Artist Spotlight Interview: Martin Bekerman

Artist Spotlight Interview: Martin Bekerman

Areas of Focus: Art Direction, Animation, & Illustration

From: Buenos Aires, Argentina

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Artella: Tell us a little bit about your background as a graphic designer, Illustrator and art director

Martin: I started my career learning graphic design while working in a small design studio in Buenos Aires. I did some years on different careers and courses. My formal studies include: Advertising, Creativity, VFX, Fashion Photography and Multimedia design.

I taught and designed several courses in a VFX program for a school called Image Campus, including illustrator, Photoshop, composition, editing and 3D tracking.

After working for a few years in graphic and web design I started working in advertising as an Art Director, where I got most of my professional experience, in agencies like Grey and Mccann Ericsson among others. From there I went to work for a small startup where I did creative direction, so it was a little bit of everything. I even filmed and directed a documentary on Mozambique that went on to compete in Cannes Lions this year.

So as you can see, my background is quite crazy! Haha.

Today I work remotely as an Art Director for a digital company based in Stockholm, and I also do freelance illustration and animation work for various other clients.

Artella: How was it going from a designer to an art director? What changed for you in the role? What new skills did you have to learn?

Martin: The biggest difference was on the creative side, because now it was all about presenting ideas before starting to design. As a freelance designer you usually go with your gut and maybe present some options, but an Art Director has to be a good creative first, so I had to get used to throwing 20 ideas just to have 1 approved and only then were you able to start working on it. It was challenging but eventually I started presenting ideas to clients and managing my own creative team, so it was a really fun process and collaborative work. I guess the hardest part is, especially when you work in big agencies, that you need to delegate because in a big structure there is a person for every specific part of the process, and that is not always an easy thing to do for an artist.

Artella: All of your work has a strong visions behind it. What is your process for creating a piece? Where do you get the inspiration and how do you execute it?

Martin: I love watching other artist’s work from any field. Apart from that I’m a huge movie geek so directors like Wes Anderson are a big, big source of inspiration for me.

It’s funny where inspiration comes from, for example these days I’m really pumped by a Netflix documentary series called CHEF’S TABLE, to see these people so passionate about food, about making something extraordinary makes me feel like I want to be on the same state.

In general, I think you can find inspiration almost anywhere, both outside and inside yourself.

For the execution part what I try to do is to be honest about what i want to do and avoid generality, I want my work to feel personal and not like some random stock illustrations. I think a lot a about appeal and how to make everything feel natural.

Artella: Let’s talk about freelancing. What was it like going from an employee of companies to being your own independent company; i.e. freelancer? And, what have you learned as a freelancer?

Martin: For me was sort of a natural process, because I started doing freelance work long before leaving the agency.

Eventually I found out that I really liked the freedom of working where and how I wanted, but that comes with a price… You need to learn about finance, you need to get organized, and you need to take responsibilities that aren’t as fun as you may think.

And there is one last thing that almost no one talks about… it is really hard to work completely alone, you need to be ready for that.

Artella: What are some of the important lessons you’ve learned about being a successful freelance artist and what tips can you give to those thinking about moving into this line of work?

Martin: If you are reading this and you are thinking of leaving your 5 days a week job and jump into freelance, please don’t, do it slowly and you’ll get there. It is really hard to be a freelancer, even more hard than to have a weekly job and do some freelancing work on the side.

These are some things that I learned so far:

  1. Be polite, be approachable. Nobody likes a cocky freelancer
  2. Be on time. This is even more important than your work quality
  3. Be good. Not only good in quality, but good in understanding your clients and how to help them.
  4. Understand that the job is not for you, it is for your client. That´s why they’re paying you for it, so deliver and do what YOU want on your free time.

Artella: What things do you do to stay inspired? For instance, the film you made about Mozambique sounds amazing!

Does the variety of projects help you to stay inspired and excited about what you are working on?

Martin: Mozambique was a huge deal for me as a creative. It was my opportunity to make something out of nothing, because at that time we didn’t have the resources or people to do a documentary but we did it anyway. We flew to Mozambique and slept in an old missionary church, bathing with rainwater collected over the night and eating in the jungle with the local tribes. Even charging the batteries for the camera was a challenge in a place without electricity, so we depended exclusively on solar power for that. I returned completely changed, even physically I lost about 9 pounds.

I think that I could never do just one thing. It’s not part of my DNA. I really feel alive when I’m jumping from project to project all the time, so that is one of the reasons I always felt so comfortable in the advertising industry, it is a place where you can do movies, music, animation, illustration, design and everything in between inside your daily job.

Artella: What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned in your career? Those little nuggets of information that stick with you that you use and come back to often?

Martin: I guess the most important one for me is to make something good out of anything. At least to try. I hate excuses, because when someone is looking at your work, they’re not gonna think ¨IT DOESN’T LOOK GOOD BUT IT IS OK, HE DID NOT HAVE THE RESOURCES SO IT’S NOT HIS FAULT¨. Excuses are for children, grown ups just find a way.

Be proud of the ugliest thing you made, and you’ll be on the right track. At least that´s what i try to do.

Artella: What are your plans and dreams as an artist? Where do you see yourself heading next?

Martin: I think my goal as an artist would be eventually to become an animation film director. On a shorter term vision I guess that breaking into the animation industry would be a nice starting point. I really want to focus on emotions, creating emotions and showing those emotions to the world.

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