Interview with Petra Martin

Album cover designer

Hi Petra! Thank you for accepted this interview. First, please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us some words about your background as an artist.

Hi! Thanks for inviting me. I’m a 19-year-old art student from Romania. How to start? I’ve enjoyed drawing for as long as I can remember. The thought of trying to become an actual artist appeared much later, though. I went to art school in Pitești (which is my home town) and didn’t understand much from this experience. At that point, art was more of a hobby, not something I deeply felt ― and this was the case for most of the kids around. In 12th grade I started to get ready for college with the help of Nicolae Alexi, which will forever remain in my memory as one of the most wonderful human beings I’ve ever met. This was kind of a tabula rasa moment. He helped me forget all of the stuff I’ve learned in art school and taught me everything from zero – the basics, the ABCs of drawing. More important, he taught me how to look around, how to draw from life and see the beauty of common things – something which never really happened to me up until that moment. I wasn’t used to drawing from life, to look at a pile of dirty dishes, for example, or some mold stain on the wall and think of it as the subject of my next drawing or sketch. I used to draw from photos a lot, very often photos of already-made art pieces, and didn’t really understand that this wasn’t a whole experience. So my viewpoint changed dramatically. I eventually got accepted to UNArte at the Graphic Arts department and moved to Bucharest. Now I’m in my second year and try to make the best out of what is given to me here.

I first heard of you from Sergio Ponti from Koneskin, for whom you’re doing their second album graphic art. Can you tell us how you two met and came to collaborate?

I was a fan of some of the bands Sergio was playing in at that time – Dordeduh and Sunset in the 12th House. I also saw him live at DrumStage back in 2015, this being the time when I first heard of Koneskin (and loved it). Last year we became friends on Facebook and he offered to send two copies of Liberty Place to Romania as to thank me for the support. Half a year later, he asked me if I was interested in helping them with the cover. Naturally, I said yes and got quite excited.  Making an album cover was something I wanted to do for a really long time and never got the chance until then.

Also, Sergio showed me a preview of your drawings for the cover – how did you come to associate that graceful bird with his music?

Haha, well, I didn’t even think of it directly, now that you mention it – at least not consciously. When Sergio described the concept of the album and gave me its title (A World in Reverse), I instantly associated it with nature. I don’t know why exactly. I guess it has to do with the fact that Koneskin’s music is, for me, both delicate and powerful. It’s aggressive at times, but always very melodic, very sensible – and so is nature. And so I thought about the three trees, which represent, by the way, the three guys from the band – in the middle is Feryanto, flanked by Sergio and Gabriele. From this motif was born the little upside down bird, which will appear on the back cover and on the interior sleeve. I guess for me the bird is like a dweller of that tiny world, its inhabitant.

Apart from Koneskin, is there any other band you worked with? And are there any you’d wish to do it in the future?

As I mentioned above, Koneskin is the first band with whom I’ve collaborated. Since then, I have helped Robert Cotoros (Hteththemeth) with his one-man band, The Bipolar Disorder Project, by making  an artwork for his new song, Step 3: Square One.

I’d surely want to make as many as possible. Band visuals and album covers are things which I deeply love. I listen to a lot of music, many times when I’m working, and I find it quite natural to associate images with it. I think an album cover needs to be a parallel discourse to the musical piece, it needs to complete it, to offer a better understanding from another vantage point, and not to be servile, to be a transcription of the music, because then it gets boring. I’d love to do artworks for all sorts of bands as long as I can relate to their music.

What is your favorite art medium for drawing?

I couldn’t say I have a favorite art medium because each and every one is unique and fits best at the right time. However, I do find that I have periods of time in which it feels more natural working in one specific medium. From some months now, I rediscovered how much I love working with graphite ― the simple, overused pencil. I started to love all those greys, the details, the things you can do with the most basic instrument of them all. This is, by the way, the medium in which I have drawn Koneskin’s album: graphite with a bit of tempera. I also love painting in tempera and watercolor, though I don’t do it as often. To be honest, I’m often kind of lazy when it comes to choosing my materials. In the future, I’d like to get out of my comfort zone more often by trying all kinds of techniques and being more bold in combining them.

What artist influences you the most? And what music succeeds to do that?

Very, very hard to tell. And certainly impossible to pick just one. I’ll name a few which come to mind first: David Lynch, Paul Neagu, Vincent van Gogh (obviously), Duane Michals, Masao Yamamoto, Pierre Bonnard, Ștefan Câlția, Dominique Goblet, Cy Twombly.

I find that even though I listen to a lot of stuff, ranging from very aggressive to very mellow, I tend to get more inspired (visually speaking) by the more melodic ones. Some examples would be Porcupine Tree, Agent Fresco, Katatonia, Pain of Salvation, White Walls, Genesis, Ulcerate, everything Devin Townsend.

Have you ever considered other means to express yourself artistically, words maybe, or anything else you would like to do?

I considered words at one point. I enjoy reading and think it’s quite important, and I do sometimes feel a kind of liberation when writing what I have in mind. The phrasing of certain things gave me goose bumps more often than not and I’d say that literature is as important as music for everything that I do. I’m not trying to sound pompous, I just can’t stress enough how beautiful reading is really (though this has been said so many times that it’s devoid of meaning). However, I’m not sure I’d be very fit for that if I tried it as an independent thing ― that is, apart from combining it with images. I’d like to extend my walk on the visual field, though. I’m really looking forward to working with video and intermedia in the future, something quite far from what I normally do, which is way more traditional.

What kind of music do you usually listen to? Did you discover any album you would recommend, lately?

I listen to all kinds of stuff, as I said. I mostly listen to prog, death and more mellow, less aggressive things (like Angelo Badalamenti, Julee Cruise, Portishead etc). Now I’d surely recommend Pain of Salvation’s latest album, In the Passing Light of Day. I’m a huge PoS fan and this has to be the best thing I’ve listened to this year. I’m pretty obsessed by it.

What is the work that you think it represents you the most right now, the most personal one (you can send me an image here).

It’s a drawing from this winter representing a room at night, one very special room from the house of my grandfather who passed away half a year ago. Almost everything I made these past months has something to do with this subject and this house in a way.

Again, thank you for being on our website – you are the first graphic artist we talked to, and that is because we admired your drawings so much. If you have anything else to add about you, please do it, and hope to see you at some concert, maybe.

Not much to add. Thanks for having me and yeah, see you in the pit, I guess. 🙂

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