Of the Murderers Row at the Daily Nexus in the late 80s, early 90s, our secret weapon was the Art Desk. Led by your boy Todd Francis, no fewer than a dozen artists could be seen in the award winning college newspaper’s pages during any given week. Any one of them would have been stars on their own on any other paper, but at the Nexus they were just another great reason to smile.
Drew Martin was tall, quiet, sensitive, insightful, with a spirituality of an Indian shaman mixed with the calm of a 747 pilot.
While his peers donned thrift store chic and mismatched socks, Drew was impeccably dapper, with ironed shirts and GQ style. He was clearly a cop.
But his cartoons were out of this world.
The one I remember most was a series about a tall skinny young man who had many questions for the universe.
Obviously autobiographical, but not at all narcissistic, in one episode the hero strips down nude and climbs the Career Resource Building on campus at night and stares into the stars and eventually falls asleep, fragile, innocent, and open to answers.
I believe some watercolors were involved, lots of lines, and some backwards lettering. Not at all the type of juvenile frat boy / sorority chick nonsense you’d see in papers around the country, this was deep, inspiring shit.
And like I said before, it was just one of the long line of illustrative genius within the pages that many took for granted from the Nexus because it came at you every damn day. Each day beefier than the next. Each page more fascinating. Each week a cacophony of creativity.
Because Drew was sent from another planet to keep an eye on our friends, he accepted Matt Welch and Ben Sullivan’s invitation to join English language newspaper in Prague they’d started after we were all done at UCSB. Beers were fifty cents and rent was $50 and instead of being another forgotten intern at some dusty weekly, these revolutionaries got to continue to blaze new journalistic paths on their own terms with the spirit of the world’s greatest college rag as their compass.
While many of the staff dressed and looked like this:
Drew looked like this:
photos by Karen Broome
I only remember working personally with Drew one time at the Daily Nexus. (A nod to the saying about Woodstock: if you remember it, you weren’t there) I was putting together Friday Magazine which had always been a comedy publication but because I didn’t think I could pull of 8 pages of yucks, I turned it into a druggie thing called Fryday Magazine in hopes of quickly being relieved of my duties. My wish was to edit something I felt confident about: the arts and music section.
So the plan was to fill every page with different ways to do drugs on campus and in neighboring Isla Vista. And who better to exploit than our huge stable of artists. Instead of page numbers I had the talented Moish draw a variety of mushrooms. So on page two there would be two mushrooms, page three would have three… On the cover was a drawing of a student reading the issue they were holding in their hand while his mind was exploding with all sorts of psychedelia and clip art. Inside there was a map with tips on where to do what and where not to do the other.
Of course I wanted Drew to contribute and I’m not sure if he did or not but I do remember one moment of clarity. After I explained the theme, Drew said a friend of his was going to try LSD for the first time and he asked if I had any advice. That question inspired me to ask a different artist to create some art that we would put in squares on the paper and deem “do it yourself blotter: just add acid” so the readers could literally get high off their school’s newspaper.
I looked Drew right in the eye and very slowly said, “before one takes any hallucinogens, one should clean one’s room.”
Yesterday, a million years after we ruled the world beneath Storke Tower, Drew asked for and received an interview with me and I was very honored to participate. You can read it here on his long running blog The Museum of Peripheral Art.