David Stone Martin (1913-1992) is an artist who was born in Chicago and attended the School of the Art Institute for two years. He went on to become supervisor of mural projects for the Federal Arts program and worked as art director for the Tennessee Valley Authority.

In 1942 he became art director for the Office of War Information, serving in this capacity with Ben Shahn and William Golden. Starting in the late 1940’s Martin created artwork for magazines, books, ads and began specializing in record album covers.

In his book “Drawing with Pencil, Pen and Brush” Martin demonstrates how a wide range of effects can be achieved using only black and white. He had this to say:

“Searching out a line is like bending a wire…volume, modeling, shape and motion can all be said in line and wash, or even more simply by line drawing alone.”


Let’s take a look at a few images where he talks about his process.

In these three illustrations he discusses the tools that he used to create them and the specific effects that he wanted to achieve.


The next two pages are a drawing that Martin did while working from a photograph of his son. Notice how he left out a part of his left cheek and didn’t draw the chair that he was sitting on. He also added details in the background and put a pair of pliers in his hand (and put a wrench on the table).


It’s an interesting book because he talks a bit about his process, but it’s also limited. He rarely goes in-depth with any of his writing and it’s only 27 pages long. Here are a few more images from the book.


What I like about his art is his design sense. He used drawing and color in a selective manner to create images that convey a feeling rather than a realistic interpretation. For example, he might draw a drummer but leave out a part of his body. Or he’ll draw a picture and only use a splash of color in two spots.

It’s no surprise that you can see Ben Shahn’s influence on Martin’s line, after all they worked together in the 1940’s. Martin however took that influence and moved it in his own direction.

The work that he’s most known for today are his album covers, primarily the Jazz records created in the 1950’s and 60’s. During his lifetime he did over 400 album covers for companies such as Mercury, Asch, Disc and Dial with many assignments from his longtime friend and record producer Norman Granz.

“He was essentially the first to develop an independent, serious image of jazz” and provided “an intimate insight into the music and life of jazz people,” said Martina Schmitz, an art historian and musician who once assembled an exhibition of his work at Lincoln Center.

Artists don’t work on album covers as much as they used too, but they still work with bands today. I know illustrators who create posters, t-shirts and other images. At times in the past, some artists have created an image that became synonymous with the band that they worked with. For example, Raymond Pettibone’s artwork for Sonic Youth and Black Flag. In David Stone Martin’s case, he doesn’t have one image that stands out above the rest, but as a whole they captured a feeling of the jazz scene during the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Below is a selection of those covers.