Exploring Emotion and Graphic Line Work: The Creative Journey of Almost Iris

By Zoe Duggan

  Almost Iris; Photographer: Marta Oktaba. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Almost Iris; Photographer: Marta Oktaba. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

“We are very visual people, could you imagine a world without colour or without any pictures, without any lettering, without any drawing, literally a blank world?’’

For Deakin University graduate, visionary artist Marta Oktaba “When you strip it back to a blank world of just grey blocks all around us there is still form, there are still lines and it is still something.”

Marta Oktaba is the Deakin University graduate behind the dreamy and minimal world of the visionary artist known as Almost Iris.

“The name Almost Iris came from the idea that I am almost what I want to see, Iris being the iris of the eye, because as an artist you are always striving to achieve more so you’re always going to be almost what you want to see” said Marta.  “I started [creating] art at a time where I didn’t feel like an artist, I felt like I wanted a second persona where I could completely 100 per cent jump into me being an artist and that was Almost Iris.”

Marta is completing her third year of a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Visual Arts) and she details her time at Deakin University as a formative period for her artistic persona Almost Iris. “It was because of uni that I created Almost Iris, it gave me the time to create    something because I was spending so much time on making [art] and I wouldn’t have had that motivation to go and start that practice on my own and it gave me the stepping the stones to go and get started.”

Marta was born in Poland but moved to the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne with her family when she was three years old and was always drawn to art. “I was always very creative, I was always that kid in the art corner and in all of my kindergarten photos I was drawing in them,” Marta said.

She graduated high school and began a career in hospitality and then went on to manage a fining dining restaurant.  “I feel like from graduating high school to about the age of 25-26 I didn’t do anything creative, I went and worked a full-time job and the creativity just disappeared in my life.”

In 2013 Marta took a break from work to travel through Europe and discovered her affection for drawing when she noticed that her travel journal was full of sketches.

“It was when I finished my trip and came to Australia that I thought: ‘I’ve got this whole journal with pictures’ and ‘what am I doing? I should be following this. It sparked a little passion in me, and that’s when I decided to follow this and I took the plunge and applied for creative arts at Deakin,” said Marta.

Dr. Gali Weiss was Marta’s mentor at Deakin University.  “Though gentle in her nature, she was not shy of challenging things that seemed to contradict or that she was struggling with,” Dr Weiss said.  “Her struggles were not due to a lack of ability but to introspection and courage – the artistic struggle that’s necessary for all arts practice to develop beyond the predictable.”

Marta said that studying arts at a tertiary level made her a better artist.  “I think it’s really important to be in a community of people you can be creative with, you can bounce off ideas together and you can develop things together and grow together, that’s really inspiring,” Marta said.

Marta Oktaba is the Deakin University graduate behind the dreamy and minimal world of the visionary artist known as Almost Iris. “The name Almost Iris came from the idea that I am almost what I want to see, Iris being the iris of the eye, because as an artist you are always striving to achieve more so you’re always going to be almost what you want to see” said Marta

Marta’s latest solo exhibition “‘Find Me Where the Feelings Go”’ at the Off the Kerb gallery in Collingwood was inspired by the end of a relationship.  “The way the exhibition was pieced together when you walked around the room was actually a timeline of the break up,” said Marta. “I called it ‘Find Me Where the Feelings Go’ because I found bits of myself through the process.”

Marta describes her art as fine line graphic work that is inspired by emotions.  “It’s organic, it’s not a line that has been made on a computer screen and the lines aren’t uniform, they are little squiggly, puffy lines and no one can produce the lines my hand is making and I heard some artists say to just embrace your work as it is,” said Marta.

“Embracing the imperfection, I think that’s one of the best things I’ve done.”


Zoe Duggan is a 2nd year Bachelor of Communications student majoring in Journalism at Deakin University. Zoe has studied various forms of journalism, including feature writing, broadcast journalism and news writing during her time at university and has a keen interest in investigative journalism and feature writing. Zoe is particularly passionate about long-form journalism and has thoroughly enjoyed the process of writing for NiTRO magazine and the experience this has provided her as an aspiring journalist. In the future Zoe hopes to write more feature articles and to write in a professional capacity.