How Drawing Can Set You Free, Artists Shantell Martin & Laolu Senbanjo, TED, Room & Board, RefinedNG and Our Paths to Greatness

How Drawing Can Set You Free, Artists Shantell Martin & Laolu Senbanjo, TED, Room & Board, RefinedNG and Our Paths to Greatness

Culture Type

Known for Her Free-Form Line Drawings, Shantell Martin is Collaborating With the New York City Ballet – Culture Type 

Empire Entertainment

Empire – Shantell Martin’s “Charge Your Self” Exhibition

UTA Artist Space

Shantell Martin – UTA Artist Space


Influential Voices: An Interview with Artist Shantell Martin – BOOOOOOOM! – CREATE * INSPIRE * COMMUNITY * ART * DESIGN * MUSIC * FILM * PHOTO * PROJECTS

New Britain Museum of American Art

NEW/NOW: Shantell Martin | Live Drawing | NBMAA

Whitewall Magazine

Shantell Martin: Albright Knox, Max Mara, and “ ARE YOU YOU? ”

Shantell Martin

Shantell Martin — Work: Charge Yourself

California Home+Design

15 Minutes with Shantell Martin | California Home+Design


Pin on Shantell Martin stuff


Shantell Martin. Shantell Martin’s work is a meditation… | by Depict | Moving Art | Medium

  Room & Board

Q&A with Artist Shantell Martin – Room & Board

Shantell Martin is a visual artist based in New York best known for her stream-of-consciousness drawings. Using her simple trademark—black ink and white surfaces—Shantell’s illustrations have transformed everything from walls, found objects, ceramics and sneakers into a visual narrative. Her hand-illustrated bedroom walls appeared on the cover of the New York Times home section in May 2012.


By Room & Board Team | June 23, 2015


Shantell Martin is a visual artist based in New York best known for her stream-of-consciousness drawings. Using her simple trademark—black ink and white surfaces—Shantell’s illustrations have transformed everything from walls, found objects, ceramics and sneakers into a visual narrative. Her hand-illustrated bedroom walls appeared on the cover of the New York Times home section in May 2012.

Shantell is currently a visiting scholar at MIT Media Lab and an adjunct professor at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. In her spare time, she volunteers with schools and nonprofit organizations. Recently, Shantell teamed up with amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, to help raise awareness and find a cure for HIV/AIDS by designing a limited-edition beach towel. The towel’s bold design features one of her trademark black-and-white illustrations and the inscription, “Be Epic, Cure AIDS.”

Beach towel designed by Shantell Martin

Room & Board has long supported non-profits dedicated to strengthening home and family, as well as organizations that support those living with AIDS and institutions celebrating art and design. When amfAR asked us to donate a (black or white) furniture piece that would be adorned by Shantell and auctioned off for charity, we jumped at the opportunity.

Here are some behind-the-scenes photos of Shantell transforming our Lira leather lounge chair in her Tribeca studio.

This photo courtesy of Rachel Carr

Photo courtesy of Rachel Carr

Photo courtesy of Rachel Carr

The online auction, powered by Artsy, will also feature artworks by Robert Beck, William Eggleston, Steven Klein, Brett Lloyd, David McDermott and Peter McGough, Robert Rauschenberg, Cindy Sherman and Sam Taylor-Johnson. Bidding opened June 16 and closes June 30 at 12 p.m. ET on Artsy.

Shantell’s creation will be on view at the amfAR generationCURE Solstice Auction event tonight at The Hudson Hotel in New York City, where guests may place bids online for the chair along with the other art pieces via Artsy kiosks and mobile phones.

Q&A with Shantell Martin

We took the opportunity to connect with Shantell to learn more about her background, inspiration and drawing process.

Who is Shantell Martin?

Shantell Martin is an interesting character; each day she begins with a series of sneezing. She seems to cope very well at being both a very serious, practical person, while at the same time being a big kid. Never really showing the world when she is extremely excited or disappointed. Shantell loves to learn, to talk with people who know more than she does about pretty much any subject, she is hardworking and kind, sometimes she has more energy than she knows what to do with it and when given the chance will dance around a room to exert some of that extra energy. She is ambitious and loves the idea that we are always growing our capacity to be better kinder human BEings.

When I was six, I thought I would grow up to be a:

It was probably more like nine or ten when I started to think I could grow up to be something and for me that something was a runner or/and a cartoonist, not sure I understood the actual job roll of a cartoonist back then, but I did watch a lot of cartoons, which I thought was more than enough skill needed for the job.

When did you start drawing?

Not sure at what age I started drawing, but I remember being around seven years old when I realized it was a perfect way to escape, to control, to daydream.

Describe your drawing process.

Pretty much no matter what the scale or the surface is I start practically all my drawings with an initial line; I call this line the DNA this is the foundation, the structure, the thread that holds the drawing together. After I’ve drawn the DNA I look for clues in the lines like you would in a crossword puzzle. For example if there is a smooth line that looks like the side of a face I will draw a mouth then a nose and then eyes, if there is a part of the line that looks like land I will draw trees, then the sun and then birds and so on until I get this STOP feeling that tells me that the drawing is complete.

Where do you go for inspiration?

Sometimes I find it odd that we feel we need to go somewhere or do something to be inspired, yes there is definitely inspiration out there in the world, but there is also a lot of inspiration in there too. I like to wonder around my thoughts, my memories, I work on my daily life at being a more understanding, more compassionate, less reactful human being, I try to eat, drink and think well, I try my best at being a better version of me: all which is incredibly hard work, but all that work can help inspire you in your life, with your goals and in your career.

Take us inside your studio space.

You walk in and are hit by how light and bright the space is, you look up to see a large skylight above you, then down, you see a series of black and white objects, art pieces, wall drawings, airplanes, along side light pieces that say things like ARE YOU YOU and YOU ARE WHO. The space makes you feel relaxed and calm, you feel free, you begin to take a second closer look and discover another world, another level of drawings and stories.

Art should be:

A form of understanding, of questioning, of expression, it should be something that is inclusive.

How has your time spent in Japan influenced your art?

Living in Japan mostly influenced me in the sense that it gave me space to feel free, a space to discover more about me. I moved there right after school in 2003 and found myself in a place where for the first time no one knew me, there were no friends or family in sight, no one was projecting on me who they believed me to be and I was not living up to or filling in any roles that have already been carved for out for me. I really had a chance to discover, to learn, to forgive, to grow in Japan, which really fundamentally helped me as an individual.

What do you find most rewarding about your career?

If I were to describe my job, it might look a little like this: Travels around globe, draws on everything, meets amazing people, talks at conferences, teaches at renowned intuitions. Responsibilities: Be you, have fun, be professional, learn a lot, give a lot, don’t forget to love what you do.

Describe your design style.

Super minimal, strong bold lines and shapes.

What won’t we catch you without?

For over 10 years (maybe even longer), I had had a comb hidden in my hair and a pen in my pocket.

My perfect Saturday would include:

I’ve always loved Saturdays. I remember waking up super early as a kid to go watch cartons and eat cereal. Now I still wake up early, but will normally head to the studio early to knock out a bunch of work.

What do you collect?

Now not much, I’ve been working towards the opposite for many, many years. However, if you asked me what I ‘used’ to collect I could be here all day typing a long list of stuff.

What advice would you give struggling artists who believe they are following their calling?

Plan A has to be the same as plan B and C. When you see your friends go off and get good paying jobs, start to buy homes and cars and you’re sleeping on a couch, you have to trust that it will work. You have to also make sure that you not only have the talent you need, but also work on being organized, social, kind, professional. The days where an artist could just make art and be successful are all but gone, now it’s a whole package, a whole list of skill sets you need to require.

Photos by Roy Rochlin, and Rachel Carr 

For more information, please visit the following link:

Who are you? To answer this question, artist Shantell Martin followed her pen. In this brilliantly visual talk featuring her signature freestyle line work — drawn across everything from the screens of Times Square to the bodies of New York City Ballet dancers — Martin shares how she found freedom and a new perspective through art. See how drawing can connect your hand to your heart and deepen your connection with the world.

This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by our editors on the home page.


Shantell Martin · Artist

Shantell Martin forges new connections between fine art, education, philosophy and technology to establish an environment that values artists as integral contributors to a healthy society.



Learn how to draw with Shantell Martin.

Learn more ?

TED2020  | May 2020


written by RefinedNG July 6, 2020


“Everything is my canvas” says Laolu Senbanjo also known as Laolu NYC, the Nigerian artist who is putting Yoruba and Nigeria on the Map one canvas at a time. Laolu is a visual artist, musician, a human rights lawyer, and activist. Born and bred in Ilorin, his roots are constantly present in his works from canvas to shoes, to walls and buildings, to clothing and even the body with his Sacred Art of the Ori. Laolu is a graduate of law from the University of Ilorin. 

As a visual artist, Laolu has collaborated with and designed several highly rated celebrities, brands, and products including Nike’s Air Max, Beyoncé’s album Lemonade, the Grammy Museum, Kenneth Cole, Nike, Equinox Fitness, Starbucks, Belvedere, Bvlgari, TED, the Smithsonian Institution and many more.  He has also partnered with Danielle Brooks, Angelique Kidjo, Kenneth Cole, Alicia Keys, Usher, and Lupita Nyongo, as well as features on several international newspapers such as NY Times, Vogue, BBC.


Laolu Senbanjo created the Afromysterics genre, which means the mystery of the African thought pattern. According to him, every pattern is a storyline with a message in it. Laolu is all about spreading the gospel of his arts and patterns. He is super proud of his Yoruba roots and uses his visuals to demonstrate his journey and worldview.  

Laolu’s art integrates African themes and traditions; he is an advocate of “holding onto your culture and spreading its glory. Thus, he uses charcoal and distinct patterns to create complex, story-rich art designs that draw heavily on his Yoruba heritage and features ancient Nigerian symbols and patterns.

However, as a musician, Laolu draws his inspirations from Fela Kuti, Sade Adu, Bob Marley, and King Sunny Adé. His musical style is enshrined in the traditions of Afrobeat and High Life, mixed with Afro-Soul and Reggae. His music imbibes the Yoruba language and often translates Yoruba folks’ songs, proverbs, and oriki into English. 

Evidently, as an activist and human rights lawyer, Laolu uses art to convey his activism. Prior to converting fully to an artist, he worked as a human rights lawyer for five years, spending his final three years working at the National Human Rights Commission as a senior legal officer focusing on women and children’s rights.

Laolu Senbanjo is an inspiration and we are so proud. Keep rising Laolu. 


For more information, please visit the following link:                          

Interview with Laolu Senbanjo


Laolu Senbanjo was the keynote speaker at the launch and fundraising gala of Our Paths to Greatness on Sunday, May 22, 2016 in Silver spring Civic Center, Silver Spring, Maryland. He inspired the attendees as he spoke about his journey and what kept him going.

Our team interviewed him about his many paths to greatness:

You’re many things – visual artist, musician, human rights lawyer, tell us, who is Laolu Senbanjo?

Laolu is a visual artist, musician, human rights lawyer and activist.  

You decided to move from the corporate/professional world into the arts. Why? What broke the camel’s back?  What made you make take that plunge?  Tell us about that journey.

The journey was a long arduous one.  I never wanted to be a lawyer.  It’s my father’s dream for me…and I did fulfill that dream.  But it was never my dream.  Most days in my office I would spend a significant part of my day drawing at my desk and I always couldn’t wait for the close of work to rush to my gallery to go and paint.  It got to a point eventually where I just couldn’t do it anymore.  It was too hard to share 24 hours with my day job.  So, I left my work as a human rights lawyer, traveled a bit to France, Germany and South Africa for some exhibitions and concerts.  Then I realized if I really was serious, I needed to leave Nigeria to truly explore myself and my Art.  That led me to Brooklyn and I actually flourished artistically, not financially at first but artistically I’ve truly grown and that really helped me.  

You wear many hats, how do you juggle it all? How do you prioritize?
Well, my team helps me a lot.  That is important, to surround yourself with brilliant people.  Also, I just have to prioritize what’s most important to me and to my brand.  

Who and/or what inspired you on your path?

Well, in Nigeria people like Ghariokwu Lemi, Nike Okundaye who are both Artists and thriving and staying true to their Art forms.  Also, I would say in the states, Lupita.  Lupita has really inspired me. Also, there are some individuals in Brooklyn who have inspired me and believed in me
since I set foot in America.  

What in your estimation is the single most important thing every individual needs to possess to succeed in life?

The ability to work hard and believe in yourself.  

What’s in the horizon for you?
A lot actually and it feels amazing to say this.  I have several exhibitions coming up, one on May 31st in Brooklyn.  Also, I am an Art Activist with Amnesty International where I get to merge my Artistic talents and my human rights background into one role.  Also, I have a new album in the works.

What haven’t you done yet that you would like to accomplish?
Do a US music tour.  Have an exhibition at the MoMA.  Get my art into the Louvre.  

What advice can you give the next generation that you wish someone had told you.
Never give up.  If you do work hard, network with people, and really push your dreams, you can accomplish them.  It may not be easy, or fast, but you can accomplish them.

How can people connect with you?

Laolu arrived at the event unpretentious and down to earth. He spoke about his upbringing and how his Grandmother influenced his art. His African roots and how they have helped build a niche a him for his in the visual arts market. His journey was not an easy one. From struggling to keep a 9-5 job and then running to work on his art after work, to throwing art exhibitions in Abuja. People would ask him what exactly he was doing but he kept at it. His advice to the guests at the launch was to keep putting out their best work because you never know who is watching. In his case, Beyoncé, Nike and equinox where is work has either been featured or
commissioned. Africa and the world waits in anticipation for greater things from Laolu.

Be inspired to inspire.

For more information, please visit the following link:          

Laolu Senbanjo’s Artworks

Every artist has a name, and every artist has a story. Laolu Senbanjo’s story started in Nigeria, where he was surrounded by the culture and mythology of the Yoruba, and brought him to law school, to New York and eventually to work on Beyoncé’s “Lemonade.” He shares what he calls “The Sacred Art of the Ori,” art that uses skin as canvas and connects artist and muse through mind, body and soul.

This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by our editors on the home page.


Laolu Senbanjo · Artist, musician, lawyer, activist

Laolu Senbanjo’s motto is: “Everything is my canvas.”

TED2017 | April 2017

Comics creator Sam Hester is part of a growing movement within health care: graphic medicine. In short, literally drawing attention to a patient’s needs and goals with pictures to foster better and more accessible caretaking. Hester shares how illustrating small details of her mother’s medical story as she struggled with mysterious symptoms alongside her Parkinson’s and dementia led to more empathy, understanding, communication and peace of mind.

This talk was presented to a local audience at TEDxYYC, an independent event. TED’s editors chose to feature it for you.


Sam Hester · Graphic recorder

A leader in the emerging field of graphic recording, Sam Hester creates visual stories. Her work draws upon deep listening skills, a unique graphic style, a passion for community-building … and a lot of markers.



Learn more about the graphic medicine movement.

Learn more ?


TEDx was created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading.” It supports independent organizers who want to create a TED-like event in their own community.

Find a TEDx event near you ?

TEDxYYC | June 2021

Become a TED Member

Want to hear more great ideas like this one? Sign up for TED Membership to get exclusive access to captivating conversations, engaging events, and more!

Join Now

In an invitation to slow down and look at the world around you, graphic journalist Wendy MacNaughton illustrates how drawing can spark deeply human, authentic connections. Ready to try? Grab a pencil and join MacNaughton for this delightful talk. “Drawing is looking, and looking is loving,” she says.

This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by our editors on the home page.


Wendy MacNaughton · Illustrator, graphic journalist

An illustrator and graphic journalist with a background in social work, Wendy MacNaughton believes drawing is an essential tool to help everyone — young and old — slow down, look closely and connect with one another.



Learn more about Draw Together, Wendy MacNaughton’s immersive online art class for kids.

Learn more ?


Explore Wendy MacNaughton’s website.

TEDMonterey | August 2021

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