Born and raised in Coatbridge, a small working-class town on the outskirts of Glasgow, Scotland, Sully (Martin Sullivan) took to drawing and painting from a very young age. He would then later graduate from the Edinburgh College of art with a Bachelors degree in Visual communication. He now lives in Sydney, Australia.
Sully’s describes his work as abstract geometric. Using heavy brush strokes and straight lines he pieces together the subject matter in an original way. He aims to stand out from the crowd with his style and show his versatility through a painting style rather than a specific subject matter. His work is also an insight into him as a person or at least the person he tries his best to be every day. Bright, bold, colorful, energetic and above all, honest.
He believes that art is for everyone and tries to convey that message through his work and his overall brand. His approach to painting and marketing is a combination of what he loves about the art world and also what he dislikes about it and the lessons he’s learned on his journey. He aims to shake things up in the art world and change the online buying process and the way it’s perceived.
Can you tell us a little about how you got to where you are now?
Sully: Yes of course. After I left art college I found myself a bit lost as to what to do next. Having an art degree doesn’t exactly open up the flood gates to employment. When I was studying I had a parttime job in an insurance call center so I decided while I figured out what was next for me as an artist I would go full time there. Fast forward 5 years and there I was still on the phones trying to sell insurance with a Scottish accent to English customers. I had been completely pulled into the rat race and had fallen away from art completely. It wasn’t until I got to about 26 years old and the working, partying and a yearly trip to Ibiza was losing its appeal that I really start to worry about my future. At this point, I had a few close friends who had moved to Australia and had been there for almost a year or so. After hearing about how amazing it was I decided I’d move out there for a year and give it a go. What’s the worst that could happen? In the beginning, I gave myself 6 months to a year max before I would miss home too much and go back. That was 8 years ago. Coming to Australia has been the best decision of my life. It gave me the drive and focus I was missing back home to get back into art and chase the dream. I currently work in construction full time and work on my art career every night too.
How would you define your visual style?
Sully: I would define my style as abstract geometric. It’s a play between the fine line of pure abstract and recognizable content. I aim to show my versatility with a brand style rather than a specific subject matter. The dream is to one day have people look at a painting and be able to recognize it as a ‘sully’ piece.
What is your process when painting?
Sully: I begin with an idea then unlike most artists I go straight from the visual idea in my head to the painting. I’ve never been one for sketching and redrafting my ideas. I prefer to take the raw idea straight to the canvas and let it take shape naturally. I paint the background color with a roller then I sketch the subject matter with a pencil. I then paint the subject matter using heavy block brush strokes in a slightly careless manner to get the effect I want. I then use masking tape to apply the straight lines through the subject matter again in a slightly careless manner for the visual effect.
What does your art aim to say to your audience?
Sully: If my art could talk I guess it would be saying ‘The world is how you perceive it. If you look at things from a dark place emotionally your whole world will be dark. Try your best to look at the world from a happy and positive perspective and you will see the color, vibrancy, and joy in everything’.
How do you get ideas for each piece of art?
Sully: My ideas come from things that I see in everyday life. I could look at anything from a piece of fruit to an everyday object or remember something that I used to have or use as a child and within minutes I’m thinking of a color scheme and a background color. I find it hard to switch off my brain at times so I use that to my advantage when thinking of new ideas.
What’s happening now at your studio? What new projects are on the horizon?
Sully: At the moment I have two still life paintings I’m working on that should hopefully be available in the coming weeks. I am also looking into trying some paintings of clouds and see how my style would adapt to that type of work.
What has been your most favorite project so far, and why?
Sully: That’s a tough question as I love every work I produce but if I was to pick I would say ‘An Icon’ which is a portrait I painted of a Freddie Mercury photo that was taken at Queens sell out Wembley arena gig in 1986. This is my favorite as it was the first portrait I painted to sell and it shows the versatility in my style and I also feel that even though it’s only a few shapes and lines thrown together it has really captured his essence and the power of that moment.
You sell a lot of your artworks online. What have you found to be the best way of getting your art noticed by buyers?
Sully: For me, the best way to get my art noticed so far has been Google Ads so I am constantly working on my marketing strategy and brand in order to make myself stand out from the crowd. I also enjoy telling the story behind my work which I do through interviews and social media.
What are your plans for the future?
Sully: I plan to be a full-time artist in the future and continue to grow my brand. I would also love to do some collaborations with other artists or businesses. I have goals but I also try and enjoy every day along the road as it happens. I’m having an amazing time.