Monday, 14 January 2013

Today's Illustrated Interview: Matt Baker!

Where do you live/work? What do you love about working/living there? What don't you like?
I work from my little home studio in Newcastle, Australia (not to be confused with Newcastle in England).

Above is my art/animation desk with drawings and books all over the place.

This is my computer desk where I like to sit and develop a sore back.

There's so much to love about the city of Newcastle, but I'd say the beaches are the best part of it. I live 12 minutes drive from the nearest beach, and 7 minutes drive from Warners Bay, which has a beautiful esplanade where my family and I enjoy taking sunset walks. 
What I don't like so much about where I live is the price of Housing!

This is the walk-way at Warners Bay where we like to walk or jog and look at sunsets like this one.

What do you love most about being an illustrator?
Tough question, there's a lot to love about illustrating! Well I think I realised at some point that what I really love doing most is telling stories, and illustrating a scene or moment is a great way to draw (pun) people into the world of that particular story. And I love the satisfaction of labouring over a particular detail, like a facial expression, and being able to feel at the end that I nailed the particular look or feel that I was searching for with my pencil line.

How do you work?
I'd say my style is constantly evolving from year to year as I learn and try new things. At the moment, the way I mainly work is by sketching rough concepts in Photoshop using a Wacom stylus and tablet. I like sketching the old fashioned way, but I find sketching in the computer makes it much easier to change and adjust parts of a concept, or make slightly varied versions much more quickly than if I were working with pencil and paper. Being able to change things quickly and easily is a major asset when you are working to a deadline.
When sketches have been approved, I usually print out the sketch at a larger size than it will eventually appear in print, and I use my light table to put a fresh piece of paper over the sketch and do a tighter, more detailed rendering in pencil, which I then ink using a variety of pens and nibs. I then scan the inked drawing back into the computer and colour it using Photoshop and Illustrator to achieve the cartoony, comic-book style of art that I mainly do.
That's generally my process, although I do deviate from this depending on the type of project, for example if I need to do a lot of super-clean lines for a picture, I might choose to work mostly in Adobe Illustrator on that particular piece, or if a drawing needs a more traditional look, I'll colour it by hand rather than using Photoshop.

What's the hardest part of your job?
The paperwork! Oh my goodness, I loathe doing accounts and invoicing! I need a secretary that will do all those things for me and accept gratitude as payment.

What/who inspires you?
Here's a short list of my favourite artists:

• Glen Keane - Favourite Animator.

Scott Gustafson - Favourite Children's Book Illustrator. 

• James Coleman - Favourite landscape artist.

• Alphonse Mucha - Just love his style and the way his paintings combined women, flowers and patterns together in amazingly detailed and beautiful compositions. 

• Norman Rockwell - Favourite artist for just all-round awesomeness and mind-blowing story-telling ability through his paintings.

• Andre Le Blanc - Favourite biblical illustrator.

• Juanjo Guarnido - Favourite European comic book artist.

• Stuart Immonen - Favourite American comic book artist.

There's many more, of course, and all artists get inspired by just about everything they see, but the above sum it up pretty well for me.

What do you like to do when you're not illustrating?
I like to spend time with my family, read books, watch movies, play sport (especially Football and Beach Volleyball), and get outdoors among God's green Earth.

How did you get into illustration?
This is probably going to sound like a very generic answer, but basically I've loved drawing since the day I grasped my first crayon, and very early on I knew I wanted to either write and illustrate stories, or become an animator.
I began a university arts degree but dropped out after the first semester, after which I worked at Subway for four years and designed signs on the side, while always doing my own stuff. Eventually I got my act together and applied to the DisneyToon Animation Studio in Sydney, where I worked in traditional animation for 5 years, and contributed to 9 movies. Now for the last 6 years I've been freelance illustrating. I've always loved the comic book medium and also children's book illustration, so those are the areas where I've concentrated my artistic efforts mostly, but I tend to dabble in other things too, like Flash animation, which I am loving more and more.

Any tips for aspiring illustrators?
Oooh, let's see. Make sure you glean inspiration from many different artists and art styles, not just your one favourite artist. That will help you to discover your own style, rather than becoming a clone of someone else's style.
Also, have a plan B if the illustration thing doesn't work out the way you'd dreamed. And make it a realistic plan B. For example, my plan B is to become the world's greatest ever Table Tennis player, and to therefore be completely famous and make millions of dollars from product endorsements.

What's your ultimate dream?
It would be a dream come true to one day write and illustrate a story that is so awesomely awesome that it gets picked up by Pixar or Dreamworks and turned into an animated movie. It wouldn't hurt if I got to direct that movie, too.

Check out more of Matt's work here.

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