Artist Miguel Martin, originally from West Belfast, has been commissioned by the MAC along with Isobel Anderson to develop a series for children where they are invited to 'Let’s do Art'.

The work will be available on the MAC's YouTube channel, with a new episode revealed each week.

Isobel Anderson has been at the cutting-edge of the music world for 20-plus years. She boasts a PhD in Sonic Arts and has a passion for creating supportive music tech education spaces for women. Her four solo albums have amassed over 25 million Spotify streams.

PUT TO THE SWORD: Artwork by Miguel Martin exhibited in Derry.

PUT TO THE SWORD: Artwork by Miguel Martin exhibited in Derry.

Miguel was known for his live painting when he graduated and was mesmerising to watch in action where whole macabre worlds were painted before your eyes.

Then he bought a green screen and was spotted by the MAC firstly for a piece for the galleries then for a whole children’s art series. Many people are doing art online but there is a very contemporary feel to the series that will appeal to  children. The young artists are invited to make art as they go along, much in the way Tony Hart inspired my generation with his TV series.

It’s great for anyone looking for quality content for kids but  not able to get outside. Miguel and Isobel did all the direction and recording themselves and you can see the joy that having creative control can bring in the final series. I caught up with Miguel to find out how it all came about.

What school did you go?
I went to St Mary's Christian Brothers' Grammar School for three years then transferred to Aquinas Diocesan Grammar School for the remainder of my GCSEs and A Levels, where of course I tried every excuse in the book to ditch P.E class and work in the art room as much as I could!

When did you realise you wanted a career in Art?
I guess my first memory of thinking about it as a career choice was at Aquinas during a one-off interview with the careers' counsellor. I just remember telling him I wanted to do fine art but knew deep down there was something uncomfortable and scary about not having a solid back-up plan if that became an unsustainable long-term strategy. It still feels that way!
Anyone in particular encourage you?
My mum and dad have always been very encouraging. They might not be fully immersed in my world but they never imposed a predetermined career path on me, for better or for worse. My mum has never missed an exhibition opening of mine, whether it be in Belfast, Dublin or New York! 
You were known for your live drawing initially and for your love of gore in art. What made you make the jump to working with a green screen?
Since I last made a live drawing at the 2011 London Art Fair, there have been several jumps over the past decade that have brought me to where I am today. In 2012 I began working on a series of traditional still-life ink drawings responding to various interpretations within Freud's essay The Uncanny. I then became more interested in transferring these concepts of unease and domesticity into a digital format, so I took a short residency at the Belfast Digital Art Studios (DAS) where I learned how to properly shoot and edit videos. After receiving various funding opportunities through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, I was able to experiment with various other art-making techniques such as bronze-casting and 3D-printing. With each consecutive solo exhibition I began combining elements of sculpture, sound, video and site-specific exhibition design. I haven't had a studio for the last four years, so my work has adapted to become more digital-based. The lockdown propelled me into a world of my own so I used the only materials I had to hand which were my laptop, digital camera and a set of velvet teal curtains which have now been substituted for a 5 foot long green screen.

How did the collaboration with Isobel Anderson come about and how easy was it to collaborate?
A week into the first lockdown I wrote a goofy kid's song with an accompanying music video called The Broccoli Song which only began as a light-hearted and entertaining way to communicate with our friend's kids both in Hastings and in Belfast. Since that one was received quite well in our social circle, Isobel and I dove into our memory bank of silly jingles we would come up with on the fly in typical cutesie partner fashion. As Isobel is already an established singer-songwriter with four self-released albums, it was only natural that an eventual collaboration would evolve. For 'Let's Do An Art!' I write, direct, shoot and edit each episode with Isobel's Teddy Bear Friend character adding a humorously mischievous presence on screen. Sometimes I would write an entire song and melody and she would flesh out backing vocals, other times we would collaborate on the melodies or she would write the chorus and I would write the verses and vice versa. Either way she mixes and masters the final track. The tone of the show has grown out of the type of playful relationship we have. Living together makes for a very easy symbiotic collaboration.  

Now that you have had the experience of making the art series for the MAC where would you like to see it progressing?
We would definitely love an opportunity to bring the videos to life as a large-scale installation in a gallery space, perhaps providing the art materials to allow visitors to create alongside each episode. We've also discussed the idea of an installation which would frame the video series as a by-product of a more uneasy domestic setting, reflecting the difficulties of lockdown for a younger generation. We've also had friends suggest bringing it to TV producers to get it on the telly, so who knows?


Do you miss anything about the Belfast Art scene?
I miss everything about the Belfast Art scene, my peers, the multiple gallery openings, studio visits, conversations with visiting curators. Since moving to Hastings I have only known lockdown life for the most part and the gallery spaces are world-class but unfortunately only provide private view opening nights.
What’s your advice for anyone thinking of doing art as a career?
Try to have other streams of income and other interests you might not think belong in the art world. Eventually the two worlds will collide and become everything you thought it couldn't be. Everything belongs in the art world, it just depends on how you frame it. 
How do you get your art on the fridge?
The MAC and I ran an open call at the beginning of May for creative kids to submit their artworks based on the themes You, Space, Creatures and Spooky. Unfortunately we're at capacity for submissions right now but if we make more episodes in the future there will be plenty of opportunities to get on the Fridge!