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Stopping By The Studio

– Marty Riskin

There is so much evil in the world. I want to capture that in a painting, I am angry about all that is going on and I want to paint how I feel. …

Marty Riskin is an artist who has a lot to say and does much of it through his art.  I visited Marty Riskin at his studio this spring and talked about life, art and how they connect.

How old were you when you thought you would become an artist and did your family support your decision?

“In the 40’s when I was 7 or 8 I loved to draw I was influenced by my surroundings I would draw stick figures of people, superman, newspaper comic characters or whatever else.”

“I did take lessons. My mother was resigned to the fact that I was going in this direction and said that I

might as well get some lessons and maybe I’ll get a job in a hardware store. My father wanted me to be a Doctor. I think it was because that is what he always wanted for himself.

I knew it was my calling and I was good at it. I became the class artist in school, so whenever they needed art work they called on me. 

 So right from the start you never wanted to be anything else?

I am not handy with tools. All the tools that I have in my house are a dime, which is my screwdriver, and couple of nuts and a few bolts. ,

When you went to the Mass. School of Art did you think in terms of becoming a commercial artist?

MASS, at the time, was not a college. I think the tuition was about $100.00 a year. I did want to go to a higher level school like Mellon. I wanted to be a painter, not a teacher I envisioned myself in a studio doing serious art. However the reality was I had to go to a state school.

What influence did your wife Annette who was also an artist have on you if any?

She did not really have an influence, we got married about a year after leaving school and I had to get a job.  In June of 1958 I started looking in the newspapers for a job as a painter and I found that there were no jobs looking for artists. So an Uncle got me a summer job in Quincy, after that I did a few jobs. I had a job cropping 1500 drawings and after about 300 for fun I started cropping them crooked and got fired.

Finally I made a flier of a funny little man begging for a job, sent it around to all the ad agencies and got hired by one and worked my way up to art director.

For the papers do you come up with the cartoon subjects or the paper?

Most of the time I do, it is probably 90 to 10 usually I check for the events of the day both local and national things of interest. The drawing comes out of my head. Though I will check other papers for the way their cartoonist drew the event, not to steal, but so that mine will not be the same.

Did you ever regret or want to walk back a cartoon?

Yes once in a while I would like to have a do over. I try never to go too far. I don’t want to hurt anyone.

What cartoon generated the most reaction?

After 9/11, I did one with the Statue of Liberty crying and that touched a lot of people and created the most response.

You started teaching when Annette got sick and took over her class, do you wish now that you started teaching from the start?

No, I like teaching and I’m good at it. It has taught me many things but I don’t regret my choices. Through the years I do keep reinventing myself.

Now with papers doing away with editorial cartoons, it is a dying profession. Newspapers are dying too.  It is all about the money. Everything is the internet or TV that is where people get their news.  Marblehead is one of the last towns to still have editorial cartoons in their paper. That is to their credit. I thought of having a blog with my cartoons and making them generic because what happens in one town is probably repeated in many towns across the state like the plastic bag laws.

How do you feel about the fact that so many schools are doing away with their art programs?

It makes me very sad.  This is a very important serious subject with me. Can you imagine a society without art, art is noble it stands the test of time.

Do you like painting in a studio or at home and do you like it quiet or the radio on?

My apartment is too small to paint in, and I like the open studio concept here at Brush Strokes. I use to think I was a solitary person, I like people around, and I enjoy talking to other artists, I like to listen to music, talk etc.

When you start a painting what medium do you prefer?

Mixed media, mainly acrylic because it dries fast. I can’t wait for oil painting to dry I am a spontaneous painter.


Who do you admire most?

Ben Shahn, all the impressionists, Jack Levine, from the 30’s and 40’s and from the Ashcan school  .

What do you want to do next?

There is so much evil in the world. I want to capture that in a painting, I am angry about all that is going on and I want to paint how I feel. I want one meaningful painting of the injustices of the world that people will remember. I feel I am close to capturing that on canvas.  I want that to be my legacy.

Where can people see your work and how often do you have classes?

I don’t do shows, I have classes almost every day either at the Council on Aging in Marblehead, or at Brush Stokes Studios in Marblehead, and I also give private lessons at Brush or in the student’s home.

Where can you be reached?

You can reach me here at Brush Strokes on Prospect St. at the COA, or Brush Strokes website, I am in the process of building my own website or thru my e-mail address


Thank you Marty for letting us visit at your studio…..

Peggy Farrell