Thursday, 2 December 2010

Matthew Dunn Interview

Matthew Dunn, has fast become one of my Internet Pen Pals. What first started as a mutual discovery of each others work on the internet site Redbubble, soon became a friendship of talking about comics, toys, marketing and art.

Based in Brunswick, Australia, Matt has started to gather a cult following of fans from across the globe (myself included) and I believe that that base will grow and grow. With numerous projects always on the go, sometimes sleeping only a few hours a night, this tenacious, indefatigable artist spends so much time creating that he has built up a great back catalogue of work. This year alone, he has create over 200 t-shirt designs, many (but not all) can be found on his Redbubble profile (

I felt it important to interview Matthew now because I firmly believe that he will become too busy to answer my questions in the really near future. I hope that this interview goes someway towards making that so.

Brother Hazard Hunts in the City

Lloyd Harvey: Tell me Matt, what was it that first attracted you to choose a career in art? Are you one of those types who were always seen drawing and creating whilst you should have been doing other things or are this something that has really captured you in the last several years? How and when did you come to the decision to take the plunge and go full time as a professional creative?

Matthew Dunn: I've been drawing all my life, often when I should have been doing other things.  I was always getting in trouble at school because my work books were pretty much sketchbooks with the occasional class exercise squeezed in for good measure.  As my art workload increased I found it more and more difficult to balance my previous full-time job with my art, so one day (with a strong nudge from my lovely wife) I threw in the day job to focus on my art and never looked back.

I assume that Photoshop has a big role in how you create some of your work, particularly when working on your comics, but what other methods do you employ to create imagery? How regularly do you experiment with paints, inks and other traditional mediums and if you were master just one, which would you likely choose and why?

When I first started using Photoshop I was caught up in the thrill of the various filters on hand.  But over time I dropped the majority of them (expect for Halftones, I LOVE halftones) and now mostly use it for basic colouring and to apply watercolour and ink layers that I 
produce by hand and scan in.

Experimenting with different mediums is always a blast, and something I've been trying to do more and more.  For a long time I only worked with pencils and pens, with some watercolours.  Then I started incorporating acrylics into my work.  This year saw a major shift in my work where I did over 100 sepia/ink pieces using just brushes. After working in a highly detail pen style for so long it was quite liberating to embrace the abstract looseness of the brush.  I'm now working with a mixture of the two.

I see a Darkness

Let talk a bit more about your comic art. You've created several little strips before that have been printed in an anthology in the US, a graphic novel called "Lonely Monsters" and you are about to start work on another. What is it about the process of creating a comic book or a strip that you find so rewarding? How do you overcome the challenges of the work undertaken and how do you make sure that you stay in love with what you are slowly piecing together?

Comics contain everything I love about art, and they're a constantly challenging and exciting medium to work in.  When I'm working on a comic I'll generally have a few particular scenes that I'm most excited about working on, and in order to maintain my enthusiasm and focus I always leave them to do last.  It gives me something to work towards.  For me there is nothing more creatively rewarding than nailing a good comic page.  The constant experimentation and education that comics offer provide an endless source of artistic stimulation and inspiration.

When I'm not drawing comics I'm usually reading comics.  It's a medium that I can't see myself ever losing interest in, I just love it too damn much!

Leroy Takes A Moment To Reflect On All That He Has Lost
Leroy, your central protagonist of the Lonely Monsters comic book (re-released in October under a new publisher), has been gathering a humble following online for a short time now and features very heavily in a lot of your personal work. How did you originally conceive the idea for him and what is it about this zombie smashing, gas mask wearing, hammer happy guy that makes you so fond of him? As if the answer isn?t already obvious that is.

Leroy was initially just an excuse to draw a guy in a gas mask (something I've always enjoyed drawing).  Once I started writing him though he took on a life of his own.  I see him as a working class superhero (minus and real super ability, he really is just an average guy in a mask).  He's a constantly evolving creation, my personal favourite, who has been developing a bit of a cult following across various corners of the internet.  While his story started in Lonely Monsters it has also been continued in vague ways via the numerous t-shirts and prints I've produced since.  And the new book is focused solely on him, his life before and after Lonely Monsters, answering many questions that people have been asking me over the last few years (such as "Why does he always wear the mask?" and "Why's he so fond of that hammer?").

The reason he means so much to me is because, over time, he's become and extension of me in some ways.  I also have a strong sentimental connection to the character as I named him after a cousin, who I was very close with while growing up, and who sadly passed away a couple of years before Leroy was born.  The character of Leroy is my own small way of keeping the memory of my cousin Leroy alive and part of  my world.

Would you ever consider making Leroy's adventures more interactive? Say, make a game of him? I am sure there is always room in people's hearts for another zombie smash-fest of a game.

If the opportunity arose I'd definitely be interested in it happening. I'm a total control freak when it comes to my ownership of the character though so it'd probably take a few years just to work out 
the contracts hehe.


Red Dawn

And finally, what can you share about your collaboration with Matt Jackson (Kid Akira) and the Super Violent Monkeys project?

Collaborations can be tricky things, a sometimes bumpy road where egos and personalities clash.  None of those things exist in the world of M+M (co-created and operated by Matt and myself).  From the beginning our ideas have ocurred almost simultaneously, it's actually quite freaky sometimes.  We constantly inspire each other to push the envelope in every way possible and the project gets more and more exciting with each passing day.  We've got big, crazy plans for Super Violent Monkey Time, and other crazy plans already in the works involving different non-Monkey characters.  I've got a couple of other collaborations happening that thankfully work in a similar fashion, which makes them all very exciting.

Including an official Leroy toy release (only 1 exists so far, and it's in my private collection).

Sister Hazard

Questions Every Artist Gets Asked

What has been your career highlight to date?

It's happening at the moment, but I can't say too much about it as it's still in the early stages.  Ask me again in a few months when the ball is well and truly rolling.

Cabezas de Maquinas #01

What was your big break into the illustration industry?

There wasn't any single break to speak of really, it was a combination of different things hitting around the same time that gave me the push I needed and also created more attention to my work.  2010 will always be the year I look back on as being a year of big steps though. Designing over 200 shirts in the space of a year, holding 3 exhibitions, starting an art/toy company, and getting the new Leroy book fired up.  2010 has been crazy, tiring, and exhilerating.

What was the best piece of artistic advice you have received or can offer?

Don't be afraid and never stop learning.

The Five Dancing Skulls of Doom
What do you think is the most effective way you market yourself and your work?

This is always difficult to answer, and there's no simple answer really.  I work across various fields which has resulted in me developing a pretty diverse audience, and each realm requires a different approach.  I just try to present my work in an honest and open way, without any pretension or arrogance.  For the most part I  find that people enjoy the way I share and discuss my art and various  projects, often giving a "behind the scenes" look at things as they come together.

The Stranger

As an artist, what are your biggest challenges that you face?
Getting your work into the right hands can be a challenge, which is why networking and developing good relationships within the art world is very important.  You also run into the occasional asshole who will try and knock you down just so they can feel better about themselves, but that's not unique to the art world, it's just a part of life and happens everywhere hehe. 

Matt's Randoms
 Start Talking

What is your least favourite sound?

My upstairs neighbour who seems to have made a hobby out of slamming their front door as loud as possible.

What are you top 5, all time favourite albums?

Only 5?  Dammit! I'm going to choose 10.

Mogwai - Mr Beast
Tom Waits - The Black Rider
Cat Power - The Covers Record
Crippled Black Phoenix - 200 Tons Of Bad Luck
Godspeed You Black Emperor! - Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven
Sigur Ros - ( )
A Silver Mt Zion - Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upwards
Daniel Johnston - Retired Boxer
The Black Heart Procession - 3
Mark Lanegan - I'll Take Care Of You

If you were a super hero/villain, what super power would you have?

Super Speed to I could work at an ever faster rate.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what book and luxury item would you liked to be stranded with?

Book - The Complete Essex County Trilogy by Jeff Lemire. Luxury item - My wife.

If you had £100,000 and a year off from work, what would you do with the time and money?

That's a lot of money when you convert it into the weak Australia dollar, so I'd probably use it to buy an old farmhouse and spend the year renovating it into the ultimate home/studio hideaway.

Now, I don't feel I have done justice to Matthew's work with the selection here. SO, what you should do is head over to his website ( or his Redbubble Profile ( and get lost in the pages of awesomeness. 

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