Martens is inspired by Shih-t’ao (1642-1707), one of the most famous Chinese painters in the early Qing dynasty. He was considered revolutionary during that time because he didn't believe in imitating old masters, while he respected them, he forged his own path. He valued innovation, and as such, he used bold, impressionistic brushstrokes and he left white space to suggest distance. Above all, Shih-t’ao believed that the artist must trust his or her own ability. He coined the term Holistic Brushstroke, which means that one could create something out of nothing. As Martens describes it, "Optimally, it contains no planned thought. It emanates from 'emptiness.'"
Here's how the artist describes his own work. "Just as the union of calligraphy ink and paper always provides unexpected results, so does the watercolor on this rough hand made paper. Especially when calligraphy brushes are used. Each paper reacts differently to the medium. Sometimes it absorbs immediately, and other times it doesn’t absorb at all. A simple brush provides less control than fine one, and sometimes the opposite is true. This uncertainty is what inspires me. What will happen this time? In order to give life to some areas I sometimes use salt on the paper, which creates unexpected patterns as the paint dries. All in order to confront the unexpected."
Below, you can watch Martens at work in a fascinating video he produced with Cricket Fine Art back in 2012.