Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Interview for theHub Magazine

I recently completed an interview for theHub Magazine that you can find HERE. However, if you don't want to subscribe to the site to gain access, here's a copy of the full Q&A:

Hi Matt! Talk us through C86. What does it stand for?

Hello there! Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t name myself after an Epson printer. Back in the day when I was subbing to Threadless under various guises, I stumbled upon a new direction of style. I wanted to anonymously try it out as I wasn’t sure how it was going to be received by the regular community. Through little imagination I was listening to NME’s C86 compilation album at the time and hence I grabbed the name. To me it was just another pseudonym to work under that I’d probably drop within a few weeks, though as it turned out the new style formed the first steps of how I now work… And the name stuck!

You have many sources of inspiration and you also work in multiple media. How do you find equilibrium in what you do?

I don’t ever see it as juggling but rather a natural way of working. I like to have my cake and eat it, so to speak. I see so much that inspires me from the most unlikely of places, from music, film, photography, art history, design, etc. In the past, especially when comparing myself to others and how they work, at times I felt that perhaps I was going about things all wrong. The general consensus is that you should target a certain direction of work and stick to it. More recently I thought to myself – ‘why the hell should I?’ I get bored easily and like to have many things on the go, so if I can jump from one thing to another, to keep everything moving and fresh. Well that’s the plan at least…

How long does it take for you to complete a piece of work? Is it a complex process?

The complexity of the work determines how long a piece will take, but more often than not, for a digital design I’ll follow the same process. Everything starts with drawing, and for me I use a process of ‘freedrawing’ to create my initial designs. Armed with a sketchbook and pen, I commit to all lines on the page. I rarely pencil sketch or correct errors – I’m more focused upon seeing what happens, letting the design evolve by itself. For me, this is quite a focused process that I’ve become more confident and successful with over the years. (You can see me in action here: From here, I scan in the drawings and then trace them by hand in Illustrator. No Wacom – just me, a mouse and a steady hand. I find this stage quite relaxing and undemanding as many of the decisions from the line-work have already been made. Once complete, I fill in the colours using a preliminary palette. Colour is so important to me – the range of possible hue and combinations is limitless and exciting. I often use photographs for inspiration and reference, or older pieces of work if I want to duplicate a certain palette. From Illustrator I move the design into Photoshop for the final stage of the process, that of colour editing and additional adjustments. Although the final stage, I can often spend as much time tweaking the design in Photoshop as that spent in Illustrator. The flexibility of working between the two applications is fantastic, as is Photoshop’s continued support of working with vector elements. On average, from initial drawing to final outcome as design might take about 2-3 days.

You’ve worked with exhibitors worldwide, from countries as distant as Italy, Sweden, Spain, UK, and even China. Does travel, language and location affect your practice?

I love travelling to new places, though it feels like something I’ve not done in a while. My most creative trips have been to Japan and China. Both countries are an inspiration in themselves, so I couldn’t help but feel their influence on my work. All the colour and patterns of the Far East, the architecture and other aspects fed into my drawing. Japan offered me the chance to play with new materials, brushes and an infinite supply of amazing pens, while in China I was introduced to different papers, along with concertina sketchbooks where I started creating panoramic drawings. At the moment a lot of my work is increasingly being inspired by Eastern European folk art and architecture – a visit to Mother Russia is long overdue!

What type of client do you particularly take on? Are you somewhat selective or do you accept all challenges?

Primarily I focus upon creating and developing my own work and as such rely upon clients being selective of choosing me for commissions. Thankfully, the media and creative industry feels increasingly receptive to exploring new directions and possibilities of work, and as such designers and illustrators can maintain more of an identity with their own output. In the past I’ve certainly taken on jobs for the sake of it, but nowadays I feel more in a position to pursue what’s more important to me as a graphic artist – personal development of my own skills and nurturing new directions of work

Is there a certain project or piece of work that you favour (or feel particularly proud about?)

I’m often trapped in the mindset that the process of creating and what I learn or discover at the time is more important than the outcome. This is good in terms of a personal appreciation of my work because once a piece is complete, I want to move on. Significant pieces of work are those that mark a turning point or new direction of ideas, as well those that kind of ‘fell together’ in the right order to turn out well. Technically, I’m really pleased about a recent design called ‘Steamship Ayanasu’, at a time when I was expanding my architectural designs of houses to encompass boats and airships. Some of my early typography experiments from last year, such as ‘Game Over’, marked a distinct shift in style that I later developed, while a piece such as ‘SUBterrian (Make A Wish)’ from 4-5 years ago still reflects a lot of the things I still play around with

Are there any other illustrators, animators or graphic designers you particularly admire?

There are too many to mention! I’m a big fan of Joshua Davis and Evgeny Kiselev with their pattern-based generative designs, and Matt W Moore never fails to inspire me either

What are you working on at the moment? Any future projects on your agenda?

I’ve just finished the line work on a pattern-heavy design that’s so far taken about 5 days to draw out in Illustrator. I’m taking a break from it for now to concentrate on developing some designs for screen prints that I’ll hopefully get produced very soon. Also, I’m feeling the urge to create some new t-shirt designs – something I haven’t done in a long while. These are always fun to do, and will hopefully inspire some enjoyable projects for the summer

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