In a corner of the family garage at his home in South Florida, Pepe Martell has carved out his own artistic sanctuary. Classical music plays through the speakers from the radio on the opposite wall, but on other occasions I’ve heard it playing the latest hits from the Top 40 charts. There’s an energetic vibe in this small corner tucked squarely between the file cabinets and the tool shelves. Art supplies are spread out across the desk but neatly tucked into their own individual mugs and containers. It brings a smile to my face because I know I’m looking at the spot where an artist lets his imagination run wild. The tools are used, genuinely used, and by skillful hands.
Martell begins by showing me some of his doodles and sketches, each of them finished pieces by my own standards but only quick projects for him. Indeed I’ve seen much more complex work of his before, some of it actually hangs in my house today. From here he returns back to his desk and prepares his tools. Pencils are sharpened, palettes are wiped clean and old paint is scraped away to make room for a fresh batch. The music picks up, it’s a familiar melody, and it seems almost as if Martell is conducting his own orchestra as he works through his preparations.
I ask him if I can take a portrait. He obliges me.
“Wait, take one more.,” he says to me, reaching over for a tube of paint. “With the orange.”
I smile again. Every artist has their favorites. I take the portrait, and then a few more before I retreat back into the house to give Martell a break from my photography. He enters sometime later and I sneak back into the garage, eager to see what he’s been working on.
I find that he has sketched and painted not one but six storyboard size concepts. They range from abstract shapes to characters and each one shows a creative branch that Martell allowed his mind to wander onto. To my surprise, the canvas is still empty. I consider asking him if he’s coming back to finish.
Somewhere between his desk and the door to the garage I realize that it isn’t about putting paint on the canvas, it’s about the process of being free and letting your creativity guide you. I look back at the desk. There’s no time limit here, no expectations and nothing is every truly finished. The only goal is the one that the artist sets for himself.
Things seem a lot slower now, like the project has only been postponed before the process is picked up and repeated at a later date. It’s like I’m looking through a window at someone else’s creative world on pause, and it inspires me to snap one last picture of that space at that moment in time, because there will never be another one just like it.