As the local geek culture continues to expand as it has, a lot more local artists are getting recognition for their awesome artwork that originally had to fight to find an audience. --- One such artist enjoying the boom is Matt Page, a designer and illustrator from SLC who has been making fantastic creations for a couple years now, earning him local awards in the process for his work and scoring some major gallery spots.
Today we chat with Page about his career so far, the creative process, the recognition he's received and a few other topics on the local art scene. (All pictures courtesy of Page.)
Gavin: Hey Matt, first off, tell us a bit about yourself.
Matt: I’m 35 years old, born and raised in Salt Lake City, I work at an ad agency in Murray and live in North Salt Lake with my wife and three kids. In my free time, I’m always developing new personal art projects, most of which are pop culture inspired. I display and sell my work online and at a gallery downtown called Mod A Go Go.
Gavin: What first got you interested in art and what were some early influences on you?
Matt: I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. When I was a little kid, I used to sit for hours at the kitchen table and draw monsters and robots and whatever else popped into my head. By the time I became a teenager, I had already decided that was what I wanted to do with my life. In those early days I was inspired by MAD Magazine, Garbage Pail Kids, toys, books, music and cartoons. All of which remain influences on me today.
Gavin: You attended both SLCC and the U of U to study art. What made you choose SLCC to start with and what made you switch to the U later?
Matt: I always wanted to go to the U, but it was easier and cheaper to start off at the community college. And I am so glad I did, because I got a lot out of SLCC that I feel was lacking at the University.
Gavin: How was it running both programs and what was the biggest difference between the two?
Matt: I had a couple of classes and teachers I really enjoyed at the U, but for the most part, the program and professors just didn’t match as well with my personality and the program and professors at SLCC. But in the end, I am glad I did both.
Gavin: What drew you specificity to illustration as your main medium?
Matt: I’m not sure. It just happened. I find myself drawn to cute cartoons and very simplified minimalistic illustrations. Probably the first that got me heading in that direction myself is the comic book artist Sam Keith – his illustration work is so unique and weird, that it always inspires me.
Gavin: What was it like for you just starting out and essentially being a freelance artist?
Matt: Freelance has always been rough for me because I think in order to be successful at it, you have to be really confident and be able to sell yourself and your work. Those are not skills I have. So I was lucky to get breaks and referrals from friends and others who have found me and believed in my talents.
Gavin: What influenced you to move into areas like comics and life drawing?
Matt: I’ve always enjoyed life drawing – and always been totally frustrated by it as well. I struggle with the human form, but when I do finally get something I like, it’s very satisfying. As for comics, I love comic books and cartoons, so that just kind of naturally makes its way into my work. My dream job would be to actually draw and create comic books, but I know my limitations as an artist and I know that probably won’t happen, but that won’t stop me from drawing my own versions of the characters I love.
Gavin: How was it for you to develop your style over the years and make your pieces stand out from others in the same field?
Matt: Maybe when other people look at my body of work they can see a style, but I actually don’t think I am very consistent. I wish I could establish a set style and just spend the next couple years perfecting that look, but my problem is if I work in the same style for more than 3 or 4 drawings, it stops feeling satisfying and starts to feel like I am cheating somehow or copying the last thing I have done. I once read that Brian Eno had a quote hung up in his studio that said “whatever worked last time, never do it again,” and that felt right to me. That felt like what I want to do when I create. So that’s kind of been my mantra for years. But I also struggle with that, like I fear it has held me back from allowing myself to hone a consistent illustration style.
Gavin: What's the process like for you in creating a new piece, from concept to final product?
Matt: As I said (and as you can see from my work), I am kind of all over the place, but usually I start out drawing something out in a sketchbook, then scanning it into the computer. I then take it into Adobe Illustrator to trace it and then I sit and play around with it, adding and subtracting elements, maybe taking it over to Photoshop, and just playing with it until it starts to finally look like a finished piece.
Gavin: Do you find yourself changing it much as you create it or do you try to stick to the original concept?
Matt: It usually changes quite a bit and I know it will, so I don’t spend a ton of time getting everything just right on paper. Sometimes what I scan in isn’t even a complete drawing because I know I can just finish it up in the computer.
Gavin: When did you get into design projects and creating works for firms and other companies?
Matt: When I started college, I was in the illustration program, but when I realized that most illustrators tend to work freelance, I changed my major to graphic design in hopes that it would help me get a steady job that will make it easier and less risky for me to take care of my family. So that’s where my professional career has taken me, doing branding and design for companies who can provide a reliable paycheck.
Gavin: You've won a number of awards over the years, including several from the most recent Utah 2014 American Advertising Awards Show. How does it feel to earn that kind of recognition for your work?
Matt: It’s nice to get a little reassurance now and then that something I have done is objectively seen as a success. But that kind of reminds me of a passage in the book “Earth” put out by The Daily Show a couple years ago. It’s talking about artists and it says “A receptive crowd’s praise can sustain an artist for minutes.” And it has a picture of an artist at 8:02 PM saying “Thank you so much. I’m so glad you like it.” And then it has him again at 8:09 PM saying “I’ve failed everyone who ever loved me.” That’s my favorite passage of that book because it’s so true. Getting a compliment or an award feels great for a few minutes until my self-hate kicks back in. Haha.
Gavin: What do you hope to achieve as an artist down the line, both with your work and career?
Matt: Going back to what I was saying about style, I would love to establish a set style I am comfortable with and perfect that style over years of pieces. If I can get to that point, I feel like then it would be possible for me to start doing illustration full time.
Gavin: For those interested in having some work done by you, how do they contact you and what do they need?
Matt: They can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with as many details as possible of what they are looking for, then be ready for a lot of questions from me before we get to work.
Gavin: What are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad?
Matt: Salt Lake City is a cool place and there are a lot of really great artists here. I’m not sure how into local art people are in Utah, but I also feel like that is changing for the better. I only started trying to promote and sell my own art within the last year and one thing I have been pleasantly surprised by is how helpful and friendly the other artists have been. It’s a cool open community I am happy to have found myself in.
Gavin: Who are some local artists you like checking out or recommend people should look for?
Matt: I’m blown away by all the artists who regularly display at Mod A Go Go: Heather Ackley, Magen Mitchell, Marcus Gibby, Sean Hennifer, Brittany Nay, and so many others. It’s always an honor to have my work hung next to theirs.
Gavin: What's your opinion on the local galleries we have and how they're influencing the scene?
Matt: I am really impressed with them. There’s a really hip little art scene in Utah and I think some of these hip galleries down town are playing a major part in that.
Gavin: What's your take on Gallery Stroll and the work they're doing to promote local art?
Matt: Even when I am not personally participating in it, it’s one day a month I always look forward to. It’s inspiring to see what other locals are working on and it makes a really fun date night with the wife and kids.
Gavin: What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?
Matt: More of the same. I am going to keep trying to push myself to put out new and fun work. In September I am going to be at the Salt Lake Comic Con so for the summer I am planning to spend a lot of time getting prepared for that. Hopefully I’ll get time to do more paintings as well – those are always very satisfying.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
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