Facing Up To Art

by Sophia Smith

Sophia Smith speaks to portrait artist Martin Krupinski about rediscovering his hidden talent.

The odd sketch on an evening turned out to be more than Martin Krupinski imagined, with each brushstroke he rediscovered a talent for art that he had kept buried for many years. Martin began creating stunning portraits of famous icons, family and friends from his home in Colne. Be aware, these are not your typical pencil to paper sketches, instead, Martin creates draw-dropping portraits with bursts of colour and graffiti style backgrounds.

Beginning his venture with a portrait of Burnley Football Clubs manager, Sean Dyche, this was a perfect start for the football fanatic. Martin had a ball showing his support for the local team and Claret’s boss through his art.

“Sean Dyche was given the portrait, he took a photo smiling with it and even signed it! It was the first main piece I got noticed for because I uploaded it online and Burnley Football Club saw it and contacted me.” Martin beamed.

Inspired to return to his talent, Martin tuned in weekly to the Sky Arts show, Portrait Artist of the Year, which encourages everyday people to find their artistic gifts. He picked up a pencil, and not long after, his very own work appeared on the television. “My daughter Delia actually noticed my work on the screen before I did, it was my portrait of the author Bernardine Evaristo and Akram Khan. I’ve also had my portraits of Will Young, Noel Fielding, Professor Green and Nicola Coughlan on the show. It was amazing.”

Martin’s artistic talents have been passed down to six-year-old Delia May. “Her portrait of Annie Mac was also shown on Portrait Artist of the Year. Who knows, she may be one of the top artists out there if she carries on.” Martin grinned.

After his spectacular work became spotted on social media, Martin decided to create portraits of famous music stars. “My favourite is my David Bowie portrait because all the colours I used the reds, oranges and blue. I’m big into my music too so I really enjoyed creating these music legends. I’ve drawn Amy Winehouse, Prince, Kurt Cobain, Freddy Mercury, Whitney Houston, The Beatles, I called it my music icon series.” Martin has since received many followers and inquiries for personal commissions…
“I’ve got a few followers on Instagram, it’s building up a bit.” Martin said humbly.

A few? You mean 5,000!

When Martin’s hand isn’t equipped with a pencil,he’s busy at work. “I’m a carpet fitter full time, I’ve been doing it for 20 years, I fell into the family business. I still worked throughout the lockdowns because it’s classed as construction but when I managed to find the time I began to draw again. I’ve always loved drawing since I was a young lad but I had some time on my hands to develop my own artistic style.

“It would be nice to be able to split my time between working and creating my art, it’s definitely becoming much more than a hobby already. When you’re a teenager you’re always being told what career path you need to go down. At the time I thought I’ll just go into engineering because it was the way to go at the time for a job. If I had ‘stuck to my guns’ I would have been studying art instead. Art is something I wish I had pursued much earlier. I only have time to do it when the kids are finally asleep in bed.”

Martin also creates art a little closer to home. His wife, Debs, works on the acute care team at Blackburn Hospital. “I drew a portrait of Debs as she was working throughout the pandemic. It gave me the time to think about something else and take my brain off worrying about her. I kept it a secret and surprised her, she loved it so much and framed it. Absence really does make the ‘art’ grow fonder…

The satirical street art style of Banksy is Martin’s biggest inspiration. “I just love the way the art comes through as political expression, it’s not just a piece of art on a wall, they’ve all got a story behind it. That’s why I love starting with the eyes, that’s where the story is, behind the eyes. My style is realism in the face, but I’ll add graffiti style colouring in the background. It’s not that popular and you’re not supposed to mix monochrome and colours, but I just do what I feel look’s the best, it’s something different.”

Martin refuses to stick to the status quo and is always looking for distinctive ways to express his art. “For the portraits I’ve been using black ink. I start with a rough pencil outline of where I want everything to go then slowly build it up with shading. I also use aqua markers, and rather than using them as a pen I use a brush and flick off the ink so it splatters on the page. I mask off the areas I want to keep white. It looks so effective.”

Lancashire lad Martin’s next big project is a portrait of the 1960s Burnley team… “I’ve drawn a few of the players already, just to test how it will look, but it’s just a case of whether I stick to a black and white piece or add colour. I’m leaning towards colour because the Burnley team has always been claret and blue.”
We’re etching to see what’s next!