The extremely talented artist, Matt Gondek, talks sushi, Donald Duck and refining his craft
"My goal is to give the illusion that the paintings were not touched by human hands."
It isn't often you come across an artist whose style feels so relatable but at the same time feels so innovative. That's the case with Matt Gondek. The guy wasn't thrilled with his design job and decided to start drawing on the side. Well, his style quickly found a following and today, that following has blossomed into almost 200k strong on Instagram. We talked with the illustrator about everything under the sun.
Coke or Pepsi?
Coke (sorry Mom).
Burritos or sushi?
Favorite character to re-work?
Favorite color to work with?
Favorite drink when creating?
I drink a lot of coffee.
The last spam email you received?
For a reasonable fee, I could be added to a directory of great artists that all the BIGGEST brands use to find talent! Hurry because this offer won’t last and the directory will run out of spots!
Going through your work, it kind of feels like an adult Disney World. Tell us a bit about ‘Growing Pains.’
My goal is to give the illusion that the paintings were not touched by human hands. Almost as if they’re printed digitally. This was done by slowing down my process, allowing more time to refine the work and improve the paintings overall.
At this point in my career, I find myself battling pressures from the art market, social media and my own fear of failure. These all tempt me to work faster and produce more. The work must find a balance between quality and quantity. I believe this collection is my strongest work to date, both in execution and growth. If I can continue to allow time, while successfully navigating the negative pressures, my growing pains will end.
You’re based in LA so you (normally) have decent weather. How do you prepare yourself when you get commissioned somewhere that has unpredictable conditions? Have any fail stories?
I honestly have been lucky to paint in pretty agreeable weather. Normally, when a part of the world is freezing, snowing, etc., they’re kind enough to not ask me to visit.
Besides actual art canvases, there are wood prints, vinyl statues, figurines, wood cut-outs, the sides of trucks, skateboards, brick walls/concrete walls/tile walls. Does your art know no limits? What’s your favorite thing to work on?
Unfortunately my art has many self imposed limits! I don’t have a favorite thing to work on, but I do like switching things up and jumping around a lot — from a canvas, to working on a print release, or painting on shaped wood, etc.
You probably get this question a lot but how did you get your start? We know it involved way more than just watching cartoons and staying up late.
I think the art world has It’s a long story ... I’d recommend episode 40 of my podcast series, ‘Harsh Truth.’ It can be found on iTunes, Spotify, or at HarshTruthPodcast.com. I really go into how I began.
What are some themes you continue to use in your work, whether consciously or
I keep going back to hot pink, neon yellow and teal. I love them. Also as I grow I’m trying to not rely on thick black outlines as much, but it’s hard to step away from them. They’ve been a big part of my work for the last 12 years.
Was there ever a moment where it felt like you finally ‘found’ your style or a moment where it felt like something clicked?
For me it wasn’t about a thing or a style. It was really just the act of painting that ‘clicked’ with me. I was a freelance digital illustrator for so many years. Computer only. It’s only when I started painting out of boredom, depression, stagnation, that being an artist really ‘clicked’ with me.
Any major influences or mentors that helped you in the journey?
I’ve never had a mentor, but a few key people stick out in my mind.
1. Robb Schrab’s comic book ‘Scud the Disposable Assassin’ really shaped my style when I was a teenager. It’s also how I discovered that you can be an independent artist and set your own path as opposed to trying to work for someone you’re entire life.
2. Alex Pardee the first time he was on the cover of Juxtapoz. He just felt like a regular guy to me that did amazing things because he worked so hard. I am extremely fortunate to call him a friend now — and I’m happy to say I was right about him all along. He’s awesome.
3. The KAWS exhibit at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. I never saw paintings done so smoothly and flat before. It really blew me away. It’s amazing how successful he’s gotten ... not only his paintings, but everything else. His painting technique, style and application truly is that good. He deserves everything he has.
4. My assistant and best friend Frank. He’s 10 years younger than me — and in a lot of ways I see my younger self in him. It’s so great to watch him grow into this talented and powerful artist and person.
5. Lastly, Brent Estabrook. For what it’s worth, I think he is my most talented friend. I’m happy to be present to watch him grow into a master artist.
Upcoming shows or projects?
Yes. A few interesting things for 2019. Some travel. I don’t want to divulge anything yet but it’s going to be a big year.