Matt is an illustrator who cares deeply, not only about his own practice but about his discipline as a whole.
Often he uses the term ‘graphic art’ which suggests he sees illustration as part of something bigger, a wider culture of graphic communication. His work is work is inventive, exuberant, funny and irreverent, a bit like him, his character and voice rendered in pen, tone and colour. Matt is also a gifted educator and this is something he cares about too, his blog reflecting on art & design education in schools as well as Universitys.
1. What made you decide to become an artist?
I realised that I was interested in the world around me, I wanted to communicate with others and I was a show off.
2. How would you define being an artist?
A show off with something to say who is interested in the world around them.
3. What’s the best kept secret in the art world?
Authenticity is a craft.
4. What are the most common myths about the art world?
That you are talented and that other people care what you have to say.
5. How important is your studio and how do you use it?
I sit in there on my own for the entire day, doing and doing until I find myself completely absorbed in the process of making art. It facilitates deep and genuine creativity. You can’t make art in between the rest of your life.
6. What’s your daily working pattern (how many hours a day do you work)?
Its difficult to explain my entire process in one short answer. It does depend on the job. I separate ideas development from production. That way I can use my sketchbook all the time to stew on my ideas. In the studio, I’ll work as much as is required to finish the piece by the deadline. General routine goes something like: wash, eat, emails, warm up drawing, focused drawing then digital. But the whole process is completely iterative in response to continued testing and reflection. I make a lot of decisions as I go. It’s a bit of a brain bender.
7. How regularly do you travel in pursuit of your work?
I have exhibited all over the place, I visit peers and go to shows. It’s good to arrange face-to-face meetings with people when possible, so occasionally I travel to discuss work with others. An alternative answer is that I often go for a walk/ run/ cycle to clear my head and find some thinking time. Being able to day dream about ideas instead of life/work worries is a precious thing. Defend it.
8. How important is accident in your work?
Massive. I mentioned authenticity before. I’m really interested in perfect mistakes, but to find them, you have to make in a totally uninhibited way. This isn’t easy. Sometimes I sing or imagine I’m drunk while I draw, just to get some silly into my pen.
9. How important is it to establish networks of peers in order to succeed in the art world?
Essential. It all comes down to being nice and making friends. It’s hard to get work if you’re obnoxious and hateful. It doesn’t help anyone. Cheer up.
10. What was the most significant experience you had at art school?
That it was ok to draw a donkey in my still life piece, even though there was no donkey there. That was when my art teacher told me to study Graphic Design.
11. What music are you listening to at the moment?
Steffen Basho Junghans. He’s a mountain man and I think is well connected to the natural world.
12. What book would you recommend to a young art student?
Kramers Ergot - any of them (there’s 8 so far). But I say that because they showed me how far comics can be pushed into the leftfield. I’d suggest to just go looking for the most unconventional thing you can find. Forget trends.
13. What film would you recommend to a young art student?
Crocodile Dundee.. Watch it once with the sound off. Then watch it again but only listen to it.
14. Which contemporary artist do you think every art student should be aware of?
All hail Jillian Tamaki.
15. What is the best bit of advice you would give to a young artist?
Be unconventional in every aspect of your life, be incredibly skillful, make loads of friends, don’t start smoking, don’t waste your money, learn to cook and give a shit.