JL: Matt, we met on artpapa and deviant art, then facebook, and now twitter! I guess the graphite-artists seek each other out. I've seen your awesome drawings and peoples' favorable reactions. What do you see for the future of this medium in the art world?
MD: I'm not sure what the future holds for this medium in the art world but in my opinion, and from what I've seen,
pencil /graphite drawing is becoming increasingly popular and more appreciated. I do feel it's been under appreciated in the past though, particularly when it's put side by side with other mediums. It seems quite common for oil and acrylic paintings to do well in juried competitions but pencil work rarely seems to get the same praise. I'd love for pencil work to be on a more level playing field as oils, acrylics and other popular art mediums. I know it's all down to personal taste and preference but I think maybe the average person/non artist appreciates or understands how much work goes into some drawings. I think as soon as you mention 'pencil', people assume it's going to be just some quick sketch and that often they don't realise that these days highly realistic drawings are being produced by some damn fine artists and with damn fine results. Take people like Armin Mersmann and Paul Lung (to name just 2 from so many thousands of talented pencil artists), and see just how detailed their drawings are.
JL: How log have you been drawing, and why did you start?
MD: Well I've been drawing since I was about 7 years old (I'm 35 now) and have always had a good eye for perspective, form and light and shade so I'm lucky in that sense. I was always told that my drawings were very good and I always thought they were too.............until a couple of years ago when I discovered Deviantart and saw for myself the truly amazing drawings that were being produced by people with a simple pencil. It was at that point that I took a long hard look at my drawings from my past and thought "okay, they're not bad but they are far from good or great". I decided then to reteach myself 'how' to draw using tips and techniques that I read about from other pencil artists on DA. The advice and help that I was given was invaluable and helped set me on a new road with regards to my drawings. As mentioned earlier, I was already blessed with some form of artistic talent but I desperately needed to hone those skills if I ever wanted to accomplish my dream of having my art on show and someday for sale. Also, several years ago I went through quite a bad time in my life that completely demotivated me and thus I lost the will to draw. After seeking help for my 'problem' and finally getting the help, I was put in touch with an art tutor who took a small group of people in a similar position as myself, for just 2 hours a week, and helped to inspire and motivate us again. It worked for me and that's when I discovered DA.
So to sum up, although I've drawn for as long as I can remember, I only consider the last 1 - 2 years as being professional with regards to how I go about producing my drawings now. I've learnt more in the last 2 years compared to the previous 27 years and it's changed my drawing life.
JL: Are you from an arty family?
MD: No, not really. My father was a good technical drawer and certainly had an eye for perspective and form, much like I did when I was a kid so maybe I picked that side of things up from him. My daughter (who's 4 years old) also has a keen eye for things and she loves to draw whereas my son (her twin brother) isn't so adept.
JL: Who do you turn to for inspiration and why?
MD: I generally turn to other pencil artists for inspiration. Just looking at other peoples drawings is enough to inspire me although picking a suitable subject matter has always been an issue for me. In the last year I've discovered some really great art forums such as Artpapa and Wetcanvas and these forums have really helped to inspire me. The artists there, no matter what mediums they work in, are so helpful and offer such great advice and constructive criticism and I'm eternally greatful for these forums.
JL: I see you would like to go mainstream. What steps are you taking to make this happen?
MD: Well at the moment I'm concentrating on building up my portfolio as I only really have 4 drawings that I consider as 'worthy' of being shown. I tend to post my WIP's (works in progress) on various art forums that I've already mentioned so that I can get constructive feedback and advice from other artists. Generally speaking it's through word of mouth, forums and sites such as DA that are helping my work get noticed. Also Facebook, and more recently, Twitter have proved to be a good way of getting my stuff out there. As yet I've not approached any galleries or exhibitions but I will do that once I have a bigger portfolio. Also, people such as yourself, Jeremy, have been so helpful and even this opportunity of doing this little interview is invaluable to me. Once again, thank you for this and hopefully someday I can repay your kindness.
JL: Are you going to specialise exclusively in graphite or do you have other plans and interests?
MD: As it stands I work exclusively in Graphite but I have worked with Acrylics and pastels before. I don't really get on with pastels but I loved using Acrylics and hope to do some more Acrylic work in the future. I also feel that expanding on what mediums I use will give me better opportunities and make me more versatile as an artist. At the moment I intend to keep concentrating on my Graphite work in order to build up my portfolio and once that's done then I'll put a bit more focus on Acrylics.
JL: You put many hours into a given work. Do you see this as a problem from a commercial point of view? I mean, how do you make a trade off between commercial productivity and just letting it flow at a natural rate?
MD: Indeed I do put many hours into my drawings. Infact, my last drawing took close to 150 hours to complete. I'm not the quickest drawer in the world anyway but I'm such a perfectionist that this adds to the time that a drawing takes to complete. Everytime I start a new drawing I think to myself that I won't allow myself to get too intricate but I never manage to do that. I generally need to learn to improve on the time that my drawings take but without compromising the quality of my work. I think I will be able to speed up but it's all a learning process and will take me time to get comfortable with working faster. Also, taking so much time on a drawing isn't practical from a commercial point of view as 'time = money'. If I can produce more drawings over a shorter period of time then I will have the opportunity to make more money as it just doesn't make good business sense to put so much time into something that people wouldn't be willing to pay for if I had to charge an hourly rate (not that I'm sure how to price myself anyway) but like I said, I'm still learning and as it stands I don't currently make money from my drawings anyway.
JL: Have you been approached by any interesting sources for commission work and so on?
MD: In short, no. Many people have looked at my drawings and are pretty gobsmacked when they realise that something's a drawing and not a photo as they initially thought but no, nobody (other than one person) has requested any commissions from me. Hopefully someday they will but to be honest I don't really advertise or say that I'm available for commissions. I also figure that people currently have less money to spend on non-essentials such as a drawing due to recessions etc,. I'm also wary of doing commissions as I worry that I may not enjoy drawing them as much. I noticed whilst drawing my only commission that I just wasn't bonding with the drawing because it was a picture chosen by the client. I had no real creative leeway like I would have if I was drawing from my own reference or from my own ideas and imagination. I guess it has to be a compromise sometimes and that I'll have to give up being creative on the occasions that a commission may come my way.
JL: Thank you so much for your time. Is there any advice that you could offer to other graphite specialists out there?
MD: I don't really have any advice with regards to marketing or selling work as I'm only learning that now myself but in terms of advice to do with techniques, then yes, I can make suggestions based on what works for me.
Firstly, these are things that work for me and may not work for others.
I never/rarely blend my drawings although I did once. I've found that using the 'circulism' technique is my preferred method of drawing, although this technique takes quite long, hence why some drawings take me 100+ hours. By using this technique I'm able to get a smooth look but not an unnaturally smooth look. It's perfect for drawing skin as it gives the impression of tiny pores.
If I do ever blend then it's usually only very tiny areas and I use a tortillion, very lightly, for this. When using the tortillon I also use the circulism [a.k.a. circularism] technique as it gives a more natural looking smoothness in my opinion.
I think the blending advice is sound. You pointed to a tutorial at Duey's Drawings. And I've got one in this blog too.
Well good luck with your career!
(C) Jeremy Lee 2010, all rights reserved.
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spOOk's art is owned by Jeremy. He has practiced drawing and painting for about 40 years, and might get good at it one day. spOOk's art is focused on graphite portraits.