Freshly Laundered 032 / Martha Rich


Philadelphia based artist Martha Rich got started in the art world after a desk job turned her into someone she didn’t like so much. Learn how she transitioned into being a full-time artist and how she stays excited by work now by checking out our full interview below the break.

CB: We know you haven’t always made your living as an artist, we even heard you once worked repossessing peoples cars! Was there a driving force that brought you into the art world?

MR: Ha! Yes I was a collector for Ford Motor Credit Company in Atlanta back in the day. I sat in a cubicle with a monitor, a head set, one plant and one picture (that was all we were allowed) and called people all day about their late car payments. On several occasions they made me go out and physically repossess cars. It was kinda scary.

There was one day when I got really excited about finding a car that someone had quit paying for and was hiding from the repo man. I got up and high-fived my co-workers and at that moment I realized I was whooping and hollering about repossessing someone’s car! That’s despicable. I didn’t want to be despicable.

Then I looked at the woman in the next cubicle over. She had been with the company for 20 years and was a miserable wretch. I looked at her sitting there smoking a cigarette with a sour look on her face and I saw my future. I knew I had to get out. Fast.

I went home and in my apartment there was an Atlanta Magazine on my coffee table. I thought to myself hey I love magazines, I should work there! The next day I sent my resume and pestered them until they hired me. It turned out to be one of the best jobs I ever had and it was there where I was introduced to graphic designers, art directors, writers, editors and creative people.

So I would say this was the job that put me on the path to being an artist.


CB: That’s amazing that you had the insight to realize your job was turning you into someone you didn’t want to be, and good for you on getting out! Was painting the creative medium you started out in?

MR: Well as a kid I was a drawer. I loved drawing and drew all the time. I still love drawing. In art school they teach you everything; drawing, painting, sculpture, video, computer design and more. So I guess no painting wasn't where I started, but it is where I am now.


CB: What is your favorite medium to work in?

MR: My go to medium is acrylic on paper or wood, but I also love drawing with India ink and a brush. I love markers, spray paint, screen printing and I wish I could work in oil more, but I have bad ventilation in my studio. I can’t pick a favorite!


CB: Your paintings are so bright and colorful, where do you draw inspiration from?

MR: Well I am a fan of color. I think it stems from working in beige corporate offices for so long. Or growing up in the beige suburbs of PhiIadelphia. Although my parents had some color. Our house was a nice blue with a bright yellow door. If you think about it, a lot of buildings, homes and places in the US are beigey. So I am inspired by beige. Too much beige made me want to make things colorful! Also even though I have been doing colorful stuff for a while, my visit to Mexico City in December only reinforced my quest for color. That is one colorful place. You can even see the color when you fly into the airport! I loved it there and wish Americans were more daring and playful with color in daily life.


CB: Are there ever things about the art world that bog you down or discourage you? How do you stay excited about making new things?

MR: Oh heck yes! One of the big things that has discouraged me about the art world is that it can be pretty dang unfair and random. Comparing yourself to everyone else’s fabulous-looking careers is the worst. Getting caught up in envy sucks. Luckily the older I get the less I do this. I realize everyone is putting their best face forward and hiding their crummy stuff. So that arteest whose shiny success you covet may have a career that is not all sweetness and light. EVERYONE feels insecure. Everyone has successes and failures. Everyone I tells ya! Ya gotta put blinders on and focus on what you are making.

I stay excited by coming up with projects for myself that no one else has a say in. They always seem to lead to cool stuff, like the Stop Talking cat for instance. I did that for my 100 pieces of art for $100 project I came up with when work was slow. My corporate cubicle world experiences have made me a very don’t-tell-me-what-to-do type person so these projects are great for me. I also take time off from making art too. I like to go out and experiences things, travel, eat, drink wine with friends, read books, hang out with family and stop thinking about art for a bit.


CB: Thanks for chatting with us, Martha!

To learn more about Martha, you can check out her website, shop her artwork here and on 20x200, or follow her on twitter, instagram, and tumblr.