HANDMADE: Sharna Martorella

You know the kind of person that can do just about anything? Well I think Sharna is one of those annoyingly creative people. Become a senior graphic designer for an international brand? She’s done it. Teach graphic design? She’s done it. Start a successful business? She’s done it. Create amazingly good looking blonde-haired babies? She’s done that too. We could go on and this would be the most soul destroying read about how she’s way cooler than you, so we’ll just fire some random questions at her instead. (She’s better at answering them than you are as well).

Hi Sharna, long time. How are you?

Hey buddy, yep I’ve missed your dad jokes.

What did you have for breakfast?

I had ‘Mighty Grain’. It’s like this home brand rip-off of Nutri-Grain. It’s so good. Definitely don’t feel very ‘mighty’ when the sugar rush wears off though.

Would you rather have 3 fingers on each hand or 7 fingers on each hand?

I don’t want seven fingers – that’s too many. And I don’t want three because I need four fingers to hold a pen so I’m changing it to four fingers on one hand. And the other hand is a hook.

Pen Friend sounds like RSVP for pen pals, do you have lonely Russians email you seeking a long-term stationery relationship?

Hahahaha. Oh my god it does. I’m sure a few Penfriend followers would be into that kinda thing. Maybe I’ll put the word out there and become a typographic dating agency and hook some lonely Russians up. I’ll give you a cut for giving me the idea. ‘Penfriend – Where Typography & Love Meet’ could be my new bio.



You seem to have a lot of inspirational pieces and it’s all quite uplifting, and then we’ll see a Biggie quote, what are your favourite pieces to create?

Haha. I think I have designer mood swings. Some days I feel cynical and don’t want to create any uplifting bullshit and I only want to write whatever I like. Like Biggie! Other days, it’s like I’ve awoken from dreaming I’m on a buddhist yoga retreat, feeling fantastic and I only want to write really inspirational phrases and just get the love out there and into the cyber world.

Digital or Traditional?

Both. I’m a digi dork but will always appreciate a traditional approach to any form of artwork.

What are your weapons of choice?

Mighty Grain, pyjama attire, brushes, ink, pens, pencils, paper, Mac Book, scanner, coffee and a semi functional brain.

When you’re mad do you go and draw swear words?

Yep. I use red ink and draw them quietly and in the dark

If you were a pen what kind would you be?

One of those Japanese pens from a weird stationary store with stars and glitter in the ink reservoir and a big fluffy thing at the top attached to a spring. And it would also wear a little denim jacket.


How fulfilling is creating something by hand from start to finish?

I like this question and I hope I don’t waffle on too much but it’s honestly one of the only times I truly feel accomplished. From the idea developing in your brain, to executing it exactly how you envisioned it and then to see it completed right in front of you just gives any artist the fulfilment and motivation to keep going. It definitely doesn’t always happen like that but when it does it makes all the shitty, creative-blocked moments worth it. I try to tell my fiancé it’s like surfing. Haha. Only because when I’ve finished something I’m proud of or he’s come back from a great surf we both have the same stoked grin on our faces for days.

What are you drawing when you’re the happiest?

Whatever I want. I’m not restricted. I just do it and I don’t care whether it looks good or not. As long as I’m happy. If I’m not happy, I talk myself out of ideas and really restrict myself from exploring different techniques because of all the excuses my brain can conjure up. We are at constant battle creatively.

You’ve worked as a graphic designer with brands like Element and Billabong, what inspired the move to do your own thing?

When I look back those were my favourite design years. The atmosphere, the colleagues/best friends, the perks and Christmas parties. Oh my god. The Christmas parties. However, working for brands (especially ones owned by shareholders) does get monotonous. And you find yourself growing frustrated with having to keep creating whatever trend is being dictated to you. It does help expand your creative knowledge but it also takes you further away from refining your own style. I just wanted to explore more of what I was capable of. And it turns out you need a lot of time to do that. So the freelance (broke) life it was.

It seems like you’ve accomplished a lot at a young age, held senior graphic design roles, taught graphic design at a college and started a business and family. What’s next for Sharna?

Haha. Wow. Thanks. Well, short term – I have a show in November back in Perth and I’ll be teaching a few workshops too. I also just want to keep learning as much as I possibly can about typography and refine my own style. Long term – more shows, collaborate with more typographers where we just geek out on type together and move into an awesome studio space (sorry kitchen table but you’re just not cutting it for me anymore). Oh and more pieces containing Biggie lyrics.

If you could draw one word to sum up who you are, what would that word be?

Breakfast. Because I’m useless without it.


You can check out more of Sharna’s work here




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