one of my idols…
one of my idols…
“Art is a language – a visual language. The meanings of understanding from visual language cannot be tied down to any one thing. They communicate ideas in a similar manner to words, but remain more in flux and at times elusive to description.”
Matt’s quote from above is exactly why I enjoy his art. It’s also why at times, I feel personally constricted by vowels and consonants – steadfast meaning can impede worthwhile ideas instead of facilitate them. Fortunately for us, Matt Lyon of C86 thinks in contour and robust color. Matt’s a graphic artist from the UK who’s style and tone is approachable and informative, yet concise and clear. There’s a playful simplicity to his illustrations and typography, which seem to exist as world’s unto themselves. His use of color leaves the doors wide open as far as possible palettes, but it’s his sense of space and shape that make the work so interesting, dense, and enjoyable. At a glance, you see a woven tapestry that feels overwhelming, yet when digested for another few seconds, it’s comfortable to take it all in, making sense of the whole.
His website C86, is the online home for his design and illustration work, as Matt is securely on his way to establishing himself as a quality imaginer. You know when art is good – it’s hard to explain, and it makes you feel in ways words are incapable of illuminating. It’s that exact sentiment that makes this intro so hard to write, yet proves that Matt’s work is great. In lieu of more inadequate grammar, I’m going to make way for the chat we had from across the pond. Lucky for me, Matt is also friendly, unless of course, you take the dude’s peanut butter.
Interview by Evan La Ruffa
Evan La Ruffa: Your art feels like a color explosion, have you always tended to use so many vivid colors?
Matt Lyon: No, not at all. I’ve only really been getting into the wonders of colour over the past couple of years. Before then, my work was very monochromatic. But now I’m addicted to colour – it’s like I can’t stop myself! I love to explore different palettes and combinations, and I’m a great believer that anything goes. Even so, orange still remains my favourite colour, and looks even better alongside pink, brown and purple
EL: Your about page reveals a love of peanut butter…creamy or crunchy man? I might have to end the interview if you respond incorrectly…
ML: Crunchy all the way! I couldn’t live without peanut butter – it’s one of the many vices in my life. Not a day passes without me having some for breakfast on toast or in a nice sandwich, especially with cheese and cucumber. Apparently it’s really nice in a bacon sandwich too, but I can’t bring myself to spoil the perfection that is a bacon sarnie with ketchup on freshly cut white bread. In the UK the best brand is Sun-Pat, only rivalled by Skippy (which is a little too sweet). However, I have vague recollections of KP Nuts having their own brand back in the 70s, which was really nice though no longer available. Haha, I’m already talking more about peanut butter than my art!
EL: How do you feel about symmetry? Sometimes your stuff is very symmetrical, but you also have pieces that aren’t at all…
ML: I like the formal, almost totemic quality of mirrored symmetry. It lends itself particular well to pattern-based designs, and with many that I’ve produced that have started as purely abstract designs, they take on an identity like that of a mask or face. This isn’t particularly surprising; what with the brain seeking meaning from what it sees – the symmetry of faces is an easy projection onto something that would otherwise be non-representational. This in turn creates reference to equivalent designs from folk art and tribal culture. I love how the nature of a design can spawn its own points of reference rather than it being a conscious act on my behalf. Aside from the use of mirrored symmetry, the majority of my work is still symmetrical in a more unconventional sense. I’m very aware of maintaining visual balance, often through repetitions of colour, tone, shape or scale.
EL: Is there any era of art you look to with particular reverence?
ML: This is always a difficult question for me because there are so many periods of art and design history that I love. There are those that perhaps inspire my work, such as East European Folk Art or Art Brut, as well as the likes of Art Nouveau and its reappropriation in 60s psychedelic design / illustration. In terms of reverence though, I have always admired Dada for its radical and groundbreaking influence on 20th century art that reverberated throughout the whole century and to this very day. I love the idea of an art movement that encompassed visual arts, graphic design, poetry, theatre, literature and a strong political agenda. For similar reasons I also love Constructivism that was happening around the same era. In comparison, everything I do seems so frivolous and insignificant
EL: You also do a lot of typography. It definitely carries over the vibe you maintain in your illustrations. What role do letters play in your psyche?
ML: My experiments with type have been a quite recent addition to my work, something that I’ve more seriously explored over the past couple of years. I’ve never considered myself a graphic designer and in a traditional sense I’m even further removed from the world of typography. To be honest, all those grids and measurements scare me off. Typography is so steeped in history, tradition and terminology that I find the whole thing quite stifling. But there’s nothing stopping me making illustration in the shape of letterforms, so that’s what I do! My first type designs reflected more of an organic look that reflected the kind of shapes I was playing with at the time. It was soon referred to as typography that looked like guts or sausage-meat, which is a pretty fair description. Then as my work developed towards more formal patterns, this fed into my typography. Pretty much in the space of a couple of designs I’d stumbled upon the foundations for a new style of typography to work with and develop. From there was born my ongoing series of ‘typoquotes’ and the like, a continual work-in-progress!
EL: Is there a certain message you’re trying to convey in your illustration? Are you trying to create beautiful things or are you just concerned with creating in the first place?
ML: I’ve always stuck to the idea that I do what I do and it’s for others to talk about. In that respect, although I can cite influences, inspirations and personal interests in relation to my work, I prefer to let it speak for itself and allow the viewer to make their mind up. For me, the work is always in control of its own direction and development. That’s not to say that I’m somehow possessed or fall into a trance as soon as I pick up a pen, but it’s always in retrospect that I receive an understanding of any reoccurring themes or elements. This is how I best work – I just like to let things happen. If I had an agenda or message or plan then I know from past experience that it all becomes a bit stale. The excitement and discovery is always in the works’ creation. By the time a design’s finished, I’d almost go as far as to say that it’s redundant, having fulfilled its purpose to learn from and inform the next piece to follow.
EL: I often find that where I’m at physically tends to inform what I write. How does your work relate to the physical settings you have chosen to create in, if at all?
ML: I think that surroundings can be significant to informing the work, but for me I’m more affected by my state of mind. To some extent, I guess there’s a sense of escapism in my work, be it in the themes or colours I’m using. Ultimately though, my state of feeling or emotion is commonly reflected in what I produce, most noticeably in my sketchbook drawings. Having said that, if I had access to a print studio or painting space I would certainly spend less time on my computer
EL: Would you consider art a language? Or is art too personalized to mean only one thing?
ML: Art is a language – a visual language. It saddens me that schools don’t seem to educate students in the basics of understanding visual language alongside other lessons of reading, writing, etc. It’s important as a means to decipher the cues of art, design and what we see around us. This is an understanding that cannot adequately be described by words, in the same way that a piece of music doesn’t need a justification for its being. As I mentioned earlier, this is why I’d rather pass the buck and let others discuss what my work means to them. The meanings of understanding from visual language cannot be tied down to any one thing. They communicate ideas in a similar manner to words, but remain more in flux and at times elusive to description.
EL: What haven’t you done that you’d like to do? As far as your art goes, that is….
ML: There’s so much that I’d like to do, which is exciting in terms of plans for the future. I only turned professional about 18 months ago, so in creative terms I’ve hopefully still got a good number of years to look forward to. Aside from setting up shop to sell prints and whatnot, sometime in the near future I’d like to have a one-man show. However, that would necessitate some sense of planning and organisation, which sadly isn’t one of my strong points!
EL: Name one artist Faest readers should check out.
ML: Only one?! That’s a toughie! For now, I’m gonna have to say Evgeny Kiselev (http://www.ekiselev.com) as I’m excited by his continued experimentation despite having already developed a strong and personal body of work. For other artists that are equally exciting, check out the links page on my website.
Check out more of Matt Lyon’s work at http://www.c8six.com
“I think everything changes fast, and expires faster if you start feeling too attached to it.”
Alex Trochut has the advantage of being able to do anything. In a world where specificity, and uber-division of labor is not only the norm, but a growing pattern, we decreasingly find craftsmen and artists who can execute a wide array of design approaches. Aesthetically, his graphics and illustrations run the gamut from acid-dream liquid movements, to angular, symmetrically based work. In either case, proportion and space condone the art, and yield a poignancy that requires a closer look. Despite his obvious talent, it’s the concise and reliable nature of his art that makes him sought after by a diverse slew of clients; the spectrum of which is represented by everyone from indie-rockers The Decemberists, to corporate giants like Adidas and Nike. His versatility has opened doors to various projects, and inspires an evolutionary attitude toward his craft, his very own, “more is more” approach.
Amidst a gang of independent illustrators, you have to set yourself apart to have his degree of success. In a less-is-more design world, Alex Trochut has carved his own space, mostly because of his talent, and willingness to set a certain portion of himself aside to execute a piece to its full potential. His breadth of work leave his opportunities completely open-ended, constantly proving that he can fulfill the vision of the entity that calls on him to create beauty in their name. A simple Catalan-based artist by self- definition, Mr. Trochut remains a significant factor in aggregating a world comprised of global images and minds.
Interview by Evan La Ruffa
EL: You have an impressive list of clients. What type of work did you do when you started off?
AT: More or less the same stuff I’m doing today, illustration, lettering, graphic design…..
You live and work in Barcelona, right?
Yes I do.
I’m most effective with some tunes and a pot of dark roast coffee. How do you get down to business?
With a strong coffee and a good live electronic music set.
In an increasingly globalized world, and as a result of the Internet, it’s almost as if artists are able to develop styles that are much more expansive. Do you consider yourself a Spanish artist, or do you feel more tapped into a broader artistic landscape?
Both things are possible these days. I like to see myself as a simple Catalan guy that works with this computer from his studio, doing his own visual work and giving his local point of view to anyplace in the world that wishes to hire it.
It seems like that approach gives you any latitude you might need. at this point, you do everything from ads for Adidas to posters for The Decemberists – how is working with a corporation different than working with a band?
It depends on how much they are asking you to be yourself in the work. It doesn’t matter if they are from the music industry or a big company, both posibilities happen……but it is usually related to the amount they are paying. More money less freedom, less money more freedom.
But I like to do both kinds of things, and have the doors of personal freedom and commercial limitation both open. Sometimes it’s great to have someone asking you to do something in particular that has nothing to do with what you would had done if the request was to do your own personal thing. Every experience becomes a new result that expands your boundries, and makes you more complete in terms of graphic solutions. It’s good to let yourself go and follow someone elses directions. (Sometimes, depending what directions, of course… )
Ahaha, definitely. As far as the corporate projects particularly, do they just say, “Hey Alex, we need something cool,” or is it more guided than that?
Sometimes a big company asks you to do whatever you like. That usually happens when they do a small run, or the product they have fits really well with your style, so the risks for them are little, and they can allow for spontaniety. If the project is big, then it needs to go through more filters, aprovals, AD, CD, etc. (In this way) the experience becomes less pure and fresh, but not always…
You seem extremely comfortable in different styles. You range from very symmetrical design-based stuff, to straight up psychedelic illustration. Both seem to come easy to you, but which reflects your personal inclinations more aptly?
I don’t feel very visually attached to anything in particular, I think everything changes fast, and expires faster if you start feeling too attached to it. I wish I could always be evolving and adapting. I know it is utopic, and that many times it’s impossible to drop some of your graphic habits and do a total reset in your next project…..but I believe it’s the way we make things fun and interesting.
I love your liquid illustrations stuff, it all has a perfect sense of movement. How’d you start doing pieces like that?
I looked at many highspeed pictures of splashes, and looked at nature. I see the liquid movement everywhere in nature, in wood, stones, skin… everything seems to have the same movement but with a different speed and density. 🙂
Do you associate the use of color with certain clients or projects? I wonder about the criteria for deciding whether or not something gets that brilliant color treatment that is evident in much of your work….
The color treatment is like choosing a typeface, it comunicates and transforms the information you’re sending. It’s important considering what attitude and message it’s giving. The bad thing is that you don’t have a catalogue of color treatments that you can go to and choose one, you can only rely on your own technique, and thats why I think it’s so important to never stop trying things, so your “tool box” gets bigger and you have more solutions to choose from.
Explain your idea of “More is more.”
More is more is just my way of saying that I don’t follow the “less is more” design culture. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect and admire the Swiss School, I follow lots of rules of the modern movement, but I don’t believe in neutrality, and I don’t believe in only one way of doing things.