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Beyond His Years: The Prolific Martin Schneider

By Rebecca Bedrossian

From John Travolta’s exaggerated jowls in Pulp Fiction to the comic features of Rowan Atkinson as Johnny English, artist Martin Schneider renders his subjects with skill and a wit beyond his years. His Behance portfolio, loaded with pop culture hits such as Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad, is impressive—especially for an 18 year old. 

“Most of the people I depict are actors in movies I’ve watched,” admits Martin. “Usually I think, what a nose or what a forehead! That would be fun to caricature!” The features of Abe Lincoln and George Lucas have also caught his discerning eye. 

Martin, who lives in Cologne, Germany, with his mother and twin brother, has been drawing since he was 13. Though he began with pencil and paper, now he can’t imagine life without a computer—or Adobe Photoshop

“My uncle gave Photoshop to me in 2010. At that time, I just played with the basic tools and manipulated photos. Then I saw some cool digital paintings on the Internet and wanted a pen tablet,” says Martin. “I got it for Christmas.”

As the adage goes, be careful what you wish for. While Martin liked the pen tablet, the learning curve was steep. “It was quite hard to draw, due to the distortion and because you can’t see your hand,” he says. It took a year and a half of saving until he could buy himself the Wacom Cintiq. That was 2013, and it changed his life.

“It was great! I started painting still-lifes by putting small objects on my desk. Some days I would run through our apartment, annoying my brother and mother because I couldn’t find any more objects to draw.” 

An illustration of lemons, by artist Martin Schneider

Martin moved onto caricatures and character design, a natural development for a young man who takes gaming seriously. (He and his twin brother have been developing iOS apps since 2011 and are now working on a 3D online game.)

Caricature and character design require different processes in Photoshop. “When I paint a caricature, I start with a sketch,” explains Martin. “After that I make a quick under painting and fill the different parts with the darkest color. Then I start painting with brighter colors on top of the sketch, until I end up with the brightest color.”

An illustration of Andrew Scott of Sherlock, by Martin Schneider
A GIF of an illustration of Zach Galifianakis, by Martin Schneider
An illustration of Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock, by artist Martin Schneider

“For a new character design, I usually make the initial sketch in Alchemy [an experimental drawing project] and finish the values in Photoshop. After that I block in the colors.” 

“When I paint in Photoshop, I always start with a gray background. The pure white is too bright, I find gray is more comfortable to look at,” he says. “The brush I use for sketching caricatures is a 4-pixel round brush.” Martin recently began using the brushes of Sergey Kolesov, a digital artist he looks to for inspiration.

Martin is also inspired by “many great projects” on Behance and by computer games. “I really like Blizzard’s art style,” he says.

BEYOND COMPUTERS

While Martin lives most of his life in digital, he’s a great admirer of Albrecht Dürer and traditional techniques, such as intaglio, relief printing, and copper engraving. This love of analog art led him to Jutta Vollmer and Andres Vietz, visual artists who run Kölner Graphikwerkstatt, a studio where Martin takes intaglio and relief printing classes. The artists have become his mentors.

“I did a student internship in their workshop in 2011,” Martin says. “I continue to take courses, although it is more like they are providing the printing press and I get their support while I am printing.”

The future looks bright for this ambitious student. Martin recently completed three illustrations for art director Fabio Caveira and Brazilian ad agency Giacometti, which will be published in Lürzer’s Archive. While he would like to get into the game-design industry (“My dream is to work for Blizzard one day, or another possibility would be to join the Kölner Graphikwerkstatt”), today he is focused on applying to universities. “I still have a lot to learn.”