For our April/May issue, we’ve been delighted to have Matt Johnson feature as our front cover illustrator. If you haven’t heard of Matt before, then there is a very high chance that you will have seen his work out and about, as he makes up one of the leading designers at Cornish clothing company, Seasalt.
Hi Matt, thank you for letting us use your gorgeous Antony Head piece for our front cover of the April/May issue of myCornwall. Tell us a little bit about your style and your work for Seasalt…
I’m so thrilled to see my illustration on the front cover!
I suppose I’ve found my own style through being part of a team. I’m surrounded by talented, creative people and there’s lots of shared ideas and friendly competition. It’s really pushed me to develop and focus on what works best for me. I also love seeing which designs people respond to and what works and what doesn’t, it’s the nice comments which have given me a lot of confidence to keep going and try new things. 20th Century British art and design is one of my main inspirations. I think it was all around when I was little, on municipal buildings, old book jackets and so on. I find it very evocative and keep coming back to it.
Wildlife, and the flora and fauna of Cornwall play a big part in your designs, can you tell us about some of your main influences here?
I’m interested in the kind of nature that you see every day. I’ve been trying to stop and look more carefully at familiar places and species to see new things about them. It’s important to me mostly to illustrate bird, animals and plants that I’ve actually seen, in their real setting.
How do you start the concept of a piece? Your works tend to be so intricate and busy, often full of Cornish charm and flair too!
Wherever I am, I look out for views and when I spot something, make a quick sketch of take some photos or notes. That way there is always a big stockpile of ideas to draw from.
When I’ve decided to make an idea into a finished illustration, I always start by doing a small thumbnail sketch in pencil. I find working small helps me get the composition right as you are forced to look at the whole picture and can’t get bogged down in details.
After that it might become a print, or collage, or something on the computer, but the start is always the same.
What have you been working on recently?
I’m currently in the middle of doing an illustrated book about Cornwall’s fishing history. It’s a new challenge as it’s the first full book I’ve done for a publisher and is based on a lot of old photos and research.
Wow, that sounds so exciting and we can’t wait to hear more about it when it’s close to completion! Where do you love to go in Cornwall for some me-time (when it’s possible, of course)?
My wife Kathryn and I love swimming at Gyllyngvase Beach before or after work. There’s interesting sea life to spot underwater like bass, shoals of sand eels, hermit crabs and different types of colourful wrasses.
And when you’re not painting or sketching, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m totally obsessed with music – listening to music, finding music, playing instruments and dancing around in the front room.
An excellent choice – dancing around the front room is also a favoured spare time hobby of ours (especially in the current circumstances). Thanks so much for your time Matt, and for letting us use your fantastic work!
You can see lots more of Matt’s work and buy prints at mattillustration.uk