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Menus are his canvas

Graphic artist Charles Marton hangs his efforts beyond galleries.

Published May 20, 2007


GULFPORT - Charles Marton doesn't want his art to be kept out of reach in exclusive galleries, so he brings it straight to the public.

"I exhibit my art in newspapers, " said Marton, a 53-year-old graphic artist whose pen-and-ink work appears in advertisements, on coffee mugs, even on restaurant menus. "Very few people go to a gallery, but everyone goes to a restaurant."

Some might see this view as crude, even mercenary, but the Hungarian-born graphic artist says art is not for the elite but for everyone. From drawings of hotels to auto repair businesses to people's homes, Marton is seeking to make art useful.

"I always tell people, 'Don't keep it in a drawer.'" he said. "Use it."

And his clients take him at his word.

"In the restaurant business, people look for you to put some care into what you do, " said Dan Casey, who owns Snapper's Sea Grill on St. Pete Beach and just opened a new establishment, Madfish. "This shows that we went out of our way to do something nice."

Casey has used Marton's drawing of Snapper's building in advertisements for several years, but he commissioned the artist to capture the interior of Madfish because the exterior is the old Starlite Diner, a unique facade but not a propos of the upscale seafood inside. Marton is also designing a logo for Madfish.

Kai Sonnenschein is another long-time client who has had Marton do renderings of the Wine Cellar in North Redington Beach. Sonnenschein has a gallery of others' art of the 31-year-old business, but he finds Marton's the most useful.

"It's original artwork, " he said of the drawings he uses in ads, menus and even online, "but his style really works great in advertising."

Sonnenschein also hired Marton to do renderings of an addition so he could better demonstrate to government officials what changes would look like. He is contemplating a redevelopment of the property into a hotel-restaurant complex and may hire Marton to help him show off the concept.

Another customer got dual use out of Marton's drawings. Sandy Helsen had architects draw up plans for a renovation to her 70-year-old Driftwood home, but she couldn't picture the end result. Marton drew it up for her and she liked it so much, she turned it into Christmas cards.

"It was helpful to us to tweak the drawings for the addition, " she said. "And we got a lot of other use out of it, too."

Marton does all his drawings by hand, but then converts them to a digital format so clients can manipulate them for other purposes. He charges between $650-$1, 200 for a project that usually takes him several days of patient, methodical work.

"Some people recognize how important it is, some don't, " he said. "That's why I look for the progressive people."

Marton also emphasizes an intriguing aspect of his style of work: it can be more real than reality. A pure photograph of a subject is scientifically accurate, but his drawings can pull elements together that wouldn't fit in the camera's frame.

"A picture of our block wouldn't convey the uniqueness of what we have, " said Margaret Bourgeois, the owner of the Park Circle Bed and Breakfast, a seven-cottage complex on North Redington Beach. "He was able to depict what we actually have. It's not as accurate as a photo, but it's an accurate portrayal of the property."

Marton describes this as "overcoming the limitations of reality."

Marton also does non-commercial fine art, but spends most of his time helping businesses. He said he's always trying to improve himself and his work, which is why he now embraces digitizing his drawings, but he doesn't appreciate purely digital art because it, like a photo, is too perfect.

"With a computer, it's too artificial, too controlled, " he said. "What makes this special is the slight imperfections. People say it looks better. I say, 'Of course it looks better. I'm an artist.'"

Paul Swider can be reached at 892-2271 or or by participating in

Fast Facts:

Charles Marton


"Very few people go to the gallery, but everyone goes to a restaurant, " says graphic artist Charles Marton.

[Last modified May 19, 2007, 20:51:45]

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