Born in Surrey in 1953, Martin left school at 16 and found work as an artist in the advertising department of a well-known department store in London. In 1973 he left work to travel to India and Pakistan, selling portrait drawings he made on the streets of Lahore to survive. When he returned to England in 1974, he sought advice from the Royal Academy Schools. There he showed a portfolio of his Indian drawings to the Keeper, Peter Greenham, who invited him to be a guest student. In 1975 he began a course there, finally graduating in 1979.
During this time, the connoisseur and art historian, Sir Brinsley Ford discovered Martin’s work and started to form a collection of his drawings. At the end of his time at the RA Schools, he was awarded the Richard Ford Travelling Scholarship to Spain, subsequently becoming a Greenshield Scholar. In 1981 he painted a portrait of his father that was entered and hung in that year’s BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery, London.
In 1983 Martin became associated with The National Trust through Christopher Wall, who gave him the opportunity to paint both Basildon Park and Ashdown House. Numerous commissions followed from the National Trust's Foundation for Art. A large retrospective of his paintings, drawings, etchings and sculpture was organised by the Trust and exhibited at Mompesson House, Salisbury.
Sir Brinsley Ford introduced Martin to HRH The Prince of Wales in early 1986. The Prince made his first purchase of one of his works, an oil of St David’s Cathedral bought as a gift for the President of Japan. He was invited to join The Prince and Princess of Wales on the Royal Yacht Britannia on their tour of the Gulf States, as the artist in attendance, making him the first young ‘Tour Artist’ to teach the Prince drawing and painting. Martin subsequently accompanied the Prince of Wales on further official Royal Tours to Hong Kong and to India and Nepal.
In 1992 Martin was commissioned by the Royal Household to draw the Queen’s grandchildren as a present to Her Majesty to mark the fortieth anniversary of her reign. The drawings were exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery and now form part of the Royal Collection at Windsor.
He was commissioned to paint Sir James Whyte Black’s portrait, the Nobel prize-winning scientist for the National Portrait Gallery's Collection. In 1988 he was commissioned to draw Sir Alan Hodgkin, the Cambridge Physiologist for The Order of Merit series in The Royal Collection. Martin is a past winner of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture and its Gold Medal.