Animator, Artist, Inspiration
Story by Michael Seguin
Bejeweled fixtures. Gloomy horizons. Elegant sculptures. Dystopic, science fiction cityscapes. Avant-garde masterpieces. All these and more are part of the storied wheelhouse of Nolan Martin, one of Chatham’s youngest, most successful animators.
An artist from an early age, Nolan always expressed himself through a wide variety of ways.
“I like doing everything,” Nolan explains. “I like drawing. I like sculpting. I like painting. Anything creative! It’s really therapeutic just being able to start something and then finish something and then be proud of the result that you get at the end.”
For Nolan, art was always a therapeutic, almost meditative experience.
“Art mostly just started out as a stress-reliever for me,” Nolan admits. “Then later it turned into a job!”
Nolan describes his unique creative thumbprint as baroque ornamental.
“I would say my art style features a lot of ornaments that were used throughout the olden days,” Nolan states. “A lot of chateaus in France have these great decorative pieces. I’ve always been interested in that. I got a copy of a book called The Handbook of Ornament by Franz Sales Meyer. That was a huge source of inspiration for me. That really helped me make these complex-looking patterns.”
However, at 16, Nolan decided that he wanted to add another outlet to his repertoire: animation.
“I’d always been interested in animation,” Nolan recalls. “Then, when I was a teenager, I got this book called The Animator’s Workbook by Tony White. It sparked a new interest in it for me.”
Later on, Nolan enrolled at Fanshawe College’s Graphic Design program in London before eventually switching over to Interactive Media.
“The program is a mixture of animation, 3D work and programming,” Nolan states. “It taught me so much. How to get into 3D animation. How to build my own website. Everything I needed to succeed.”
While still in school, Nolan started his own freelance animation business. Before long, he was brushing shoulders with several high-profile musicians including DJ Nghtmre.
“I made a bunch of animations for an artist called Nightmare for his Portal tour,” Nolan states. “It was the first time I got to see animations that I made be used in public. That was a huge moment for me. Having my animations be screened at venues and being seen by thousands of fans—it really confirmed for me that this is what I was meant to do!”
Since then, Nolan has worked with several other high-profile artists, including Slander, Sudden Death—and most notably, Cardi B.
“I have a friend in Los Angeles who owns a production company, Immanent VJ,” Nolan explains. “They offer video services for a lot of events that I would normally do work for. That’s how we met. We’ve always admired each other’s work. I told him that, because of the pandemic, there’s not as many events going on. I told him that I was going to have to look for other creative avenues. So, he called me and suggested that I come work on some projects with him.”
Nolan’s first assignment was the recent Cardi B smash hit: WAP.
“It was really exciting,” Nolan states. “Being put on such a huge project.”
Nolan describes the 3D animation process as one of intense organization and unyielding teamwork.
“Pretty much, we’ll all just get together in a Google or Zoom call,” Nolan states. “And we’ll have a sheet or a chart that will have certain lyrics lined up. And it will say, for example, ‘These are the words that are said from 4:00 to 9:00.’ And then you have to match a visual to those lyrics. From there, us four or five animators will convene at the end of the day and see what we have. We’ll give each other feedback and see where we can improve. When we’re done, we’ll combine all those scenes together.”
And animation is where Nolan’s unique visual style truly shines. His music videos are akin to psychedelic trances. Strange flowers bloom underneath a neon-pink skyline. The camera bobs and weaves and spins, barreling the viewer down strange rabbit holes. Images and objects float across the screen with a logic of their own. It’s a window into a one-of-a-kind creative mind.
“When it comes to animations, I really enjoy creating characters,” Nolan states. “Characters and jewelry. Those are the things that I like to do the most. Any animation that involves those two things really appeals to me.”
And while the pandemic has slowed some projects, Nolan’s experience working with Cardi B turned out to be the equivalent of several handfuls of feathers in his cap.
“The last four or five years have been kind of uneventful, in a way,” Nolan admits. “But, I think this year has really turned things around for me. I’ve gotten so many job offers after working on that Cardi B song, from musicians just as big as her. It’s been really good for me. This one project has done more for me than a bunch of previous productions combined! I just hope I can keep doing what I love while keeping this momentum up!”
More information about Nolan’s work can be found at nolanmartinsart.com.