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Shantell Martin interviews LA-based painter Buckley // Absolut Art

“If there’s one thing I’m realizing more each year, it’s that my work is my teacher and it creates me, not the inverse.”

We’re more likely to head recommendations from a friend than we are from an anonymous source, especially when the suggestion comes from someone we respect and revere. Absolut Art discovered the beautiful work of LA-based painter Buckley, through Absolut Art artist Shantell Martin.

Here, Martin interviews Buckley about the diversity of her work, the notion of freedom, and how she finds inspiration in her surroundings.


Shantell Martin interviews Buckley

A Quest for Completeness

Two artists who have collaborated with Absolut Art and who have a great deal in common are Buckley and Shantell Martin, both multidisciplinary artists with a clear, distinct through-line to their productions in line drawing, painting, murals, wearable art, and more. Both work in a way that is both highly intuitive and consciously developed, both explore concepts of identity, and both are committed to working at many different scales, from the intimate to the grand. 

Here, Martin interviews Buckley about the diversity of her work, the notion of freedom, and how she finds inspiration in her surroundings. 

Shantell: You work in a lot of different mediums and at different scales (which I love and am so inspired by), but for a lot of artists, giving ourselves permission to work outside of the expected spaces can be quite a challenge. How did you come to the place where you are now, so that you are able to work in all of these different areas? Did the work take you there or did you already have a curiosity that then inspired the work?

Buckley: It’s so special to hear that you’re inspired by my variety, Shantell! You were such a strong example of adaptivity and following creative curiosity when I first found your work so many years ago, and still are to this day. It’s wild to speak to it now in later phases for both of us, to realize that the initiation of shifting, evolving and mutating the work doesn’t just live at the beginning of our stories, where we experimented to find and reveal the artist in us to the world, but actually it’s a constant process of finding and revealing the artist within to one’s self. 

The act of working in new mediums is, for me, an act of excavation and refinement. It’s an insatiable seeking that gives me a sense of aliveness, that every medium is a new dialect which articulates what another medium cannot. It’s a quest for completeness. The more forms I explore, the more relief I feel that the mythology I work within has been expressed and reinforced, not just for others but for myself. If there’s one thing I’m realizing more each year, it’s that my work is my teacher and it creates me, not the inverse. To be spacious and inventive with it, to invite it into new realms, invites me into uncharted realms of self. And really at the end of the day, my work is a contemplative self-discovery device, so the more I let it wander or refine in different manifestations, the more I understand how to do the same as a person, and can invite my audience to do the same as well. 

But the far more practical application answer is, I have always imagined the work in so many different forms from the beginning. I constantly write down ideas and have tons of dreams in my back pocket. Then I wait until I have the resources or invitation to finally realize one of them. So if someone offers me a space, for example, I use it as a chance to bring one (or more) of those ideas to life. So the short answer is: let myself dream openly and endlessly, and then keep an eye out for opportunities to meet those dreams with reality!

What does freedom mean to you? 

The ability to make actions from the heart without restraint.

How does your environment inspire you and your work? 

I live in a city surrounded by forest and water. To see these elements of earth and water daily gives me great vitality. The river and flora inspire me and the work towards delivering the emotional brilliance that nature offers so plentifully and masterfully. My city and the industrial factory where I have my studio muse me with their colors and sturdy materials. Their existence is a reminder of the fascinating capabilities of the human hand and mind, inspiring me to be inventive and constructive. The combination of the two is a kind of yin yang effect; the natural world and the urban environment together inspire me to make work which truly honors the modern experience with a reminder for the great wisdom our earth holds, and an invitation back to the softness of ourselves so we can truly hold it in return.

What are some essentials to your artistic process? 

Starting. It’s the most important part for me. Once I clear the time and actually devote to starting in on a work, my process moves well. It’s just about getting it going with some proper focused momentum. Then it moves steadily. 

I do REALLY well with deadlines. I could say that’s essential to me completing things. Even if I’m making something for myself I tend to make a rough timeline. I feel good to have a bit of pressure/limitation. 

Music and podcasts are essential. I love listening to things while I work. 

Here’s a secret one… PHOTOSHOP. When I’m midway in a painting I often want to change the colors a billion times and after years of doing that manually, a friend finally gave me a digital leg up, so now I plan my color compositions beforehand and that saves me so much in time and materials. 

And drawing! Drawing is essential to my process for absolutely everything. It heals my mind, functions as the foundation of my paintings, and also helps me generate new ideas.

What’s next for you?

Expanding my color language to more vibrancy. More emotionally dimensional work. Functional objects. More sculpture. Theatrical dance films. More combining of all the various media. And of course, more more moreeee painting!


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