A lot of 11-year-olds draw or paint, and a lot of them are good at it. But 11-year-old John Martin Stickler has an Etsy store to sell prints of his drawings.
He has had a trunk show at East River Trading Co. in Dothan, and local retailer Naomi & Olive has been selling John Martin’s prints for a while. In his Etsy store, his prints sell for $15 to $18. Customers may or may not know the artist is 11 and about to start the sixth grade.
John Martin has found a niche with his quirky anthropomorphic characters – animals given human traits. The drawings themselves are interesting, but his chosen canvases add another layer of character – old state maps and pages from antique atlases, antique or vintage paper documents, and a page from a “Poultry Culture” magazine. He’s even drawn of few of his characters on a small globe.
It’s hard for John Martin to choose a favorite among his drawings.
There’s the panther wearing a vest, bow tie and a monocle. The yellowhammer he drew over an old map of Alabama is one of his best sellers. There’s also the vegan jaguar holding a banana, a mastodon on an old dictionary page, or the painted horse dressed like a cowboy and holding a cream soda. But he really likes the surfing shark he drew over a map of Hawaii.
“I hope to do art my whole life,” the 11-year-old said. “I’ll probably try out some different things whenever I get older − when I finish the whole world.”
John Martin has been drawing his “whole” life, but last year his family took a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. There, John Martin saw Native American drawings on old maps and sheets of paper. There were drawings of characters in masks. While still on vacation, he drew his first anthropomorphic character.
He uses pencils, pens and watercolor markers to create his pieces that typically get a perch on the family’s mantle after they’re done.
His parents – Justin and Darby Stickler – have encouraged John Martin’s skills. His dad, an archaeologist, likes old maps so he started turning maps he had collected over to his son. Stickler has even found old French paper with watermarks. John Martin drew a French bulldog on it.
“It’s just fun finding all this old stuff with character and then you add art on top of it,” Justin Stickler said.
John Martin’s original pieces are taken to a printer in Valdosta, Georgia, where they’re scanned and prints are made.
Feedback has been positive. An interior designer sent the Sticklers a photo of a set of John Martin’s prints that had been bought, framed and hung in a children’s room.
Along with the art work available at Naomi & Olive, you can find John Martin’s drawings on Instagram by searching John Martin Art. Or, there’s the Etsy store his dad created for him − www.etsy.com/shop/JohnMartinArtCo. He’s bought a few books with the money he has earned but for the most part the earnings go into a savings account.
John Martin is one of four children – he has older sisters, Morgan and Paige, and a younger brother, Levi. Like any parents, Justin Stickler said he and Darby try to support the natural gifts they see in their children.
“It’s interesting trying to push him to do his best at something and then also to understand he’s 11,” Justin said. “(There’s) satisfaction in seeing him accomplish really beautiful things. Just like a child pitching a great ballgame or doing really well in school – these things that we’re proud of as parents.”
John Martin has drawn on maps of a few countries outside the United States. Eventually, he hopes to draw characters on each of the 50 states. He usually does some research to determine what animal would work with a state. Some states are easier than others. The larger states can be a challenge because they are often printed on multiple pages. Smaller states like Rhode Island and Delaware are often clustered together on maps. And then there are states where the lines of rivers, mountains and counties make it difficult to distinguish his own lines from the map lines.
Original drawings are not typically sold, just the prints. But there have been some exceptions, John Martin said.
“Even if I really like an original … it really feels good when you sell it because you think somebody framed it – the real thing – in their house,” he said.