She may not be faster than a speeding bullet like Superman or have arachnid powers like Spiderman, but Abbotsford artist Julia Martens has a unique ability of her own.
Martens, a 2019 MEI grad, has a form of synesthesia, a sensory and neurological phenomenon in which information meant to stimulate one of your senses simulates several of your senses.
Since a young age, Martens has seen all letters, words and numbers as colours.
“The first time I noticed this I was probably eight or nine and I was with some friends waiting to be picked up and for some reason I just knew that all of their names were a certain shade of a colour,” she said. “And so everyone was coming up to me and asking me what colour is my name and I’d tell them. But anytime anyone talks I see colours and I remember for example that person has a blue name.”
Martens said she only recently learned about synesthesia and when she heard about other people’s experiences with the phenomenon it’s what she believes she has.
“There’s another artist in Ireland and he has synesthesia where he sees sounds as colours,” she said. “I learned about him about four years ago and that’s when I finally realized - oh this is an actual thing and I’m not crazy.”
She explained her connection with colours is probably what got her so passionate about art in the first place. Martens excelled in private art courses and art classes at school growing up. At MEI she received several top art students award, and was so advanced with her skills that she also tutored younger students in the subject.
In high school Martens did a lot of work using graphite drawing techniques, filling up many sketchbooks with her creations. She also had a number of her classmates design tattoo’s or create artwork for them. Martens went on to receive commissions for paintings and other art projects from friends and family.
After graduation she put together a website - juliamartens.ca - and began offering commissions and putting up some of her work for sale. Many of her recent collections now include large-scale murals, smaller paintings, and sketches. Martens works with many different mediums, including oil paints, watercolours, inks, and graphite.
In recent years she has collaborated with Abbotsford’s Kariton Art Gallery, the Fort Langley Jazz and Arts Festival, the Langley Arts Council and the Tedx and Abbotsford Art Council’s exhibition. She has also been featured inside the Memento Mori Studio Tattoo and Piercing Shop in Abbotsford.
Martens was scheduled to travel to Europe in 2020, but like the rest of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic squashed her plans. However, the world shutting down allowed her to focus more on her art and what she wants to do with it in the coming years.
“It actually gave me a lot of time to actually figure out what I wanted to do with this art career,” she said, noting she had worked at a local dress shop prior to the pandemic. “And I got to dedicate a lot of time and hours into it. Before I was working all day and come home and only have a few hours to work on it. I’ve created more than I’ve ever created and it’s really exciting.”
She said she hopes to continue building her art career and find more exposure for her art.
“I’m really, really trying to make this my full-time career,” she said.