Jeff Martin and Christian Awe | Art in the Kitchen and Wynwood Walls

Cooking Up a Masterpiece


Australian artist Jeff Martin serves playful paintings of the world’s top restaurant kitchens. Martin’s story appeared in the April 2011 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.

By Tamera Lenz Muente


Visit the bustling kitchen of one of the world’s top restaurants on a given night, and you might just catch someone positioned in the corner, capturing the action with a sketchbook. Self-taught Australian artist Jeff Martin worked in some of Melbourne’s most critically acclaimed restaurants for more than 19 years. He’s transformed himself into an astute observer of elite kitchens, sketching and painting the unique spaces and the people who work in them.

Jeff Martin Drawing in a French Kitchen | Back of House

Jeff Martin, pictured here drawing in the kitchen at Bras Relais and Châteaux in Laguiole, France, creates paintings from 15 to 20 sketches drawn from life. “I was very excited to see green in a kitchen, a first for me,” said the artist of his experience in this exclusive French Restaurant.


Martin presents these fast-paced environments on canvas in his Back of House (the restaurant industry term for behind-the-scenes) series. So far he’s completed more than 30 paintings of Melbourne’s and Sydney’s top restaurants and is currently on a journey to paint the kitchens of Europe’s premier dining establishments. As of this writing, he has visited, sketched and photographed restaurant kitchens in Denmark, the Netherlands, France and Italy. Many of them are at the top of the Michelin star charts.

Martin typically spends one night in each kitchen. “By the end of an evening, I usually have 15 to 20 sketches and around 500 photographs,” says the artist. He uses the photographs for color reference, while his exuberant drawings convey the energy of each scene.

Jeff Martin's Sketch of Noma in Copenhagen | Back of House

Jeff Martin made this sketch at Noma in Copenhagen, currently ranked number one on the prestigious S. Pelligrino list of the world’s best restaurants. The drawing captures the close proximity in which the chefs work, and its spontaneity mirrors the figures’ movements.


“Working from the sketches is key to the immediacy of my work,” he says. He makes at least one drawing to determine the painting’s composition, and several studies of the chefs at work. “As I look at my sketches and review the photographs back in my studio, I’m easily transported back to my experience in that particular kitchen—its smells, tastes, everything.”

The paintings dish out cool palettes and repetition of shapes—circles of pots and pans, rectangles of stainless steel countertops, white ovals of chef hats—while offering a unique compositional flavor. Why does Martin continually return to these spaces of culinary creativity? “My passion for the industry is the key that keeps me coming back for more,” he says. “I love what these people do day in and day out. They are creative and dedicated, which is easy to admire.”


"Sean's Panorama" by Jeff Martin | Back of House Sydney

Jeff Martin’s painting of the kitchen at Sean’s Panorama—”Sean’s Panorama” (oil, 59×71)—located in Sydney on the north side of the famous Bondi Beach, was part of his Back of House–Sydney series.


Public Art in Miami


By Cherie Haas

Wynwood Walls in Miami, Florida, is proud to be the home of a permanent exhibition of cutting-edge, large-scale street art. An open-air park, this creative space has become the focal point of Wynwood’s artistic center and is a popular destination during Art Basel Miami and throughout the year. In addition to the new and existing international mural installations, visitors can check out dozens of galleries and arts organizations in the neighborhood.

The images below show Christian Awe working on some murals for Wynwood Kitchen and Bar, the newest restaurant in this evolving area.

Large-Scale Murals for Wynwood Kitchen and Bar by Christian Awe | Wynwood Walls


Wynwood Kitchen and Bar Murals by Christian Awe | Wynwood Walls


Read more artists’ inspirational stories in “The Artist’s Life” column from the April 2011 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.


Paul Fenniak is another oil paint artist who paints narratives into his oil paintings. Read more about his techniques in this oil painting demonstration.


If you’re looking to put figures in your works like Jeff Martin, then these tutorials about flesh tones by Tom Root and darker skin tones by Chris Saper are sure to be helpful!



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