Somewhere along the line, we all search to find our own style – looking for that state of mind when creating what shows our personality and viewpoint/message clearly. The route we all travel for this is unknown and unique to each one of us, and this journey is so important as it creates the very thing we set out to find.
“The most creative people are willing to work in the shadow of uncertainty.”
– Ed Catcall
Meet Matt Blease, a visual pun genius illustrating for the likes of the BBC, Waitrose, Random House, The Guardian, Barbour, Liberty, and an ever growing impressive list of clients. Matt shares the story behind finding his style, his childhood obsession with skating, and what led to the success of currently living off his personal illustrations.
Where does your story begin?
MATT BLEASE: My first memory of drawing was in primary school [elementary], I drew this really overly-detailed floor plan of the classroom, a bird’s eye view of teachers, etc. And at the end I was really proud of it, showed it to my teacher, and she didn’t believe I drew it! I remember being so confused, I think it was down to the over-the-top details. Then, from there, I remember just always drawing continuously; that’s what I did.
Did you draw from your imagination or was it from things you saw?
There was definitely a phase when I drew a lot of Simpsons stuff – a lot. I think what I loved about it was the simplicity, once you know how to draw one of the characters, you could automatically re-draw it, I really loved that it was that simple. My brother was always into drawing from comic books, so I think I gained an interest of them through him, a lot of Judge Dredd. So yeah, it all stemmed from that, I just found something I really enjoyed and was good at – I could just lose myself in this drawing world.
Where was this all taking place?
I grew up in Liverpool, it was cool, then we moved over to a town just outside of Edinburgh when I was 12, which was when I really got into skating. I think that was quite the turning point, it wasn’t until I got to Edinburgh that I noticed it was a different kind of person who skates, it was quite eye-opening. It was a world that you could really obsess about and lose yourself in, like drawing. The shops that sold the skate products then, you really had to really seek them out and it was that knowing it wasn’t for everybody that made you feel like you [were] part of something; it was cool.
So skating took over your life?
It was the visualization that really stuck with me, this sort of finding it all out to be a bit subversive and badass, I really enjoyed that. My dad was a vicar and one of the first skateboards I got from this old guy, in his late ’60s, who build the pools I used to skate based off the Dogtown bowls; he would import boards. I think it was a Panic board, it had this little frog driving a car and you see this steam roller coming towards him in the road and the frog has a speech bubble that says, “Fuck!!” As you can imagine, I had to plead with my dad to get it. Our compromise was I would cover the swear word with a sticker and I remember every time I went out skating I would peel it off. [Laughs] So yeah, it was all about pushing it, feeling kinda punk, that attitude.
So when did you start taking drawing seriously?
In secondary school, through talking to friends of the family, I said I wanted to be a designer, they told me that I should go into graphic design. That’s where the money is and I was like, “Okay, right,” and looked into it.
That’s pretty early to know what you’re going to do, most of us still haven’t got a clue.
I think that’s the thing, I was always going to do design and it all just lined up, it made sense. I wasn’t particularly academic, so it was always going to be something design. But I guess you’re right, it is early to know, I guess I was more focused than I thought at the time.
First design role?
I studied design futures at University, which taught me so much. I learned a lot about the process of thinking on brief and the very subject of it, and with this mindset I could apply that to any aesthetic.
From there, I didn’t really know where I was going to get a job, we had our degree show in London and we were always told it’s amazing all these people come along and offer you jobs. It wasn’t nothing like that, no one spoke to anyone from any industry, we were all so disillusioned. On my last day, I took my portfolio, wrote down a list of design companies from a magazine, went to the first place on my list in old street, rang the buzzer, and was like, “I have an appointment with Jamie I think his name was,” I didn’t have an appointment, I was just blagging my way in. They said he was his on holiday and invited me in. We looked and talked over my work and they gave me a design placement, “I was like shit… I’ve done it.”
I was there for around 6 months, it was a really good place to be, we did a lot of great varied projects, from window displays to making a pick and mix garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. At this point I didn’t know how to use Photoshop or anything, it was all down to the idea, just sketching it down, it was about that logic; the thinking I left there and didn’t really know what to apply for, what job role I was. I had a bunch of interviews but nothing was sticking…..
Read the rest of the conversation with Matt over at TheHundreds.com