- This story originally appeared in the March 2023 issue of COMO Magazine.
Long-time Columbia resident, Martin Pope, shows that it’s never too late to find your next calling.
Martin Pope is an artist who grew up in Columbia. He graduated from Rock Bridge High School and attended Truman State University. His life, like his paintings, has meandered with multiple career changes, adding layers to his life like colors to a canvas.
Martin has lived many lives – as a cartoonist, a playwright, a top 40 radio DJ, and a screenwriter.
The journey home
“Eventually, I got sick of Hollywood,” Martin says, laughing. “Los Angeles is actually a terrible place to live. This is my hometown. I came back here, thinking I would be here for like six months until I figured out what was next. That was 15 years ago.”
The gravitational pull of Columbia is strong.
“It’s a college town. It’s an easy landing. And it’s the cost of living. It’s not terrible,” he continues. It is this easy landing and low cost of living that eventually allowed Martin to find his calling in art and create the stunning works that surround him from his seat in the middle of Tellers Gallery & Bar.
How it started
Martin has always been a prolific creator and painting is just the latest medium he is exploring. His paintings have movement and drama, with bold color contrasted against dark backgrounds. It is improvisational and quick and gives the impression that the idea could not be contained.
“During the pandemic, I lost two jobs in one day. And I then spent a year in my apartment by myself,” he says, outlining his journey to this stream-of-consciousness style of painting. “I ordered a French easel and some paints. I thought I was gonna teach myself to paint representational stuff. I thought it would expand my skill set. Maybe I would be able to market in some way.”
Martin let the paint and easel sit for a year before he began experimenting with putting paint on the canvas.
“One day, I was like, ‘What happens if I just put colors wherever I want?’” he reflects. “It was insanely moving in some fashion. I felt free and I felt like it just came out in this way. That felt astounding to do process wise.”
Shortly after creating his first painting, a friend offered to buy it. From there, Martin believed in the potential of his work and started a frenzy of creativity. He says he currently has somewhere between 300 and 400 completed works, with paintings hanging throughout town.
Martin’s style seems to flow from within. He sits down to paint every day. It is this consistency that has led him to develop a unique style that he continues to refine.
“When you do something so repetitively, I think you develop skills — you also quickly plateau and they get bored, and then change something and plateau again,” he says, describing his daily painting process and how that helps develop his craft.
“I paint with acrylic paints, because I am not patient enough to wait for anything to dry,” Martin explains. “Sometimes I paint with one hand and use a hairdryer in the other. I am trying to follow the impulse wherever it goes before I judge it.”
This dedication to impulsivity can be both a blessing and a curse to the artist — constantly torn between the present and the next idea.
“It’s going to go. Basically, I follow it, it goes where it’s going,” he says.