A Mountain of Books

I’ve struggled to read this year. I’m not entirely sure why this is the case but it seems to have been a trend for the last couple of years. I love reading and would class myself (as those fond of labels tend to do) as “a reader”, which I know sounds a bit elitist and pretentious, but it’s a moniker I wear proudly. I’m also one of those frustrating people who frequently says, “the book is better” when talking about the film (however the exception to this would be ‘Fight Club’ and at a push ‘Moneyball’, and even those books are still excellent).

I read somewhere recently, probably on Reddit, that the pandemic has affected some peoples ability to concentrate and thus has impacted many readers. I don’t know how true this is, and if I’m honest I wouldn’t blame the worlds current situation as the reason for my not reading so much. I think social media and sites like YouTube – where information is ever changing and given to you in bite sized portions – are more to blame for my decline in devoured books.

There was also a time when I didn’t have a TV in my room and I would read before bed, which was a routine I had for years, but now it just seems so much easier to switch on Netflix and watch some dross to help me drop off to sleep. I’m going to try and break this habit, because it really is a massive waste of time.

Anyway, the books above are well worth a read. Emergency (Neil Strauss) and Spillover (David Quammen) were read as a response to the whole Covid fiasco. Spillover, a non-fiction book about zoonotic infections and “The next human pandemic”, was written in 2012 and is scarily prophetic. Emergency, another non-fiction, is about Strauss’s journey to become ready for “when shit hits the fan” and chronicles Strauss learning everything from escaping and evading capture in an urban environment to extreme wilderness survival and earthquake response.

Patrick Ness and Joe Abercrombie are, well, doing Patrick Ness and Joe Abercrombie things. ‘Nuff said.

Paper Lion is about journalist George Plimpton experiencing a preseason training camp as a “last-string quarterback” for the Detroit Lions in the 1960’s – this is before the game became really serious and could afford such frivolities, and even then it was only the Lions that would allow it.

Into Thin Air details Krakauer’s experience in the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, in which eight climbers were killed and several others were stranded by a storm. It also goes on to give the history of the mountain and it’s subsequent overuse.

This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone was my most recent read and is unlike any science-fiction book I’ve ever read. More like a romance novel, where the two main protagonists (both deep cover secret agents of opposing sides) move backward and forward through the strands of time, leaving covert letters for one another while evading detection from their respective factions. The writing is amazing and almost poetic at times and actually poetic at others.

That was a rare long blog post, wasn’t it?

Cheers

K2

This was originally just a study of K2 but that seemed a little uninteresting, so I decided to make it a bit more informative. This actually took quite a while to complete because I had to constantly reign in the detail, and in the end I feel like the graphic-y quality lends itself well to the piece.

Under the Rug

I’m not sure why, but this one took ages to get right. Above is the final version, and funnily enough it was also the first idea I had. However, as is often typical when planning pieces, I go through a series of roughs first in order to find something that is perhaps more well thought out or clever. I tried a version where the tower is on fire in an attempt at irony, but it didn’t sit well compositionally (I’m not even sure if that’s a word). I tried adding an FBI undercover van and entitling the piece “Who Watches the Watchtowers?”, but I wasn’t sure without the title whether people would get it. I tried adding a pile of used fire extinguishers – nope, then a caveman trying to make fire – also nope. I almost settled on someone carving Easter Island heads (they’re called Moai, so wikipedia tells me) from the rocks, but I thought people would try to read into the connection between the fire watchtower and the heads (there isn’t one by the way), so I scrapped the idea. I eventually settle on my first rough because it fit the series of illustrations I’d done previously. The best ideas I have usually come fully formed, but every now and again I really have to try and try, and it can be incredibly frustrating, and I just have to settle on a piece because if I don’t it’ll never get finished and I’ll never draw anything ever again… ever. A tad melodramatic perhaps. Anyway, I settled on this idea and I’m not sure what I think of it yet. I hope you enjoy it.

Cheers

Matt

In Case You Hadn’t Noticed…

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been sticking to a certain style recently. I’ve found that in the past the work that I post on social media and on here is “all over the shop”, for lack of a better term. If you came to my website I think you would be hard pressed to say what my area of expertise is… maybe expertise is the wrong word, perhaps “aesthetic” is better? These last few posts have been an attempt at creating a unified and recognisable brand for my online presence. Not all of my work will include the Handyman that’s been making an appearance so far, but I will at least attempt to keep the style the same. I think with all my previous work I’ve been experimenting and testing what works and what doesn’t – some are hits and some are misses, that’s just how it’s been. I think I’m finally working towards something now that is uniquely mine, and I think this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how refined the work is. I don’t doubt that you’ve seen very similar work elsewhere – Ty Carter, Szymon Biernacki, Scott Wills, and Brian Edward Miller are all hugely influential, and I feel like I borrow little bits from all of them. I’m committed to staying on course for the time being, building up a body of work, and seeing how far I can push these pieces. Anyway, I hope you’ve had a great day, and thanks for reading!

Cheers

Matt

A Question about Originality

I’m enjoying doing these pieces. I believe they’re getting more and more refined as I do them, and rightly so; practice makes perfect, and all that. The majority of the illustration is a replication of an existing photograph, albeit my take on said photo. Because I’ve essentially copied a photo and just added some bits of my own, the question arises, “is true artistic originality possible?”

A site called Deviant Art did an interview with an artist a couple of years ago in which the illustrator claimed their art was original and not inspired or influenced by anything or anyone. I found this answer odd, because the artist used ink and watercolours to paint popular landmarks – surely then, they were inspired in some way by the landmarks themselves? Also, without some outside influence or inspiration, how was the choice of ink and watercolours made? As someone who has been making art for a while now, I know how vital the work of others (be that film, music, paintings, etc…) and the reference I use has been to my growth.

At the time of reading the interview I felt angry that someone would claim they were entirely original and uninspired in anyway, but as I processed what this person said, I came to two conclusions; one – they were wrong and the very work they had produced was a contradiction to their statement; two – true originality is a myth. That’s not to say something can’t be original in terms of being unique, but to create something that hasn’t been inspired or influenced in some way is impossible.

Anyway, thanks for reading my opinion on that. I was just going to talk about my process again, but I thought this might be a little more interesting. And as always, I hope you enjoy the work I’ve made. Cheers.

Lighthouse

Another study today. This one was a little more complex than the last one, because there’s more going on with the buildings. I injected a conceptual aspect to the piece with the torn paper, as it made things a little more interesting and leads the eye. I used the mixer brush in Photoshop to give the clouds a soft look which turned out quite nice. These pieces are fun to do and don’t require a lot of messing around since they’re a study of a real place, the only challenge really is how to incorporate a conceptual idea into it.

By the way, i’m going to be making some minor changes to the website in the coming weeks which will include a “shop” section where you will be able to grab prints of my work. You can still get prints for the time being by going through the “Contact” page and messaging me.

Enjoy!

A fresh coat

This one took about three hours. It’s not super complex and it’s actually more of a study than a conceptual piece, but just doing a study of photo reference felt a little boring, so I added the painter/decorator to make it a little more interesting. When drawing from reference I often forget that i’m allowed to use artistic licence and make things my own, which is the case with the mountains. I originally just copied the reference, but the realistic jagged shapes didn’t sit right, hence the change to smooth curves which fit more with the foreground shapes. I particularly like the rocks in the foreground – no, not in a weird rock-fetish kind of way, you pervert! Can’t a guy just have a healthy appreciation for some rocks?! Jesus… anyway, enjoy!

Do not spill the pint of a man who wears Crocs

Super simple character design here. Still working through the Schoolism.com class on character creation and this is part of it. The lesson is to use the prompts “aggressive” and “bully” and create something from that. I googled “aggressive animals” and got some reference images of grizzly bears and based the character around that. There’s nothing worse than spilling your pint, unless you’re spilling the pint of a guy the size of a bear who wears Crocs on his feet. Pretty sure I’m the skinny guy about to get punched. Enjoy!