Boring stuff first. Name, Age, Location and any general background info you would like to share!
Matthew Skiff, 25 going on 13, Colorado
So when did you first get into art and what drew you to it?
(ha, was the that pun intended)
Art was always a part of my life, weather I realized it or not. I have been drawing ever since I was a little kid. I have boxes and boxes full of sketchbooks and notebooks that are filled with drawings. I was drawn to Cartoons and Comic Books at an early age, so I in a way that is what shaped my love for art, and what the basis for how I draw now. A lot of my free time was taken up by sitting in front of the TV screen watching cartoons and drawing. Then when I got a little bit older I found comic books and tried my best to emulate the artists that I liked. It’s crazy to think that, at 25 years old, I am still drawing in front of the TV, cartoons on it all day.
I guess you could say it was a way to express myself, even though the art I was doing didn’t have any deep emotional feelings behind them. I just liked drawing things that I thought were cool.Even when it came to art classes, all these other kids were doing boring drawings and designs, or trying to copycat some anime style (anime was huge when I was in High School) and I just stuck with doing what I wanted to do. Even applying my train of thought to college graphic design classes. There were some people who didn’t understand the things I was doing or thought that what I was doing was too “high school” (yeah, someone said that), I never fit into the boring “corporate” graphic design stuff that everyone else was doing.
Like many great artists, you have an instantly recognizable style. How do you feel you developed your own “look” and what/who are your inspirations as an artist?
I get this question a lot, and it’s a tough one to answer. I am a big cluster f@ck of inspiration and my style and mood changes from day to day. Some days I like really detailed illustrations, and other days I’m like the more simplistic ones. If I had to describe a characteristic that might make my style unique, I would have to say that it would be my use of clean lines.
Even though I mainly do work for the apparel industry, my influences come from all aspects of art, and all of them I found at an early age. Cartoons and comics were a big inspiration to me, but I horror movies and even the clothing I would wear when I was a kid has influenced me in some sort of way.
Bill Watterson has always been a huge influence on me, the Calvin and Hobbes strips were some of the first things I started to read. Tim Jacobus, who did the art on the Goosebumps covers was another huge influence on me. The crazy B-Move type paintings were what got me excited for the new book to come out each month. Alex Tooth a big influence on me as well. Like I said, I grew up on cartoons and some of the best were Hannah Barbera and Alex Tooth was the designer behind most of the HB cartoons I loved. When I started getting older and into the TMNT comic books, the Eastman and Laird black and white art cannot be beat in terms of comic book art in my opinion. Speaking of comic book art, Jim Lee, J. Scott Campbell, Joe Madureira and Frank Cho where also big inspirations to me. And if we go even back to some slightly older comic book artists, Neal Adams and Joe Kubert are amazing as well. In terms of women, Robert McGuinnis is the best when is comes to painting women. I could go on for hours about more artists and there is some that I still want to throw in, but I’ll spare everyone. I cannot, however, forget to talk about Frank Frazetta. My Mom introduced me to his work at an early age and have been in awe ever since. If I could even gain a fraction of the talent that man had, I would be happy.
I talk to many clothing line owners whom say they have a hard time conveying a concept or idea for a design to artist. If you could offer advice to clients that are trying to convey a design or an idea to an artist what would you say?
Well the first thing I want to say is, if you are coming to me for a design, you should probably have a (basic) idea already in mind. There have been so many times that people would come to me for a design, have no clue what they want me to do, and then ask me “Do you have any ideas?”. No, I don’t have any ideas, this is your clothing line, you should already have the ideas, if you don’t, then you are in big trouble from the beginning.
However, when I have built a relationship with a client, I have no problem brainstorming and coming up with ideas together. I have built a lot great relationships with clothing line owners, some I would even call good friends. With those clients, I want to get the best concepts possible. Sometimes I might come up with ideas myself and have no problem sharing them if it fits with their particular clothing line.
With that said, if a clothing line owner has a hard time conveying a concept, I have no problem shooting questions and ideas back and fourth with them. If the concepts aren’t any clearer, it does make a difference when the client provides a simple sketch, or even examples of designs that I have done or other designs that they like. I am a visual person, so if I can actually see what you want, it can make things easier.
What advice would you offer to aspiring artists that are trying to make a name for themselves?
This is a hard question for me to answer, because I haven’t quite figured things out yet, and I don’t think I ever will. Every single day I find myself learning new things, experimenting with new things. I think that is what keeps being an artist fun, the drive to get better and trying to find ways to do that. Doing the same thing over and over again is very “safe” and while it might get you noticed for a little bit, if you don’t progress…then your art will get boring and stale. I don’t think anyone should be 100% satisfied with what they are doing, and should always strive to be better. If you have the ability to step away from your work and see what is wrong with it and how you can improve…this is how you can become a great artist.
But you should also try not to take yourself to seriously, and keep doing art because it’s fun. That’s the reason why we all do this, because we started out thinking it was fun. Keep drawing and designing what you like, if you try to fake it and follow the current trends, sometimes that can be very obvious.
Do you have a favorite design or project you have done and what did you like most about it?
With out a doubt it was this past Death, Shred! line. We seem to be clicking more and more with each new release and the design ideas just seem to come effortlessly now. I pretty much get to do whatever I want when it comes to the Death, Shred! stuff. Yves (DS! Owner) has some really great ideas, and I have some ideas as well and we both get to work on things and it feels like a big collaborative effort. With most of the stuff, since we have worked together for so long, it’s almost a “Do your thing” kind of mentality that comes from him, and the designs turn out better when I don’t have any restrictions or anyone breathing down my neck for revision after revision.
Everything turned out just how I wanted it to. We are slowing trying to take Death, Shred! in a different direction from when it was know as Dead, Serious!
The reaction to the DS! stuff has been really positive too, from both the customers and even other designers. I think it’s a testament to how well we work together. Our next challenge is to see if we can step it up for the next release.
What do you find the most difficult part about being an artist, if any?
The most difficult part would be, turning my brain off. Everything that I look at or see, I find myself constantly studying it, figuring out the lines it it and how I would design it. I could look at anything at it could spark an idea, which could lead to a bunch of other ideas. While a lot of good things come out of it, it’s frustrating at the same time. I wish I could turn that part of my brain off when I close my computer and lay my head down on my pillow to sleep.
It’s even hard to turn it off when I am hanging out with friends, family or with the girlfriend. I am always thinking about new designs, current designs, past designs and how I can make them better. It can be really stressful sometimes, I can be a really hard person to be around when I am in that mode. While it is hard to do, it is helpful sometimes to step away from the computer, or pen and pencil, and try to not think about art. If I didn’t set aside free time, I think I would go crazy…
Where do you spend most of your time on the web?
Twitter has taken over my life. If you follow me, you know how much I tweet. It’s an addiction, a distracting addiction. It’s crazy to think that something I signed up for years ago not knowing what it was turned out to be such a major thing in my day to day life. I get my news from it, talk to friends, get inspiration from it…everything. It’s gotten to the point where I can’t sit through a TV show or movie without checking it…I should try and take a break…ha.
If someone wanted to hire you for work, are you available and if so how would they contact you?
You can contact me by email you can find on my website! http://www.ithew.com/