 series, though 400 series is also great. I love it how the pencils glide over the surface and how painterly the final result is.While drawing in graphite I use the Faber Castell 900 series pencils. I seem to be really drawn to the Faber Castell brand 🙂 I find their products very reliable, solid and very much suited to my needs.
Marta’s Drawing Super Power
Q. If you were a drawing superhero what would your special drawing super-power be?
A: That’s a great question! 🙂 But also a hard one… However, if I had to choose just one thing, I would go for always being able to depict the personality or emotions of my subjects, since this emotional quality is what I always aim at in my drawings.
Advice for Beginners
Q. What words of advice would you give to a beginner student who is just starting out?
A: Be patient and don’t rush anything. Always try to follow your heart and don’t try to copy anyone. Try to make the drawings that would be truly yours. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but the coloured pencil and graphite communities are full of people copying one another. Many artists think the hyperrealistic quality is what makes an image perfect and unique. I absolutely admire that and I love many hyperrealistic artists, but I also always look for originality and emotions. Without these things hyperrealism is quite empty.
What’s next for Marta?
Q. What are your plans for your drawing and art in the future?
A: I am hoping to gain more commissions to be able to work full-time as an artist. And in my own free work, I hope to experiment more with colours and light and create a series of emotional portraits with these elements. In March I will exhibit a couple of my drawings for the first time, so I am very excited about that.
See More of Marta’s Work
Q. Where can we see more of your drawings and artwork?
A: My drawings can be found on my Facebook page Marta’s Pencil Portraits and my Instagram account @martapencilportraits. I also have a website: martaoliehoek.nl
More about the DrawPj Mentoring Program
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