Childlike creativity

Photo by Brian Maschino

Monte Martin never imagined that hours he spent fidgeting with an Etch A Sketch as a child would be the inspiration behind his work as an adult.

The iconic drawing toy, which French scientist Andre Cassagnes developed in the late 1950s, was Martin’s favorite pastime. Out of habit, the Lake Highlands resident still scribbles geometric lines onto scrap paper and tissue.

Now he’s transformed the doodles into geometric art featured at The Lookout, an apartment complex at the Lake Highlands Town Center. 

Each piece is made with drop material, or leftover wood, from other projects. Using the leftovers, from oak and pine to cherry and walnut, gives each piece its own history and adds dimension to the work, Martin says. 

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“The hardest part is building the form,” he says. “The fun part starts from there.”

Martin constantly is immersed in quirky projects at Martin & Martin Design, a visual arts company he launched in 2006 that focuses on visual displays, lighting and art. 

A massive warehouse is tucked away behind the Northwest Dallas business’ offices. The space is covered with piles of metal and wood and unfinished art projects scattered on tables. Another room is dedicated to creating museum display cases; artifacts in cardboard boxes are stacked on floor-to-ceiling shelves. 

On a weekend in early March, Martin adds the finishing touches to the Etch A Sketch pieces, when he’s not rearranging African relics for a collector’s exhibition.

The seemingly random business is an amalgamation of Martin’s previous careers. The native Midwesterner attended Iowa State and planned to be an architect, but quickly realized it wasn’t his calling.

“I didn’t care about the math of keeping a building up,” he says. “I just want to make the building pretty.”

So he majored in art instead and moved overseas after graduating. Martin landed a job at a museum, a career he continued to pursue after he returned to the United States. After a three-year stint at Fort Worth Modern, Martin opted to start his own business, one that combined all of his interests. 

Now his creative streak, and a piece of his childhood, is visible here in Lake Highlands.