Matthew Skiff is one of the most respected artists in the t-shirt game, working for companies such as Disturbia, Zombie Liquorice, Randr, The Printed Mind, 410BC, Pyknic, the list goes on and on. He is one of those artists that is able to pull off several different styles and do a great job doing it. We had a chance to ask him some questions to see what exactly makes this artist who he is.
Could you start out by telling us a little background on yourself? (Name, Age, Location, the basics!)
My name is Matthew Skiff and I was born in raised in Colorado. I’m currently 23 years old, but am creeping up on my 24th birthday on St. Patrick’s Day.
When did you first realize you had a passion for art and what drew you to it?
It was a long long time ago. We I was a kid, I was raised on cartoons and people that grew up when I did had (arguably) the best cartoons. Every morning before I would go to school, I would watch a couple hours of cartoons, then when I would get home from school I would watch a couple of hours of cartoons, and then of course there was Saturday morning cartoons, and then Nickelodeon , the Cartoon Network…even the Disney Channel always had good stuff on during the weekends. It’s safe to say I was raised on cartoons…and while watching cartoons I would usually have a pad of paper and a pencil, and I would draw the characters I saw on TV. I was really into comic books as a kid as well, and when I was a kid, the only thing I wanted to do was be a comic book artist.
Did you get a formal training in art and if so how do you think it shaped you as an artist?
I didn’t really get that much formal training. I mean, there was always art classes in school that I took, but it was all formal art training and nothing really that I wanted to do. Even in college, I took a few drawing classes but it was still very formal…all these boring still life drawings, that while beneficial, wasn’t something I really had that much interest in. I took a ton of computer graphics and graphic design classes in College as well that helped me become more familiar with the various computer programs I use today. But i really think that the drawing I did outside of school has helped me out a lot. I have stacks and stacks of drawings in storage somewhere….it would be very interesting to go back and look at those sometime soon…
Like any great artist you have a very recognizable style. Did you stumble across your stylistic approach or was it something that you set out for?
Like i stated earlier….cartoons and comic books really drove the direction my art is right now. It’s all an emphasis on “line” mainly, and keeping things simple and clean, but detailed as well (if that makes any sense). I don’t really think about it when I draw things, however different subject matter does require different variations on the simple vs. detailed idea.
What have been some of your favorite projects that you have worked on?
There are so many fun t-shirt projects that I have worked on, however I am now getting into a lot of different things as well. I just finished up a skateboard series for a small company in Greece that I had a blast working on. I am about to start some snowboards that I am incredibly excited about. When I first started out doing the kind of thing I’m doing now…my ultimate goal was to eventually end up doing snowboards, and now that I am finally able to…I feel incredibly fortunate. I have been able to do so many awesome designs and work with so many amazing people/bands/companies in the very short time that I have been doing this…I wouldn’t even have thought this would be possible if you told me this when I graduated college.
I eventually want to kind of break a way a bit from what I usually do. Maybe start something of my own or even get into clothing design or something different than just illustration.
What is the most rewarding part of being an artist?
The final result is the most rewarding thing to me. Getting to it is a long process that I almost dread every single time I start a design. Once the final result is there…it hopefully looks good, and I am just happy that it is finally finished. It’s also good to know that the client is happy with it, and I guess in the line of work I do…that’s the only thing that matters. I do get a bit frustrated when I have to change so many things after (in my mind) it’s finished, but that is just the nature of the beast. I complain sometimes about it, but that fact is…I get to do thisevery single day. I eventually want to get back into more personal art, but it seems that every time I think I’ll get a break in my schedule, it fills up.
Do you have to be in a particular mood when you create or can you just create whenever/wherever?
I wouldn’t say a particular mood, however I have to be well rested. I’m not the kind of person who can get 5 hours of sleep…wake up and immediately start drawing. I need a lot of sleep and then even when I wake up, it takes me quite a while to prepare myself for the days work. I need to sit and maybe watch a bit of TV, surf the internet and then eventually answer e-mails and start work. I’d love to be the person who could wake up early and immediately start work…I’d get so much more done! However, that’s just not who I am, although I am working (not very hard) to change that…we’ll see if I can!
Who are some artist that you have looked up to over the years?
Gosh, there are so many. I did a blog post a few months ago where I talked about a lot of my influences growing up (outside the t-shirt/merch world) (http://www.ithew.com/2009/12/influcences-and-inspiration/). But then there is people that I have become familiar with in the recent years that do what I do (but so much better). Brandon Heart is the one I look up to the most, not really for he’s t-shirt stuff, but the stuff he does for Soup Graphix…mainly his skateboard designs. I have been a fan of his for years without really knowing it until I found out who he was. There are others too that I have become fans of and that have been very helpful to me, people like Godmachine and Jimiyo.
What would be one word that describes you?
What is your favorite season?
This is a hard question. I love snowboarding so naturally I want to say winter, and here in Colorado we have some pretty good winter’s. However the past year I haven’t been able to go snowboard, so the cold and snow is just annoying to me. Right now I would have to say the fall, I love seeing the leaves change and there is just a certain feeling the fall has. And Halloween is in the fall, I always am a little bit sad when the Month of October is over and all the tv stations stop showing horror movies or Halloween specials.
Where do you spend most of your time on the web?
Facebook and Twitter occupy most of my time. I do head over to IGN sometimes to check out movie and video game news. WWTDD is another place I frequent…I have to keep up with my celebrity gossip!
If someone wanted to contact and hire you, are you available and how would the do so?
Yes I am available for work, but there will be a bit of a wait. The best way to contact me is through e-mail (matthewskiff [AT]gmail.com)
For more information on Matthew hit up his site at: www.ithew.com