From designing visuals for DJs in Tokyo to teaching artists at MIT and New York University, London-native Shantell Martin is crafting a career as a global artist of our time. She recently teamed up with AIDS research organization amFAR to design their commemorative beach towel as they seek to find a cure for AIDS by 2020. See how Martin takes care of business while being creative.


Name: Shantell Martin

Age: 34

Title: Artist

Location: New York

Hometown: London



Twitter handle: @Shantell_Martin

LinkedIn page:

Instagram handle: @Shantell_Martin


The gig: With a language of words and lines I create high tech and low-tech drawings and installations. It’s all pretty fun because I basically get flown around the world to draw or talk about drawing. Being your own boss is pretty cool.

Confessions of a visionary: Being an artist for the most part is a huge struggle, it takes a lot of time, practice and strength in a world where if no one knows who you are they don’t care who you are and where it feels like almost everyone is an artist trying to achieve similar goals. So you really have to be prepared for ups and downs.

Her best networking tip: I go to events and venues where I always meet interesting and talented people. I also hand out stickers with my info vs. business cards. Business cards after time just seem to take up space but a sticker is more fun and can be used.

Her biggest lesson learned: In the past, and still now actually, clients will try and rush me. I’ve learned that while it can be beneficial to be quick, you should not rush because that’s when mistakes happen. So be quick, but don’t rush. You also need to find someone to look over your contracts and agreements to make sure you’re not signing your life away, and when there is no contract ask for one; companies want to protect themselves and so should you.

The smartest advice she has received: The phrase I hear repeated in my head is that “you’re always in the right place at the right time!”

Her dream job: As a kid I imagined I’d be a runner or a cartoonist. I was pretty fast and watched a lot of cartoons.

Her artistic fight against HIV/AIDS: Living in New York you’re very often touched by people who have stories connected to HIV/AIDS and these stories are still continuing. HIV/AIDS is definitely not history yet so I’m really inspired to play a tiny role in any way that we can to find a cure by 2020. I enjoyed creating the design for this summer’s amfAR beach towel, to help raise funds for a cure.

Her previous jobs: Before I moved to New York I was a VJ, or Visual Jockey in Tokyo, where I would create live drawn digital and analog visuals for DJ’s, dancers and musicians in the huge Japanese clubs and venues. I was voted one of the worlds top 10 VJ’s two years in a row.

Her career highlight: A few of my favorites are having my first museum solo show at Mocada Museum last year, being featured on the cover of the New York Times Home and Garden Section back in 2012, being invited to teach at NYU and be a visiting Scholar at MIT Media Lab, and being involved with amfAR and collaborating with so many talented people such as Kelly Wearstler, Lorenzo Martone and Zach Lieberman.

Her stress reliever: When I’m not drawing, collaborating, or traveling, I like to workout, dance, walk and of course I also find myself sitting on my backside watching Netflix, etc.

Her work-life hustle tip: For me both are really blurred. It comes down to getting organized. I use a ‘to do list’ app which has been super at helping me stay in check and remember tasks because lists do work!

Her tech must-haves: I’m pretty attached to my laptop, drawing tablet and my camera.  My most used apps are Todoist and Paper by 53.

Her beauty bag: My face serum and moisturizer by Malin and Goetz.

Her power style accessory: I’ve been wearing a comb in the side of my hair for quite a few years because it makes me feel secretly powerful.

Her theme song: “I Want to Break Free” by Queen often starts playing in my head.