Discover Jetro Martinez's Bambu print and his inspiration


Jetro Martinez is a Mexican-born,San Francisco- based painter and muralist.

He most recently was asked by Facebook to be their first Artist-in-Residence in which they commissioned Martinez to create artwork for their Menlo Park, California headquarters.

In addition to exhibiting paintings throughout the country and internationally, his public works can be found in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Arizona, Colorado, and in Mexico, Brazil and Switzerland. Jet is passionate about public art, and as an organizational member of the Clarion Alley Mural Project, he aims to fulfill a vision of a more colorful, engaging and imaginative San Francisco. He sees murals and graffiti as one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s most common form of folk art. Art for the people by the people.


How did you get your start as an artist?
I have been drawing, painting, assembling and decorating for as long as I can remember.
I decided to really pursue a career as an artist in 1996 before attending the San Francisco Art Institute.
How and when did you begin as a professional artist?
I sold my first 15 paintings between 1993 and 1995 and felt that it seemed possible to pursue a career as an artist. Of course, after that I didn’t sell anything for over a year. My first paid mural commission was in 2001. I have been working as a muralist and gallery artist ever since.
Did you always know you wanted to work in the medium you do?
I spent the first part of my life in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and was exposed quite early to some of the greatest Mexican muralists. In my town there were murals by Diego Rivera, and in Mexico City I saw many by Orozco, Siqueiros, and Tamayo to name a few. For me, the mural has always been the greatest form of painting that one could do. I have always aspired to be a muralist, and even though I am one, I am humbled and thrilled by the medium. Each new project feels like a new beginning, and I love it. An interesting side effect of painting murals for a living is that it has allowed my studio painting to develop at its own pace. Since I don’t need to depend on the gallery work to make a living, I am able to explore many different avenues of painting.
How did you begin creating mural art?
I did a couple minor projects when I was young and moved to San Francisco because I was very interested in the mural and graffiti scene in the mid 90’s. My first mural in the city was a large scale reproduction of Muybridge’s motion capture stills of a gibbon swinging. Then I wrote up a couple proposals for neighborhood businesses that got tagged often and was given permission to paint a mural. I printed cards, started passing them out and many, many murals later I’ve created a nice little niche for myself. I have approached painting murals as a craft, and have tried working with as many masters as possible. I have worked for companies painting murals for casinos in Las Vegas, wall treatments for the incredibly wealthy, and just about every kind of mural and faux finishing that one can do. It has always been important to me to have meaning and a message to the murals I paint. Recently I have been creating works with the intent of creating beautiful spaces in out of the ordinary settings.
What is your favorite mural that you have created and why?
My favorite mural is always the one I am about to do. I remember the experiences while painting each mural, but in the end, the excitement comes from the next mural, where I can redeem myself for the mistakes I made in past. One of my favorite murals to paint was a large pink geometric façade covering an entire street block. It was very simple to paint and created a strong 3D effect in 13 tones of pink. It took me exactly 10 days to finish. I had just come off of an immense mural of an intricately detailed, 125’ long psychedelic jungle that took me 9 months to finish...and it still didn’t feel done. I think the change of pace was really important, and taught me something about letting go and flowing a bit more.
What is it that inspires you about the art scene in San Francisco? How is it different than other cities?
The art scene in San Francisco and the Bay Area in general is really alive. It takes doing projects in other places to see how special it is. The ground work has already been laid by the giants that preceded me and other public artists in SF. There is a strong appreciation of mural art and graffiti that you don’t find in other cities. The Bay Area is blessed with incredible natural beauty, and I feel like that intrinsically nurtures artistic thought. I don’t feel that SF is unique in its great appreciation for art, but it can be counted as one of the world’s great incubators of art and artists.
What inspires your art in general?
Sometimes the greatest inspiration is just the ability to paint and create. I have 2 kids under 4 and they require a lot of attention so those moments when I can paint are golden. Sometimes, when I’m playing with them at the park, I’m thinking of images I want to paint, so that by the time I get in studio or on a wall, I already have an idea. I think that most people would look at my art and see that my work is heavily inspired by Nature and I try to use plants, flowers and animals to talk about larger concepts, like identity, love, solitude, politics and the like. My artist wife inspires me. My children inspire me. Life inspires me. Sometimes, even I inspire me.
Was being an artist your dream? Were you artistic as a child?
Yes and no. When I was a kid, I wanted to be Luke Skywalker and a geologist. I guess I knew that there were artists, but where I grew up, being an artist was kind of an outsider thing and didn’t really occur to me that it was something you could be. Being an artist has been my adult dream. I was an artistic child, but as such, I wasn’t so apt to consider the business of my career, and therefore never really thought of my talent as a way to make a living. I still feel like I am living in a dream, and soon, very soon, I will wake up.
If you weren’t creating art, what would you be doing for a living?
Wow. What else is there? A gardener? A traveler?
What would we find you doing when you aren’t creating art?
These days I am hanging with my beautiful wife and my kids Lazlo and Violet. Hiking, cooking, playing, visiting friends and living a good simple life.