Beside a winding rural road in the Hill Country of Bosque County, Texas, you pass an unassuming small ranch house, resting in the green grasses and ancient oak trees of Meridian Creek Valley. Inside you will find Martin Grelle working diligently at his easel, infusing his latest painting with the color, texture, design and composition that translates into an intriguing story; one which draws the viewer’s imagination in with the emotion, grandeur, and beauty he develops through dramatic effects of light and shadow. Martin’s studio oozes his personal warmth and Texas hospitality inside and out.
Upon entering the studio you are wonderfully assaulted with dramatic colors and smells. The interior overflows with well worn saddles, chaps, cowboy hats and boots, as well as Indian artifacts from many tribes; leather war shirts, fringed dresses, bows, quivers, and headdresses covered with beads, feathers, porcupine quills and elk teeth. Photos of family line his mantle, little paintings his boys did when they were small, while drawings sent from nieces and nephews are tacked to the walls. His palette, arrayed with every gorgeous tone and hue of oil paint, brushes, cleaners and still wet canvases fill the studio with the aroma which has always enticed patrons and art lovers into the mystique realm of the artist. Leaning against every wall, cabinet and bookcase are finished masterpieces awaiting the perfect frame.
Grelle draws much of his quiet demeanor, gentlemanly manners and strong work ethic from the Scandinavian roots of Clifton, Texas where he has lived his entire life, and from his unwavering faith in the Lord. The hometown boy who “made good,” Martin has always been active serving as a leader in his church and choir, coaching baseball, a scout leader, acting in local theater and all the activities where his sons, Josh and Jordan discovered and nurtured their budding talents. Grown and sharing an apartment in Dallas, they are pursuing their own acting and music dreams. His step-daughters Brandy & Casey have become RN’s. For decades he has supported children less fortunate than his own through Compassion International, and more recently at St. Joseph’s Indian School. Success has enabled Martin to live in a beautiful home with his wife Terri, high on a hill above the studio.
Up at 6:00 AM to feed horses, Martin then lifts weights or exercises and has breakfast; at the easel by 8:00, his daily schedule is rigorous and demanding. He works 14-16 hours six days a week to meet the many deadlines he faces, even Sunday after church, if needed. This dedication always produces buyers who stampede to purchase a Grelle at his annual one-man-show at Overland Gallery in March, obtain one of his new pieces at the Prix de West in June, or one of the six or seven new paintings or drawings unveiled at the Cowboy Artists of America Show each October. Grelle also chooses a few select shows, auctions, and charity benefits to participate in every year.
Martin produces an average of 25 paintings each year. A real sense of responsibility to his collectors fills his heart every morning when he walks into the studio, and he believes that the precious gift of artistic talent entrusted to him by God, must not be left unused or taken for granted, but developed and improved upon, and lifted up for all to see, as a witness to what a life of faith, hard work and gratitude is able to produce. Sunday school taught him not to hide his light under a bushel.
He believes his mentor, James Boren, set an example of not only how to paint, portray a cowboy, organize his colors, design a scene or market his paintings, but also how to live his life and pursue his work as a man of honor and authenticity. Boren told him that art is a God thing which came to him from above, not just for the fame and fortune acquired, but to pass it on and show the glory and honor of creation. With his dear friend and fellow CAA member, Bruce Greene, Martin has held an annual workshop in their hometown’s, Bosque Art Center for more than 20 years. His course was set for him by God, nurtured by James Boren and later his fellow CAA artists, accomplished by hard work and will be remembered for generations because of his dedication to excellence and giving back to aspiring artists.
Written by ~ Merry Nebeker, January 2012