When Dan Martens’ love for graffiti art started getting him in trouble with the law, he knew it was time to start making some better choices.
Instead of quitting altogether, he decided to evolve his talent and make a career out of it.
Here in his hometown of Calgary, 26 year-old Martens — who goes professionally by the name Tric Martins — now focuses on making his name professionally as an artist.
Street art, or grafitti, is a serious criminal offence when done illegally..
According to a 2015 article by the RCMP, graffiti is the most common form of vandalism and can lead to up to $5,000 in charges and/or two years in jail.
Martens eventually received that shocking ticket from police in 2015 after getting caught painting underneath a highway bridge.
“The bridge was already covered in graffiti so I didn’t think it was such a big deal,” he says. “The cops thought otherwise and slapped me with a $5,000 ticket.”
After that, Martens says, “I thought, I may as well put an ad on Kijiji and try to make money instead of having to pay money.”
As is the case with many artists, getting a career started was not a simple task, but Marten’s says he has grown substantially, especially in comparison to his rebellious teen years.
One of his first paid gigs was painting snowboards in Canmore.
Since then, Martens says his projects are becoming “bigger and better,” despite the occasional difficulty of finding clients and working within their occasionally-tight budgets.
His most rewarding job, to-date, is a giant mural at Vision Sports Centre in Calgary, which he happened to land by doing some pro bono graffiti art for another local business, Olympus Boxing Gym.
“All by word of mouth, I got that job,” says Martens, who completed the mural in the summer of 2018.
All-in-all, the job took Martens a total of 200 hours over the span of two months.
He used approximately 250 cans of spray paint on the 56 x six metre wall.
Right now, Martens’ biggest challenge is getting his name out there – but he remains optimistic.
“Once the snowball gets rolling, it gets a little better,” says Martens. “But it’s still a struggle every day.”
The biggest lesson he says he has learned is to never turn down job offers, even if they may not pay as well as he hopes.
“I’ve found that as soon as you turn something down, then some other door closes as well,” says Martens.
“I strongly encourage others to follow their passions and not sink into an unfulfilling career. There is a whole other side to life when you start chasing a dream, and tons of lessons you may never be taught otherwise.”
“You could have painted for [someone] even though it was a smaller wage, and then [they] would have had a friend — or two friends — that want something done,” he explains.
This is the snowball effect Martens refers to, and the Vision Sports Centre mural is a perfect example of it.
Martens still enjoys sticking to his graffiti roots, but he continues to challenge himself with new projects.
“My style has evolved quite a bit from graffiti to more fine art and portrait. It’s more realism,” he says. “Mostly that comes from customers wanting something other than graffiti.”
Similarly, Martens says that street art as an overall artform is becoming more recognized and appreciated in Calgary, despite laws against any illegal practice of it.
The unconventionality of Martens career choice does not deter him, and he says it shouldn’t deter others either.
“I strongly encourage others to follow their passions and not sink into an unfulfilling career,” he says. “There is a whole other side to life when you start chasing a dream, and tons of lessons you may never be taught otherwise.”
At the end of the day, Martens says he wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what he has if it werent for the ongoing love and support from his family and friends. For that, he thanks them.