Kyle Martin is sitting on a bench in the middle of a hundred-year-old chicken coop on his family farm in rural Rock Springs. “When my grandparents bought the farm in the late forties, the price of eggs was actually very good. The eggs that came out of this chicken coop actually paid for the farm.”
Today, the chicken coop looks very different. “It is a converted chicken coop that has become my studio and my gallery to showcase my artwork.” Kyle is a plein air (French for “in the open air”) landscape painter. The white wooden walls of the chicken coop are covered in oil paintings of all colors and sizes, reflecting his rural surroundings.
“My father was a hard-working farmer and my mother worked two full-time jobs. When I came home and said that I wanted to go to college for art, they could have said, ‘Yeah, try something else,'” says Kyle with a big smile. “But they were very supportive.” That shows as Kyle greets his mom with a big warm hug when she stops by during the interview. “My mother is my biggest fan,” he shares.
Kyle’s work is dedicated to the memory of his father who passed away from a farming accident in 2008. “He got to see me have my first show. I really started pushing hard in 2008 with landscape painting. I was going out every day, doing a painting start to finish in one setting. He instilled that work ethic into me,” says Kyle.
Kyle also remembers the important role one of his teachers played when pursuing his passion for painting. “In my junior year, we had a new art teacher come to the school and she was very encouraging with painting. I would take all the art classes, but she would just allow me to paint the whole time.”
Kyle ended up studying graphic design and illustration at Madison Area Technical College. “We also had a painting class, and that was my first introduction to painting en plein air. And after that day, that was it. I was just hooked.”
Another big passion in Kyle’s life involves wheels, motion and – just as his T-shirt reads – “Freedom.” “They’re completely opposite, but they’re intertwined as well. Skateboarding is just motion and freedom. And a lot of times you almost get to turn your brain off.” Kyle has been skateboarding since 1989 and it shows with the number of difficult tricks Kyle manages to pull off at the local Reedsburg skatepark.
Kyle shares his art skills, knowledge and technique with people all around Wisconsin, and beyond its border. He usually runs four to six workshops per year. “I think he’s masterful in painting shapes. It’s almost to an abstraction, and then you step away and the scene just pops into view. So, that’s just such a sign of an incredible painter,” shares Cindy Wagner, one of Kyle’s workshop attendees at the Peninsula School of Art in the fall of 2021.
You can find and follow Kyle online or meet him in person at one of his workshops, or at his biggest annual event, Fall Art Tour, that takes place the third weekend of every October. However, if you often drive around Sauk County, you will likely spot him with his easel on the side of a road, capturing the magic of the first – or last – light of the day. “The reason to paint is to show that energy of that time of day. It’s just… nothing is better,” says Kyle.
Three Keys to Success
Kyle, while painting a barn in Vernon County, explains the three most important tools he uses to get the best results.
Reedsburg Needs a Skatepark
Kyle shares a story from the early days of skateboarding, and the community effort that generated the opening of the first skatepark in Reedsburg.