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Chopping Block: Martin Donnelly

A few weeks ago we posted an image on IG and Facebook by Martin Donnelly which seemed to strike a cord with many of you.  It was a print that featured characters from a popular kids show "Adventure Time" for an exhibit at Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles.  After weeks of persuading, Martin agreed to release a special version of the print on Prints on Wood!  Thank you Martin!!

Before the print release on Monday, we grabbed a few minutes from Martin Donnelly to find out more behind his alter egos Mezzetty and Known As UnKnown.   His work explores the world of cinema, TV, music, and all things pop culture. We got some insight into his favorite shows, his artistic obstacles and how his upbringing in the UK shaped his art.

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DSC00729Casualties of War, the Great Mushroom War by Martin Donnelly

POW: I just love your pop culture driven art! Particularly the one of Leon and Mathilda from “The Professional”, as it’s known here in the U.S. What is it about pop culture that draw you in artistically?

Martin: I think it’s that there is such a wealth of interesting characters to choose from. I can quite literally close my eyes, put my hand in the box, pull out any name from any film or TV show and there will always be something unique to capture. It can be challenging, but always rewarding.

Screen shot 2014-11-03 at 12.16.23 PM

Sample by Mezzetty

POW: Besides illustrative work, you also photograph under the name “Mezzetty”. The photographs I found on your site are so gorgeous and seductive. What was your main focus when taking these images?

Martin: I fall in and out of love with photography; I think it’s just about not having the time to do everything I want. I have rediscovered it recently working on a show about traditional tattoos and the people that wear or create them. http://www.letitbleedshow.com.

I find it difficult to explain my photographic work. Sometimes it’s as simple as capturing a certain kind of ‘nothingness’ in individuals. There is something beautiful about just letting the model drift off into their only little world before I begin to shoot. The layering elements add a level of dreamy voyeurism. Apparently it’s my signature look! I’m starting to play around with light a lot more, taking a few more risks. It’s seems to be working so far.

Screen shot 2014-11-03 at 12.13.48 PMLeon & Mathilda by Known as Unknown

POW: It says on your website that you’ve been in the creative field for over 15 years. What has been the most challenging period for you as an artist in all of that time?

Martin: I find it challenging to juggle so many disciplines. I change roles on a daily bases (in my day job) anything from art directing, script writing, ad concepting, animation, photography, project managing or just good old fashioned graphic design. Its can be hard to continually flick the switch, that’s why it’s great to have something that I can control (Known as Unknown & Mezzetty) without the added pressure of pleasing the bill payers!

POW: Something I thought was hilarious was your “About” section on your Tumblr where you describe that your want your tombstone to one day read “Here lies Martin Donnelly. He lived and loved, but never got around to watching The Wire or Breaking Bad, even though everybody he knew had watched it and said he would love it.” I was in tears because it’s exactly how I feel! Would you say you have an all time favorite film or show that continues to inspire your work?

Martin: I do need to up date that… I have managed to watch all of Breaking Bad, finally, and yes I did love it (as predicted) but The Wire is another challenge for another day. There isn’t really one specific show that inspires me, It’s more like hundred. Anything from Spaced, Ulysses, Thunder Cats, Carnival, Game of Thrones, True Detectives, The IT Crowd, Father Ted… The list is endless… and films I could talk all day about.

Screen shot 2014-11-03 at 12.22.58 PMJules and Vincent by Martin Donnelly

POW: Living in the UK is similar but at the same time vastly different then living in the US.  Was there a particular event or time during your childhood and upbringing in England that shaped your creative work? Maybe a certain moment where you knew you wanted to make creating art a career?

Martin: I loved comic books when I was young. Here we had (have) a comic called 2000AD. It was pretty unconventional, not really about your standard good guys fighting the good fight. They were all anti heroes fighting for their own ideals. I quite liked that darker approach, even as child.  The vision of the future was dirty, chaotic and confused. The whole thing was like the tales from the Mos Eisley bar, I could totally see each character frequenting that place (apart fro Judge Dredd, he would enforce it with the iron fist of the law). I started drawing all the characters; ABC warriors, Judge Death and Strontium Dog and the rest is history.

POW: Where do you see yourself creatively in the next 15 years?

Martin: I don’t know what I’m doing next week let alone in the next decade. More of the same I hope.

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For more information on Martin Donnelly, please visit http://known-as-unknown.tumblr.com/