INTERVIEW: Matthew Dunn

Matthew Dunn is an Australian-based artist who work across a range of fields and mediums. He has held numerous solo exhibitions while also participating in joint and group exhibitions (both in Australia and internationally).

His work has been published in art and literary magazines, as well as solo comics and comic anthologies. He has worked for Mascot Label Group, K-Scope Records, Clearview Records, War Anthem Records and more, providing album and merchandise art/design for bands such as Augie March, The Lillingtons, Iron Reagan, Teenage Bottlerocket, Monkey Marc, Crippled Black Phoenix, Se Delan, and Bombs Of Hades.

He is proud to be a creative partner with Meninadança, a non-profit organisation who work with disadvantaged and at-risk girls in Brazil.

Matt talks about his new project SALVATION IS FREE and launching his new Patreon account


When did you first realise you had a passion for art?

It feels like it’s always been there in one way or another.  When I was young I’d often sit around drawing while watching cartoons and reading comics.  My mum did a lot of interesting craft projects and my dad used to build me amazing play sets for my Star Wars toys, so seeing them creating various things was definitely an early inspiration.  Comics ended up providing me with a safe and inspiring place to turn to when I was young and thankfully they’ve always retained some of those elements over the years.

Who helped you to realise that potential, any particular teachers or friends/family?

I had some encouragement from teachers and family, but once I hit high school there was definitely a shift towards people feeling the need to remind me that art is a frivolous and indulgent thing and that I should be focusing on developing skills for a “real job”.  My high school didn’t have enough interest for their to be an art class when I was preparing to enter year 11, so I left school and thankfully my parents were cool with that and I instead did a Certificate In Fine Arts (which was quite a daunting experience as I was by far the youngest person in the class).  At the time comics were often looked down on by other artists so that made things a bit weird at times.  One of the best things from that time was getting a much wider exposure to different art and music from those around me which had a really big impact.

You have quite a unique style and methodology, one that includes a lot of paddle pop sticks! Tell us a bit about how your technique.

It’s all an ongoing learning process, constantly trying new things, ditching what doesn’t click or feel right and refining what is kept onboard.  It’s always fun trying different things (like the paddle pop sticks you mentioned) with ink to get different textures and effects.  You can certainly see the artists whose work influences me most creep onto the page, but I think that’s a pretty common thing that becomes less obvious the further along the road you are.

Augie March album cover painting

 

Are you a fine artist that makes comics, or a comic artist that makes fine art?

It’s all the same thing really.  Applying labels just creates division and wastes time.

Which is easier to make a return on?

Comics can be a good passive income, same as t-shirts and other “product”.  Originals can turn around a nice profit but you’re also then having deal with a few different things (galleries, postage, etc) that can get stressful.  Freelance art gigs are a good way to bring in extra money that you can bank up in order to have the time to focus on personal projects that don’t secure you an upfront payment.

Leroy process portrait

Tell us a bit about SALVATION IS FREE, your new project.

It’s a project that has been developing for awhile.  I’ve always enjoyed combining art and music (my first comic Lonely Monsters was released with an accompanying soundtrack) and have wanted to do more with the relationship between the two.  I had a few separate story ideas that finally made sense to combine and had a logical musical inclusion within the story itself.  From there I started approaching different musicians whose work I admired and was pleasantly surprised when a few people quickly agreed to come onboard, with a few more possible additions to come.

The story itself features my gas-masked character Leroy as he is sent to retrieve something from a dying friend’s childhood home.  The story will eventually end up in print, but people can follow it’s development digitally (along with other projects) at https://www.patreon.com/matthewdunnart

So you’ve taken the leap into Patreon! How have you found it so far?

It’s interesting.  The website itself is a very clean and user-friendly set up which is good.  There are a lot of comic creators on their so expanding your audience is possible but obviously requires some work.  There seems to be quite a few inactive accounts where people have just walked away after a few months due to a lack of patronage, but at the end of the day it’s a competitive field, a competitive website, and you need to be patient and work hard to bring over your existing audience while appealing to potential new patrons at the same time.

It’s tough to get traction there I’ve found, but I think as a concept it’s something all creative people should pursue. You’ve definitely made the most of multiple revenue streams and taking advantage of the online marketplace – what would be your advice to others wanting to make a living from their art?

Don’t limit yourself to the one way of thinking as far as career development and revenue is concerned.  Developing some passive income streams, such a selling your art on print on demand websites, can be very worthwhile in regards to both income and exposure (and I mean proper exposure, not the “exposure” people try to sell you on when they’re trying to convince you to draw their comics for no money).

Also, while it can be a competitive field make sure you don’t get too caught up in comparisons.  It’s rare that you’ll run across an abundance of people who are trying to achieve the exact identical things you’re trying to achieve, so getting too competitive can end up dragging you in the wrong direction away from your genuine goals.

And don’t resent anyone’s success.

If you do see people achieving the things you’re trying to achieve the best thing you can do is pay attention to how they made it happen and see if there’s anything you can learn and take on yourself.

Of course there’s a dark side to that too – you’ve had some bad experience with people stealing your art recently haven’t you?

Yeah, it’s one of the unfortunate side effects of the internet.  It’s remarkable how often you can send a take down notice to someone selling your art without permission only to receive the response “But I found it on the internet”.  Unfortunately quite a few of the print on demand websites around function in a way that makes stealing other artists work incredibly easy, however it’s not easy for the original artist to get the work removed in a timely manner.  The launching of my Patreon was actually delayed by 3 weeks because I had to spend so much time getting over a thousand illegal listings of my art being sold on various t-shirt websites, it was a nightmare.  There are plenty of artists in the same boat as me and it costs us all time and money to stay on top of it all.

I’ll just add that if you’re a fan of an artist and see their work available to buy on a t-shirt, and if you have any doubts about the legitimacy of the website (the quality of the stolen images can be noticably shit, and some thieves don’t even bother removing the original watermark?!?) reach out to the original artist and check with them the best place to buy their art and merch.

A single page horror sequence

 

What do you do to battle artists/writers block?

I just start drawing and try and get into a good ryhtm with things.  I used to be a total night owl but that takes its toll after awhile.  These days I’m up and out of the house by 6am where I go to the gym and then have breakfast at a nearby cafe (this helps to offset the sense of isolation that can come from working from home on your own).  By the time I get home I’m in a sharp and focused mindset and ready to hit the drawing table.  I always have multiple projects running at once so if I’m struggling to nail something down right on one I can jump over to another and so on and so on.  It helps to keep procrastination and doubt at bay (for the most part).  If I’ve ever got something else going on that’s making it really hard to focus or concentrate on work I’ll just sit down and put a record on and use that to help me get into the right mindset.

How have you found the self-publishing game?

It’s alright, varies from project to project.  I’ve never done it on a really large scale.  I’ll often do an initial small local run and then make the books available via print on demand (Lulu mostly, whose product quality continues to get better and better).  Salvation Is Free will be a completely different kettle of fish so it will be interesting to see how that ends up going.  The main thing is promoting your books and making sure people know they’re available.  You can’t just do a print run and wait for people to ask to buy it.  There’s no room for a “build it and they will come” mentality if you really want to achieve anything.

Where can folks find you online?

www.matthewdunnart.com
https://www.patreon.com/matthewdunnart
https://www.instagram.com/matthewdunnart
https://www.facebook.com/matthewdunnart/
https://twitter.com/matthewdunnart

About Darren Close

Darren Close
Darren is the creator and publisher of the KILLEROO series, and also the creator of the OzComics website and subsequent drawing challenge on Facebook. He's been around the local comic scene for far too long for many people's liking. Gary Chaloner was foolish enough to make him the new Managing Editor of AustralianComicsJournal.com

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