No man is an island , even if he happens to live on one.
Newfoundland-based visual artist Graham Matthews has
long been a strong advocate for artists worldwide in his role
as creator of the wildly successful artists' resource website
ArtProMotivate.com. That is, when he is not busy creating
his own distinctive blend of surreal and abstract oil paintings
that depict the iconic images of his home and native land.
|Graham Matthews at work in his Newfoundland studio.|
Name: Graham Matthews
Region and Country: Newfoundland, Canada
Mediums: Oil on Canvas, Acrylic, Graphite
Style: Surreal, Abstract, Abstract Realism
Please tell us about your first experience creating:
For as long as I can remember, I have had an inclination toward creating. Art was my favorite subject in elementary school. I can remember everyone saying I would be an artist someday. As a child, I would often doodle and sculpt with play doe. Unfortunately, art was not part of the curriculum from grades 7 to 12, but I did draw often during my teenage years.
How long have you considered yourself an artist?
I think I only considered myself an artist since I completed my first painting. Before art school, I did not have the confidence, encouragement or know-how to paint. But, I had been drawing for years. My first painting was completed in my first year of art school in 1996. My professor was the Canadian artist Harold Klunder. He gave us a painting project where we were to construct a huge 4x5 feet canvas with the theme of “octagon”. It was up to us to interpret this word any way we wanted. I still have this painting in my home. It’s not the best technically, but for me it’s the painting that initially gave me the confidence to say “I can do this!”
What are you trying to convey to viewers through your art?
There are different levels to what I am trying to convey. On one level (outward) I am trying to show the beauty of my own surroundings. This province is filled with so much inspiration. I grew up near the ocean and fishery, so this has become a dominant part of my work. My artwork is filled with scenes and images which I have seen all my life and are a part of me.
On another level, I am trying to draw viewers in, and get them involved in the artwork. I do this by shading, creating a sense of space and movement, repetition, use of perspective, and sometimes using high contrast. I also try to pay attention to every part of a painting, not just the focal point.
On still another level (inward), my artwork has become my personal autobiography. I have used it in different ways: to release anger, overcome frustrations, express love, show my inner pain. Many times, because of the personal nature of some of these themes, I sometimes “hide” them inside my paintings. It is my way to release frustrations, without expressing them outwardly.
Tell us about your creative process, from the beginning of a typical piece to its completion:
My paintings begin in one of two ways. With an idea and sometimes a photo reference, or trying to cover the blank canvas as quickly as I can… many times it depends on my mood. This may seem chaotic, but I do have my own reasons and approaches in both cases.
When I begin with an idea, I plan out the painting. I first sketch on the canvas and then establish basic tones and composition. I let this dry and work on another painting. When I return, I work on contrast between dark and light areas, then let this dry. Next, comes brighter color and definition of areas. Most of my paintings involve several layers and a long process of reorganizing the composition until I am satisfied with the result. I have been known to make big compositional improvements in some paintings when I thought they were close to completion.
When I begin without a set plan, I cover the canvas as quickly as I can. I work with what I see on the canvas, creating forms and imagery. The painting comes to life through several layers, and the theme evolves with what I see on the canvas. The approach is the complete opposite of the other way I paint. This is typically for my psychological themed artwork though.
What things inspire you to create art?
There are many things that inspire me to create art: my own experiences, nature, culture, things I see around me everyday, life, love, disappointments, successes, heartache, loss, etc.
Have you sold any of your artworks?
Most of the artwork I have sold are commission based and sold locally - portraits, animals, landscapes, paintings of houses, and more.
How do you promote your art on the internet?
I have a website/blog as my central location on the web. I also have many profiles at portfolio type websites, and make sure to link my main website with those. I have a Facebook page, newsletter, Twitter profile, Pinterest, Linkedin, Google + and more. Read Artpromotivate.. you will see the other things I do.. :)
I have many influences. Most of my influences come from my own life, experiences and surroundings – province of Newfoundland and Labrador. As for artists who have influenced me, these are: Salvador Dali, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Harold Klunder, Tom Thompson, Monet, and more.
What is the most annoying thing someone has said to you about your art?
I have heard many things said to me over the years. I shared some of this in my post here. Although some of the things have discouraged me, I am now at a point where it does not affect me.
Do you have any regrets in your life as an artist?
I have many regrets, mainly that I listened to people who discouraged me from becoming an artist early in life. I tried many other things besides art, but always was unhappy with what I was doing. I think different people are born to do different things – I was always meant to be an artist!
I have many plans. Creating many more paintings, creating more series, bringing more focus to my work, writing more articles for Artpromotivate, helping the online art community as much as I possibly can.
Do you have any good advice for emerging artists?
I would say to stay positive, and don’t let disappointments and setbacks hold you back. Keep creating art no matter what people say to you. Make art even when you are not selling, and through all your ups and downs of life. If you have a day-time job or are raising a family, do it in your spare time. As long as you are devoting time to your dream, even if it is one painting a month, you are still growing as an artist. One day when you retire or the family is raised, you will have more time. But, if you have not been creating art all along, it will be like starting all over again.
I would like to thank Michael Gaudet for giving me this opportunity to be spotlighted! He has been such a great supporter of Artpromotivate and an encouragement to me from day one, and I am very grateful for that.