Saturday, September 10, 2016

Martin Slater A Scientist who draws Sensual Nude Women

Go to Spanish Version
Slater Artist

He is a microbiologist who retired from NIH 13 years ago. He has drawn, with finesse, nude or semi nude women since then. In his web page there are 67 charcoal drawings, 53 are nudes. He views himself “more as a technician than a creative artist. I am sort of stuck with what I see”, he says.

If Slater is right in the way he views himself, then I would say that he is a “technician” that has paid close attention to his numerous light, shadow and human figure lessons. However, the only explanation about how his drawings convey mood and emotions in a sensual and warm style, is that he has a special artistic talent that can be proved simply by seeing his pieces of art.
He is 75 years old, and is a modest artist who gives reasoned and direct answers to my questions, in a scientific style!

Why do your work centers in the women human figure explicitly?
I see people to ask if they would model for me at open studios organized by other artists. For some reason the models at those open studios are women.

How did you decide precisely to use charcoal and three color chalk? Three-color chalk is the most beautiful way to draw I know of. However, it’s difficult for
me to control, especially black. I use charcoal for extended complete drawings because I can keep changing and blending until I am satisfied. It is a real material I can work with.

Video about Slater's Drawing Process.

Your studies have emphasized anatomy and classical techniques. With that, are you trying to achieve perfection?
I am not after photographic realism or hyper realism. High Renaissance Art is my favorite. Anatomy is a way of seeing and conveying information beneath the surface. Highlights and shadows seem different if you know they are formed by muscles with origins and insertions and have functions. That lets you know something about the biology and meaning of what is visible on the surface. It makes humans seem human and functional and have purpose.

Why do you study figurative rather than abstract art?

The person who talked me into drawing lessons told me to take figure drawing first because it teaches you to see accurately. I thought I would take figure drawing and move on to other things. However, it seemed there was always something else to learn so I never felt I mastered figure drawing enough to stop and try other things. I think I view myself more as a technician than a creative artist. I am sort of stuck with what I see.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as an artist?
The biggest challenge has been patience. For the longest time I was frustrated with a lack of progress. The antidote is to keep trying. I don't want to be complacent or frustrated. There is a balance between feeling I should improve and not getting discouraged because I don't see the improvement for a while.

Slaters Artistic Secrets
He finds freedom. He enjoys. He plays. He works hard.

What is the difference between Martin Slater, the microbiologist, and Martin Slater, the artist? 
I never viewed art as a profession to support myself and family, so I never felt competitive about it. It is strictly for enjoyment. However, in both there is the feeling to examine beyond the surface and learn to "see" and appreciate the reality of what is there. The main difference is that, as an artist, I am not trying to support myself and compete with others and don't feel the judgment of others is required for me to continue. In other words, I feel more free as an artist.      

Tell me more about your recent work. You have mentioned in your bio that it “has been more narrative and includes attempts to capture mood and emotion.” What are you trying to narrate? 
Nocturne 2
There is no theme for all of my work that I am trying to communicate. Each model and drawing is different. The emotion depends on a particular pose. At times the model will stretch or something during a break and that seems better than the original pose. The emotion is sometime different for me and those who see the drawing. For example, there is a fine line between serenity and sadness. There are drawings I see as a serene figure and other see as a depressed person. I try to capture attention and leave it up to the viewer to see whatever story they feel. I leave it up to others to interpret the emotion they feel. 

What is next for you as an artist? What would you like to achieve now?
I am trying to change something, but I am not sure what or how. I am satisfied with what I have been doing but think I have been satisfied too long. I was playing with different papers and charcoals or graphite etc. However, a couple commissions came my way. Now I am trying to add complexity and interest in addition to the model. I guess that is trying to add narrative.  

What is your advice for new generations of artists?
Just do art because you like it. Try to enjoy it, but keep working on things you don't enjoy to get better. It is really a selfish pursuit. However, don't get too satisfied, or too discouraged. Fulfillment takes effort and patience as well as enjoyment.  

Beautiful Granddaughter

Martin Slater has been a member of our Latino Art League of Greater Washington DC since the beginning. He met his wife when she was 16 years old and now they have children and grandchildren. When his granddaughter asked him one day to draw her, "with clothes on", he did. He titled it "Beautiful Granddaughter."

By: Roxana Rojas-Luzon
The Journalist/Artist
Member of  TLAL


  1. Slater is a great artist. He knows the human form well.
    The article / blog is perfect. I hate long blogs about nothing. I have a short attention span so it's easy for me to be distracted and not finish reading something if it doesn't capture me. The blog was full of info about him and kept me interested. I like the link too. Good idea to imbed it in the article. I like how you have used each question to create a new paragraph and chop away at who Martin is. Thank you for the blog post.

  2. It's important for people to know more about artists like Slater, a very unique case in which art/science make a great combination. Every artist have something unique, and I want to know about it, and I want to communicate about it. It's also important for artists to express themselves about their thoughts and artistic process. Like you in your blog, thanks for that. I wish this blog could be an inspiration for everybody. Thanks, James!