[ February 2, 2009 ]
Vivid technicolor dreamscapes emerge from Brooklyn-based illustrator Matthew Smith's clever imagination. Always expect the unexpected in his bright, unique, and colorful world. His fresh approach and voice are both inspiring and well appreciated in a world where everyone is trying to be like everyone else.
Matthew Smith sounds like an alias. Is that your real name?
Unfortunately, yes. Not that flashy of a name, I know. Still though, my name has never been misspelled on a check or anything, so that's one of the perks!
Can you remember the first thing you ever drew? Or perhaps, can you remember remembering the first thing you can remember drawing?
I can't remember specifically what I first drew, but I remember very clearly when I wanted to become a cartoonist. I was three, sick on my grandparents couch, watching a Disney VHS. In the previews, there was a short on the production of the featured presentation. Upon seeing various creatives in the zone, working on hand animation and storyboards, I knew that's where I needed to be. Through this initial jolt of inspiration, I anticipated in my early age working as an animator. I progressed in my childhood through college on my cartoons, and I was kindly lead into illustration, which has been a good place for my work and me
You have a very stylistic and identifiable way of illustrating, especially real things, living things, like people and zombies. When you first started drawing was this style immediate or did it evolve?
Oh it totally evolved. I always worked in the style of cartoon, but through years of constant yearning for the better version, I worked on the evolution. I still, every day am trying to think of new ways to advance my work and style into a new stage that I have not yet been to.
I've seen your sketchbook. Your lines and shapes are almost inhumanly - and anally - precise. But your ability to fill color with the use of markers blows my mind. How the in the Sam Hell did you develop this?
Again, I think it all came out of evolution. Not too many people know that my work is actually completely hand crafted, before a tad bit of Photoshop work is applied. When I actually started developing this style to the extent that I'm at, my medium of choice was acrylic and oils. I attempted a few illos with paint, but it really became more of a production, and less of what I wanted to get out of it. I just tried experimenting with the markers, and it soon just stuck. The fumes don't bother me anymore if that what you're thinking!
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Way too many things. Firstly, I'm constantly inspired by my personal strife to go as far as I can as an illustrator. I think that continuing aspiration is the strongest tool you can use to inspire yourself and your career. So many creative individuals, especially my fellow illustrators, also inspire me. Also, motion pictures, comic books, comic strips, cartoons, animators, dreamers, and the unusual minds that have forever shaped the way we think and look at everything in life.
In a perfect world, what would be an ideal project?
Oh man, there are way too many to mention. I always have aspiring outlets for my work, and projects in all different mediums. In terms of editorial clients, I'd adore working with the magazines that are part of the mecca of the publishing industry, you know...Rolling Stone, Newsweek, etc. But also, I'd adore a commission from Nickelodeon Magazine, or something where my work would flow perfectly. I've also developed a gigantic interest in animation. I did some freelance character design this past year, and it was such a blast! Anything involved with character design and development would be fantastic. Still though, the ideal project is anything that allows me to continue doing what I do. Creating fun and unique work for a complete random collection of clients. Whether it be editorial, advertising, animation, children’s books, or whatever...as long as I'm working, it's a perfect world.
What was your first illustration job?
Well, I guess my FIRST illustration job was from when I was in high school. I worked for my hometown's local newspaper, doing a weekly editorial cartoon. I got paid about $10 per cartoon, but it helped me learn how to illustrate a pun visually, working with journalists and deadlines is a big help in developing the level of discipline you need to sustain yourself in this industry.
Okay, now what was your first REAL illustration job?
My first REAL illustration commission as a professional was for the New York Times Book Review. While I was a senior in college, I met with the then book review art director, Stephen Heller, who commissioned me about a month before my graduation. It was a teeny tiny little spot for a book about competitive eating, but I was never more thrilled to do a drawing up to that point in my life. It was quite an inspiring job for me. I got a taste for the industry, and boy was it sweet.
Tell me, and everyone else, a little about your process. What tools do you use? What kinds of pens, markers and paper do you prefer? Where do you do most of your illustrating?
My process is pretty straightforward. When I create sketches for the client, I tend to devote a little more time than usual into em, so when they are approved, it's a quick transition into getting it completed. Also though, so the client is aware of the look of the entire piece, and can visualize what it will look like finished. I really tend to stick with what tools I like to use and continue to enjoy. Each illo is built using Strathmore smooth Bristol board, Micron pens, alot of Prismacolor markers, and good ol' Photoshop CS3 for final edits. All my work is done, in my surprisingly roomy studio in Brooklyn.
You are from P.A but now you live in Brooklyn, NY. What is your biggest pet peeve about the city and where do you see yourself in about four years.
I've been in Brooklyn now for about seven years now, and probably not having a car is the biggest annoyance...that and Times Square. One I aspire to gain, and the other I avoid at all costs. Still though, I have full confidence that I will continue living, working, admiring and absorbing everything that is illustration, striving to sustain the various venues where illustration is truly admired.
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