Rollerblading has always retained a wealth of artists among its ranks, spanning the spectrum of various crafts. In particular, the illustration realm has been a pivotal facet for many rollerbladers. Mike Johnson is a self taught 3D generalist working for a top-flight CGI studio. JC Rowe is heralded in the sneaker game for his digital illustrations. So when I stumbled upon Ross Martin’s illustrations of various skates under the moniker of Blade Junkies, it was no surprise that he, like many of his counterparts, was self taught, quickly developing a precise eye for vectoring. With that in mind, I decided to ask Ross a few questions about the inspiration and fruition of his craft. Introduction and Interview:Ryan Loewy Illustrations:Blade Junkies Photographs: Josh Hammond
Tell me about you: your full name, where you live, and how long you’ve been blading
My name is Ross Martin, I’m from Scotland but have been living in London for the last 7 years and I have been blading for around 18 years.
Tell me about your first experience with art. How old were you and how were you introduced?
The first proper thing I can remember, I must have been about 7 or 8 years old. I think everyone as a kid got colouring books and that’s probably where it started for me. I can remember getting a dinosaur colouring book and instead of just colouring them in normally, I would draw puffer jackets, caps and sunglasses on the dinosaurs. Sounds weird, it probably was – but that’s the first time I can remember myself doing my own thing with art.
So blading obviously came after finding your passion for art…
Blading was definitely post art. I have been skating for a long time, but unfortunately I’m an old dude haha. I don’t think art influenced taking up blading in any way but it’s always worked hand in hand for me. I would call myself a creative person and both these activities express that trait and give me an outlet.
You’re versed in illustration obviously. Is this something that you do as a job as well, or is it just a passion?
It’s a passion thing for sure. I have a degree in Visual Communication and Digital Publishing (fancy words for graphic design) but I never really searched for a job in that because I quickly found out that I only liked doing my own thing with graphics, I never fancied it as a career. In the past I had a big hand in the UK skateshop Rollkings (RIP) designing logo’s and t-shirts and stuff. Also had a little project with paper toys where I designed famous skaters that you could cut out, make and have on your desktop – like Broskow, Burston, Quinny and Eisler etc. So I have always steered towards rollerblading with my passions.
Right now I work in VFX for film – we 3D scan and replicate film sets, the cast, environments and all the props etc, for major films. Pretty cool and I think I’m very lucky to be doing what I’m doing.
When did you start creating these vector-like illustrations of skates? What made you decide to share them on Instagram?
I started playing about with the idea early last year. Initially I was hoping to draw skates in a funky and original style – then figured out I couldn’t really draw that well. So I hopped onto the computer and around November 2017 I nailed down what would become the Blade Junkies ‘signature’ style I guess you could say. The Remz HR2.0 was the very first completed design and the way it worked with the straight clean lines and unique impression of the skate, I knew that was a great starting point for what you see now. I sat on the designs for a while before I put up a post on UKBC group on Facebook in January 2018. It’s a great, active, positive rollerblading group which is a lot of fun to be a part of – so asked the community for feedback and it was very good. So I started the Instagram that day.
How’s the response been to the illustrations? I’ve seen quite a few people have purchased prints, how does that work? Are you printing in house or are you having someone else do the printing?
The response has been phenomenal actually. Lots of positive comments and people contacting me which is awesome. Done some custom designs and cool little projects / collaborations which I am sure you will all see soon.
In regards to purchasing prints – I did a small run of a couple of A3 designs, mainly to test the place that printed them and the quality. I’m not into rushing things out if it’s not right, which is why I’ve not got the online store up at the minute. However – hopefully by the time people read this, I will be up and running. The main issue I have is that I don’t have time to post the prints, so outsourcing that is what I have been researching and I think I’ve found the place for me. They ship internationally at a good price. The prints will now be A2 size which is awesome and I want to keep the price as low as possible for prints/postage. So things will be happening and I will send all details out on the Instagram page so please give me a little follow!
Are there any particular inspirations for your work?
I have always been a fan of bold, simple design with minimal colours like Vince Frost’s typography work. However recently I have been infatuated with Sneaker Art. The Sneaker culture has blown up in the last few years and along with it, many talented artists putting their own spin on the sneakers they love. I am trying to adopt the same creativeness for our culture and love of our Death Wellies. KickPosters and SneakerToons are massive influences at the minute for me but there is a huge amount of influential stuff out there, too much to list.
What can we expect from Blade Junkies in 2018?
Hopefully lots more! I’m planning many things, loads of collaborations with other artists and skating brands. Custom designs and concept skates to keep content on my Instagram fresh. Exploring new ideas with typography and iconic moments in our skate history. Just whatever pops into my head really and there are a lot of ideas ATM, so just trying to find the time and trying to be as original as possible. I think people like my approach so I’m just going to keep going.
I also would like to thank everyone who has shown support by liking my designs, purchasing prints or even just telling your buddies about Blade Junkies. I greatly appreciate it, it’s another reason our small blade community is the best. Hopefully I can inspire my fellow skaters to bring their other passions and mix it with skating in some way, express yourselves and remembering that nothing is a bad idea. Do what you love and love what you do.