VJ Captures the Moment With Live Illustration

Shantell Martin is a VJ in Tokyo. Trained as an illustrator in the UK, she moved to Tokyo in 2004 and started drawing at live events. Initially, she was drawing on paper and having those images projected onto the wall – but when a club asked if she could draw at one of their parties, […]

Shantell Martin is a VJ in Tokyo. Trained as an illustrator in the UK, she moved to Tokyo in 2004 and started drawing at live events. Initially, she was drawing on paper and having those images projected onto the wall – but when a club asked if she could draw at one of their parties, she started experimenting with drawing on a Wacom Tablet.  She has since evolved into using a wireless tablet slung from her shoulder, so she can wonder through the crowd and illustrate the scene – each line drawn to the beat and simultaneously projected onto the walls, the crowd, or even the main act.  Her style is so entertaining, it often steals the show.

Shantell recently conducted an interview with Wacomb, explaining how she got into VJing and the process by which she ‘collaborates’ with DJs to create a truly unique experience.

Wacom: Are you also responsible for the music?

I see it as collaborative. I don’t just draw to DJs, but I draw to singers, bands, musicians, experimental noise music, anything I can. I don’t say play this or play that. They play whatever they want, and I react to that. It depends on the space too. If it’s a very small space, then maybe my drawings will be completely different from a big space with people dancing. For example, at Super Deluxe, they have a big space with three projectors, and if people are dancing and waving their arms around, then I can draw little lassos around them, I can draw around people. So it’s collaborative, I react to the atmosphere rather than suggest what should be played.

Wacom: So it’s completely spontaneous?

It’s completely spontaneous. Nothing is rehearsed, nothing is practiced. I come down to the club, open Sketchbook Pro, get out my tablet, and wait for the music.

Wacom: Do you have certain themes or subjects that you tend to draw?

Because I’ve drawn so many times now, I see recurring themes. But because I do draw from my imagination, and I draw spontaneously, it’s not completely conscious. But these themes do pop up, these characters do pop up, or certain shapes or lines do pop up.

When I first started VJing, I’d only use black and white. Paint [the screen] black, and erase producing white lines. In the last few months, I’ve started to use color. So it’s starting to develop slowly…greens, blues, yellows, oranges, pinks. Also, I have been drawing with a few bands regularly and if I draw with them on a regular basis, maybe I’ll use a photograph that I took of me drawing to them and I’ll import that to Sketchbook Pro and start to draw on top of that or around that. And that’s really nice because if you have the band on stage and a picture of the band on stage but from last time, and then start to work on that, you get a feel of depth even though the drawing is very simple, only lines. I’m starting to build up layers and colors…it’s slowly developing.


A Summer in NYC! from shantell martin on Vimeo.

Wacomb: VJ Shantell Martin brings music to life with Intuos3

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