Tonight we are beyond pleased to feature Canadian Designer & Illustrator, Matt Ryan Tobin. Matt took time away from his schedule to answer all sorts of questions from us, touching upon his early years as an illustrator to his opinion on the now booming popularity of the Gig and Film Poster Scene. Our sincere thanks to Matt for taking some time to speak with us. And now…A Conversation With Matt Ryan Tobin!
igotbirds: Matt, we like to start things off by asking the illustrators we interview if they could tell us a little about their background. What led you to decide on a career in Design/Illustration?
Matt Tobin: I’ve always been drawing. Since I was a little kid but being the kind of person I am – I was always searching for my place in the world. I was into a lot of things growing up. Dipping my toes in everything. When I was around 9 the doodles kind of came to a halt and music took over. It’s my first passion. I started playing guitar and everything changed. When I was in high school is when I got back into it. I sucked at everything that wasn’t a class that allowed me to express myself. I did everything in my power to get by on Creative Writing, Art, Photography and Film classes. It was around that time drawing and design kicked back in.
igotbirds: You’ve done a decent amount of design work and illustration for apparel and logo/branding gigs. Can you tell us about how you came to find yourself illustrating and designing for bands?
Matt Tobin: I really started taking it seriously around 2003 when my band at the time, and for 10 years to follow, Dead And Divine was in need of t-shirt designs for our first few shows. We had no money to pay an artist, nor knew any around. I was familiar in Photoshop already so I dove in. From there I just kept designing our merch and eventually word got around that’s what I did. Shortly after other bands began asking me to design their merch as well. Design was always something I’ve been passionate about. I used to design band fan websites purely for fun. There was this small online circle of websites run and created by fans. It was a way to take a theme I was passionate about and create something based on it. I think thats why I eventually fell in love with film poster design. Taking an existing theme (in these cases bands and films) and creating something to compliment it or honour it from an fanboy/artistic standpoint.
igotbirds: I have to say that your T-Shirt designs and illustrations for As I Lay Dying are really great pieces. I would think for a “heavier” band such as themselves, skulls and snakes seem to fit pretty well with their overall motif. Do you have a lot of artistic freedom in the kinds of designs that you produce for a band like As I Lay Dying?
Matt Tobin: Thanks man! Well it depends. Sometimes bands have a ready concept they want to see executed. Those are my favourite to do. I can always add my own flare but it helps when bands give direction. If it’s a band I’ve worked for consistently, I tend to know what they’re into and at that point I just whip things up I think would work for them and it usually flies. It’s fun to have that comfortability with a client.
igotbirds: You’ve also produced some Gig Posters for bands like Underoath, which by the way is a really stunning poster. What kind of choices do you have to make as an artist when deciding on a theme for a Gig Poster?
Matt Tobin: Thank you again! That was a lot of fun to make. The band gave me full artistic freedom on that print. It was a farewell tour poster – so, in my eyes, it had to encompass death. It’s one of those pieces that I don’t think I really put too much thought into. Just kind of went with it blindly and what came out was pretty cool looking! Most gig posters I’ve seen, and even ones I admire, seem to have been given zero to go on via the band. It’s more in the artists realm of just creating great imagery, I think. It’s like two worlds of art combining with no guidelines or direction and that can be awesome as well. Free reign. A lot of magic can happen when that’s the case.
igotbirds: Moving away from your branding and apparel work, how did it come about that you found yourself illustrating Film Posters?
Matt Tobin: I truly fell in love with poster design when I first gazed upon James Rheem Davis “Lost Boys” poster for Mondo. I somehow came across it and was trying to track it down so I could own it. Through my research I found out about Mondo and the underground world of alternative poster art. I was hooked. Film is also one of my biggest passions. Like I mentioned before, being younger I dipped my toes in everything. There was a point before the band where I was actually aiming to have a career in film. So yeah, I wanted so badly to create posters for films I love.
igotbirds: Let’s talk for a minute about your Poster for “True Romance”. It’s a really stunning poster and it appeals to me in the same way as a Tyler Stout poster, in that it features most of the major players in “True Romance” as Stout tends to do in a lot of his Film Poster illustrations. Can you talk about your thoughts behind the creation of the poster illustration and also the bold color palette you brought to it?
Matt Tobin: The True Romance poster was a big deal for me. It was my first officially licensed print. The cool thing was I already had a concept in mind before I was approached by the folks at Odd City. It was awesome to be able to bring to life a concept I had been aching to do. True Romance is one of my favourite films. I think the choice to portray every important character was a must. The abundance of talent and familiar faces in that film are astounding. Each character is memorable. Had to do ’em all! I really wanted to capture the films early ’90s feel with the colour palette. Bright and vivid. Pinks and turquoises. In the back of my head I always wanted to include some comic book and Japanese elements that are apparent in the movie too.
igotbirds: Keeping with the “True Romance” theme, the Poster was a HUGE success with Odd City, selling out very, very quickly. As artists we tend to work in solitude and maybe don’t realize how much our work impacts those around us. Does it ever come as a shock when you see how much demand there is for a very well-done piece such as “True Romance”?
Matt Tobin: Well, to be honest, I think I personally was desiring a True Romance print! The fact that I got the opportunity to create it myself was flattering…and nerve-wracking. I was beyond shocked when they sold out. I’m a new kid on the block and poster aficionados are very picky with who does what poster for what movie and how its executed. The fact that some of those people appreciated the poster enough to want it in their homes is incredible. Feels so rewarding.
igotbirds: I am an avid, voracious collector of comic books, and have been since the age of six. I always felt like the Comic Book world was MY World, and that the kids I went to school with and the people I interacted with outside of that world could never understand my love and passion for the art form. Then Hollywood came along, and while I do greatly enjoy the films, I feel like MY World has been snatched away from me and now Frat guys and jocks love Marvel and DC but in a much different way than I do. With the good side such as documentaries on the Scene cropping up and Mondo releases selling out in literally seconds, and the bad side which are the dreaded “poster flippers” on eBay, who I really feel could care less about the art and are only in it for profit, what are your thoughts on the exposure that the Gig and Film Poster Scenes are getting these days?
Matt Tobin: Well I think it’s like anything, man. Everyone has that one thing they love that feels sort of secret and special. I don’t care who you are, when that “thing” becomes popular it makes you angry. You’ve been appreciating it more and longer than everyone else. It’s yours. It’s your “thing”. But it happens with everything. Uncool inevitably becomes cool. I was a loser in grade school who read comics and didn’t socialize, and dressed different than most. Most of the things I love felt taken from me when I saw them first. However, looking at the grand scheme of things; the fact that all these new people are appreciating comic books and poster art are only concreting these things in pop culture as something to be cherished and noticed by everyone. I think we all can get a little hypocritical from time to time. I remember thinking everything mainstream was awful. Now the things I love are mainstream. I should appreciate it now, a lot less sucks than it did before.
igotbirds: Can you give us a hint about any upcoming projects you may be working on? Is there a “dream” project you would love to tackle?
Matt Tobin: I’m working on some gallery pieces right now for some rad shows at Hero Complex Gallery and other things I can’t really mention! As for a dream project…There’s so many things I would love to do. I know I’ve already created a poster for Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey a while back – but I feel it is owed a revisiting. I would love to do a Bill & Ted 1 & 2 set of posters.
igotbirds: Matt, can you tell people where to find you on the Internet? Facebook, Twitter, Website, etc…?
Matt Tobin: I’m all over the inter-webs!
We would like to thank Matt Tobin for being awesome and taking time to answer our questions. Please hit up the links featured in this interview, and please check out the work of Matt Tobin at www.worksofmattryan.com.