Matt loves hearing from his fans, friends, and aspiring artists/writers/filmmakers! However, Matt’s schedule doesn’t always allow him to get back with folks in a timely manner. Before sending an email, here’s Matt with some tidbits that may answer your questions quicker!
Q: I have a book (or poster) of yours that I’d like to have signed. Can I mail it to you so you can sign it and send back? How much does it cost?
A: I’m always happy to sign anything, and I do it free of charge. I’m honored that you cherish something I’ve worked on and would like to have it personalized. That said, it’s difficult to manage materials being sent here and then having to re-ship them back.
I’d prefer you wait until I’m doing an event in your area. That way we can meet in person, and the experience is much more personal for both of us. Stay tuned to the site and follow me on social media to see when I’ll be in your neck of the woods next!
Q: How can I get an autographed card or signed photo?
A: Usually any time I do an event, there is some sort of freebie card, photo, or poster. Happy to sign anything, but we just don’t have the means to mail these items out to everyone.
Q: Do you do art commissions? How much does it cost?
A: Normally I don’t take private commissions, however, if you are willing to pay a professional rate, similar to what I’m paid by studios and publishers, then I’m happy to hear what you have in mind. Also, if you are an individual (and not a corporate entity) then know I must be paid upfront. You can see my track record of happy clients on this site, but I know nothing of how well you balance your checkbook. If you hire me you will get an awesome product, and on time with the schedule we agree upon. That’s the quality experience you get for paying upfront.
If you are a publisher or studio, I’m always looking for the next cool thing to be a part of, but my availability depends on the project and the budget you have to work with. If you are serious about hiring me and work with professional rates, feel free to drop me an email and let’s see if we can make magic happen!
Q: I’d love to have you design my tattoo! How much?
A: Tattoos are super cool, and I have more than I can count. However, I normally I don’t design them. If you are willing to pay a professional rate similar to what I work with for a studio, then I’d consider it, but know that would probably cost more than getting the actual tattoo done. (Don’t confuse that with my utmost respect for tattoo artists. What they do is amazing and beyond my expertise. Some tattoo artists charge more than I do, and rightly so! In general tattoo artists are way under-paid.)
That said, if you want to get a tattoo of something I’ve already illustrated… awesome! Please tag me when you post photos on social media!
Q: I’m an aspiring artist / writer / filmmaker looking to break into the industry. Where do I go? Who do I talk to?
A: The entertainment industry is huge. There are so many different aspects to it and different markets within each field. Even with each specific field, many artists have found their place different ways. Everyone’s road is different and yours will be, too.
One of the biggest crutches I find aspiring folks have when trying to break in, is they don’t know their industry. For example, I’ve met countless aspiring comic book artists who are itching to do it for a living, yet know nothing about current comics and the artists already working in it. They don’t even know which titles are produced by which companies. I’ve found the same thing with filmmakers who know nothing about the studios, their track records, or what each is known for. If you really want to break in, you should give a crap and know your industry.
A big suggestion is hitting comic conventions, film festivals, and other industry-type shows. You’ll be rubbing elbows with other professionals that do this for real, and often the big companies are there for you to network with. Most of these shows also have great panels and workshops run by pros and can give you a plethora of knowledge. Just being there and seeing what people are doing at these shows, and what your competition is in general, can really be inspiring.
Also, the web is the world at your finger tips. All your answers can be found here, if you know where to look. The fact that you’re reading this right now is a step in the right direction. Nice. You’re on the right track.
As for me, as most pro artists will admit, we are students for life. I don’t have all the answers, and every artist, writer, and filmmaker out there always has goals of getting to a place elevated from where they are. You never stop learning or evolving, so get used to the idea that you’ll never know it all. I don’t say this to discourage, but rather to encourage you. This industry can be really rewarding. Never give up, and look at the great wide unknown future as an exciting challenge- you’ll be happy you gave it your all.
Q: Matt, how did YOU break into the industry?
A: Well, each goal I’ve achieved has it’s own separate story. There’s no one way I approach it, and none of this happened overnight.
If you’re asking to model your own aspirations based on mine, you should know that not only has the industry changed dramatically in the last twenty years, the world has. What worked for me way back when probably won’t work for you now. In fact, what worked for me breaking in decades ago is way different than how I keep my feet in the industry today. The rules change so quick that you’re better off leaping ahead of the pack, rather than looking at what happened and trying to follow suit.
I’m sure it’s not the answer you wanted, so let me actually answer the question in a way that can give you some useful insight . . .
My success has had little to do with luck. I would instead point to hard work and determination. When I say working hard, I usually mean working smart- there’s a difference. And, as an artist of any kind you have to sell yourself as best you can. If you don’t believe in yourself enough to sell yourself, who else will?
Another tidbit that has worked well for me is not throwing all of my eggs in one basket. It’s very difficult to make a living as just a sketch card artist, or just a comic book artist. Many of these artists find extra work storyboarding movies or designing toys and video games on the side. Part of my success has been from keeping my hand in many different pots at once. That way, if work is slow in any of these fields, I’m still busy working elsewhere.
If you are interested in more details than that, much of my growth of how I came to be a professional artist is documented in the BIOGRAPHY section of this site. Check it out, yo!
Q: I’m an aspiring artist, can I send you images of my work so you can critique it?
A: I’d rather you didn’t send files that bulk up the email. With viruses and all, I’m hesitant to open unsolicited files. Instead, I’d prefer if you sent me a link to your site, or an online gallery.
Keep in mind, my time online is limited, so it’s hard for me to really get into a deep conversation about art and design while typing. I’m often behind on my email as it is. However, I’d be happy to take a look, just understand I won’t be able to write an essay back about techniques and such.
The same goes for hitting me up on Social Media. And- artists usually hate when you post work and then tag them in it just so they’ll see. What happens is- the rest of the world that follows this artist thinks your image is a new piece of art they’ve done. I mean, why else would they be tagged in it?
Most of us working artists are happy to help, but try to use common courtesy, and be respectful of our time. One day throngs of artists will be hitting you up for advice!
Q: What kind of paper / paints / drawing materials do you use?
A: Anything and everything. I’ve been known to use a brown paper page, a Fed Ex box, and even kid’s paints to get the job done! My thoughts are that it’s what the artist does that creates the magic, not the brand of paint, kind of pencil, or version of Illustrator you’re running.
Let’s face it, an incredible artist could be given media they aren’t accustomed to, or even a box of crayons and they’d still come up with something amazing. As well, if you gave an amateur top-of-the-line expensive art materials to work with, it’s not going to help them draw or paint any better.
Q: What are your thoughts on working digital?
A: Awesome! My thoughts on using watercolor? Also awesome! And my thoughts on using charcoal? Again, awesome!
There seems to be some confusion about what the best medium is to work with. When creating art, it’s about the art, not the medium. Good art is good. Bad art is bad. One medium versus another isn’t what makes the image better.
Consider these 5 movies… The Empire Strikes Back (shot on film). Guardians of the Galaxy (shot digitally). Beauty and the Beast (traditional cell-painted animation). The Incredibles (digital 3D animation). Coraline (stop-motion animation). Which movie is your favorite?
Now that you’ve chosen your favorite movie, is that the medium for which all movies should be made? I mean, if your favorite happened to be created with stop-motion animation, wouldn’t all movies be better if they were created that way? Of course not.
So do what you like, how you like, and OWN IT.
As for me, I like to work with my hands. These days, about 75% of the final product you see is a traditional painting. The rest is cleaning up and adding effects with Adobe Photoshop. I also dig that having an original one-of-a-kind piece of art, it has a physical connection with me and I can sell that to a collector who appreciates it. Of course, art isn’t all about the money for me, but in having an original piece, I can often double the income. I only get paid once if it’s created with 1s and 0s.
Of course, don’t mistake that for being anti-digital. I’m a huge advocate of the medium, and for better or worse, I do 90% of my work sitting in front of a screen.
Even if you choose to work with traditional means, you have to be smart about it, and adapt with the times. You can easily be a successful pastel artist in today’s world, but know that most will be viewing your work on their phone. So adapt, be smart, and be accessible.
Q: I have a story (or a script) I’d love to have you illustrate (or storyboard). Will you read it?
A: In these situations, simply put, I’m a work-for-hire guy. This is what I do for a living. Asking an artist to read your story and illustrate it for free would be like asking a roofer to come over, check out your house- and by golly, wouldn’t they enjoy re-doing your roof for free?
If you have a story that you know could be the next big thing, do yourself a favor and invest in it. Raise the funds and hire the best to bring it to life. If you don’t believe in your story enough to take that kind of risk, how could you expect someone else to?
In short, if you have a budget and want me to illustrate your story… Sweet- send me the details about the project, and we can discuss.
Q: I have a Kickstarter / new book / charity project. Can you plug it on your social media?
A: When I see something cool Online that I know, or that I love, or that I believe in, I sparingly give plugs to posts that I have nothing to do with. But if you have to ask…
The awkwardness here is that I truly want to help everyone. But I get requests daily to plug other people’s stuff. Even if it’s a heartwarming charity, if I plugged every request, my pages would no longer be my own.
Please don’t take it the wrong way, but the people that have taken the time to follow me did so to, well, follow me. Any time I plug something else unrelated, as good as the intentions are, I am interrupting their feed with something they didn’t ask for.
On the other hand, if you just want to let ME know about the cool new thing you’re involved with, feel free to leave a comment or private message me.
Q: I’d love to have you speak at my show / convention / school. Are you available?
A: Of course. These are always a blast, and I’m able to inspire an audience. I’m usually available at standard speaking rates, plus expenses/accommodations.
If I’m speaking at a convention-type-show, a speaking rate may not necessary if you’re instead covering the cost of my booth and relevant expenses/accommodations.
I’m also open to negotiate running workshops, if your budget allows for that.
Q: I would love to take one of your classes! Where do you teach?
A: Great! I’m currently a professor and faculty advisor of Creative Imaging and Illustration at Macomb College, north of Detroit, Michigan. The program I work in, Media + Communication Arts, is one of the best around and certainly the best in the state- in terms of getting you the skills you need to get a professional job. That’s why I chose to teach there. My students have gone on to work for movies, TV shows, books, comics, trading cards, toys and video games for every property you could imagine- from STAR WARS to MY LITTLE PONY.
The following is a list of courses I normally teach on a semester to semester basis.
MACA 1160 PREVIZ One of the most innovative classes we offer, it’s much more than just how to create storyboards for movies, animation or video games. The class is essentially film school on paper. You learn how to tell stories and communicate ideas visually. While the course will certainly improve your drawing, it’s more cerebral than a drawing class, per se. Many students are apprehensive on this course at first, but most return and say they learned more here than any other class they’ve taken.
MACA 2176 PAINTED ILLUSTRATION In addition to the use of color, I go over 4 different painting techniques/styles with acrylics, which is the most versatile and practical of the traditional mediums used by professionals today. You don’t need prior painting experience- we start at the beginning- and students usually produce about ten solid portfolio pieces. This is the course where I really give the secrets to my painting techniques, as well as beefing your drawing and painting skills to the pro level.
MACA 2190 FIGURE ILLUSTRATION 2 This class is a follow-up to Figure Illustration I, which focuses more on anatomy and basic drawing of the figure. Figure 2 worked with the clothed or costumed model and essentially drives solid skills in making your characters look professional. Extra attention is spent on lighting and three dimensional form, as well as utilizing the most with hand/eye coordination. The class begins in black and white, and evolves into full color. 4 different drawing media / techniques / styles are covered, with an introduction to painting the live figure.
Q: I’d love to meet you! Do you have any upcoming appearances?
A: Always! Stay tuned to this site and follow me on social media to get the latest shows, events, and conventions I’ll be attending.
Thanks for your support and hope to see you soon!