Week 18 – Amber Martin


Introducing Amber Martin

A note from Kerrie Phipps – it’s been exciting over the past few years to see Ambers work improve out of sight and to watch her opportunities open up as she becomes recognised as a talented, passionate and empathetic artist. I was so moved by Jeanine’s nomination for our Young Achievers Giveaway as she described “Ambers selflessness and dedication to support groups for ADF (Australian Defence Force) and her empathy. Amber caught my sons Aussie larrikin personality. The painting is him, all that he is. It helps me when he is deployed.”

Amber Martin

Amber Martin

Amber Martin is an Australian War Artist who taught herself to paint with boot polish 12 years ago by creating scenes of rural life on her family’s outback cattle station. Her interests moved from rural images to military artwork because of her own desire to re-enlist into the Australian Army.
After one of her artworks drew the attention of the 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment’s former Commanding Officer, Amber was commissioned by the unit as an Australian War Artist, depicting Sappers undertaking their various roles in current ADF operations.

“A lot of media today focuses on the big stories, forgetting about our troops who are on front line operations,” said Amber. “I feel that they just don’t get the acknowledgment and support that they deserve. What better way to depict their sacrifices, efforts and their stories than through my art?”

Amber has also illustrated of the RM Williams biography “One Piece of Leather” and held a major art exhibition at the Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach. A Montage painting she did was gifted to the US Navy in 2011 and now hangs in the US Navy Seabee Museum and Heritage Center at Gulfport, Mississippi and during that trip; Amber spent a week painting with US Marine Corps Combat Artists in Quantico.
Ambers’ painting “In His Blood” was also a finalist in the 2012 Gallipoli Art Prize. Amber is a member of the International Society of War Artists, and aspires to become an Official War Artist for the Australian Army.

A War Artist with a passion.

How do you love to explain your business/enterprise to others?

Often when I am asked what I do, people seemed surprised.
” I am an Australian War Artist”
“A what?” generally is the response.
So then the questions start rolling in… where I work, do I go on the battle field, have I been to Afghanistan, what kind of images do I paint…etc.

I am self employed and commissioned on a continual basis by an Engineer Regiment, depicting the diggers of the corps of engineers undertaking their various roles in current ADF operations across the world.

I am also contracted out to other Regiments, Defence organisations and companies who supply to Defence. I haven’t had the opportunity to go on a deployment as yet as you have to be ‘sponsored’ by the regiment and there is a lot of paper work involved – as you can imagine. I am currently in the process of re-enlisting into the Australian Army Reserve, so anything is possible.

I am sent images of what they want painted and work from my home in Dubbo. I am also invited to attend fundraising functions and go to events with the regiments. I take part in fundraising for the different regiments and organisations to support Defence Causes as well.

How did you get started in this unique work?

I started out painting rural scenes of my brother in laws property in Wanaaring and had taught myself to paint using boot polish about 12 years ago. I was very successful at this and gained notoriety as “The Boot Polish Artist”.
Due to my passion for the Army, I started painting scenes depicting Australian soldiers on deployment, on exercise and at home in their job roles because I loved it when I was in.US Navy

Initially, I entered a photographic competition on the Australian Army’s Facebook page in 2010 and won the competition, (and an award from the Chief of Army) with a photo of a painting I had done,. It was called “Covering Fire” and was later donated to Brisbane Legacy to raise funding to support family members who have lost a loved one KIA (Killed In Action).
I was then asked by Army Social Media to post my paintings on their page and a few months later, one of my paintings titled “Sapper” caught the eye of the former Commanding Officer of the 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment which is based at Enoggera.

What have you been learning as you become known as an Australian War Artist?

I realised that there was so much more going on than just painting these scenes. There are many issues around Defence that I felt needed to be acknowledged such as health and wellness.

I don’t believe our soldiers get enough recognition for the work and sacrifices that they make. They are out there 24-7…. not just in Afghanistan, but the Sinai, Iraq and Timor just to name a few; in the worst conditions, not having seen their loved ones for many, many months. They could be fighting the Taliban and/or  insurgents and sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice. The issues surrounding this include the injuries; both mental and physical.

I have been able to depict through my art some scenes of their woundings and bring awareness to the general public. It increases support for those suffering from PTSD, anxiety and other mental illnesses and at the same time help raise funds for our amputees to assist with ongoing medical expenses.

I can help raise funds to support Defence organisations such as Wounded Hero’s Australia, Soldier On and Mates4Mates.
I guess it’s a way for them also to know that we are grateful for their service and that they are not forgotten.

This painting, “The Searcher” of a Sapper taken during a patrol in Afghanistan as part of Operation Slipper.

This painting, “The Searcher” of a Sapper taken during a patrol in Afghanistan as part of Operation Slipper.

Some of my achievements have been:

  • During a visit to the USA, I registered as an Australian War Artist with the International Society of War Artists.
  • Attending a presentation in the US of a painting I did which had been gifted to the US Navy seabee’s in Gulfport, Mississippi.
  • Finalist in 2012 Gallipoli Art Prize
  • Contributing two paintings into the Graffitti of War Project in support of Military personnel suffering from PTSD which travelled all over the US in 2012 raising awareness.
  • Being a part of The Joe Bonham Project with the International Society of War Artists which was launched in New York in support of our wounded soldiers who have sustained injuries through conflict that have resulted in disfigurement and amputation.
  • Being involved and contributing artwork to help raise funds for Legacy.
  • Being asked to paint for a well known company called PLATATAC who are passionate about supporting the Commando Welfare Trust.
  • Honouring those who KIA and helping raise funds to support their loved ones.

How has your increasing success impacted your personal life?

To be honest, it was a hard slog in the beginning. I am a single mother of one child aged 12. It has been demanding on both of us in regards to deadlines and sacrifices where I have not been able to take holidays until the end of the year. I started with next to nothing but a few small canvases and had to build up my stock each time I sold a piece. It was financially draining and sometimes really scary wondering how I was going to pay my bills, but as time went by things started to improve.

The upturn impact is that I am able to educate my son in a Private School. This had been one of my goals and I have succeeded in doing that. I still have other goals to achieve like a new car!

I love what I do and I am passionate about it. It’s not a chore and I get excited about starting a new piece every time.

Some of the work I have done has made me realise what I already have: a safe environment, a warm clean bed to sleep in, no threat of terrorists opening fire on my family etc. It’s also made me grateful for the time I have with my own son family and friends. When ADF members have to go on deployment, they are gone for a very long time away from their families; they can’t just call up at anytime and say G’day to their loved ones and there is always that risk that they may not return. It has given me a great appreciation and respect to all those who are serving who keep us safe.

What is your approach to marketing and are you becoming known?

My work has featured in many regional newspapers including Army and Defence News, and the New York Times. I have illustrated two publications; the dust cover of R.M.Williams biography “One Piece of Leather” by Rob Lynn and Defence Family of Australia’s publication “Voices” which has brought a new wave of interest in my art as well.

long time agoI am really grateful for Facebook!! It’s what started my career as a War Artist, and LinkedIn for word of mouth and networking. Anything that involves Social Media is an essential and great word of mouth tool. The great part about social media is that if you have a gallery for your artwork, someone can view it with just a click of a button, so no matter the location, you are accessible to anyone in the world.

What plans do you have to expand your business further?

Re-enlistment is a priority at the moment. I have  the opportunity to enlist with the RAE as a Combat Engineer and hope to transfer later into the Australian Regular Army in a few years time as a Multimedia Technician.

I am painting for PLATATAC as a War Artist also. PLATATAC have given me more opportunities to work in other areas that I thought not possible as a civilian and I am excited about the future prospects of working alongside this great Australian company!

What attributes do people need to become successful?

Essentially you have to have PASSION and DETERMINATION and the willingness to WANT to make a difference in your life and others. You have to love what you do and not let it become a ‘chore’ for you to work it.
You must have drive, motivation and goals followed by action.
When you start doing something you are passionate about, things will fall into place.

Who are your greatest supporters?
My greatest supporter is my son, my family, followed by the Defence Community.

Amber Martin
Facebook – Digger Art Main Website – www.diggerart.com
Other – www.thebootpolishartist.com


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