An interview with Matthew Skiff
Matthew Skiff. Besides the fact that we both share the same creepy love for all things 80's and 90's, the dude's - without a doubt - one of the raddest designers out there and we're absolutely delighted being able to call him one of our main designers.
Matt, you have done a lot of great illustrations throughout the years. Can you explain how your work for brands like the shred go about?
The way I work for Death Shred is a bit different from how I work with other clients. For the most part, clients come to me with an idea in my mind and I either try and execute that idea as best as I can, or if it's an idea that is a bit weak, I tweak it into something that I would want to work on. But with Death Shred, I tend to have a bit more freedom. Sure, there are some ideas that are planned, but Yves trusts me enough and gives me a bit more free reign in coming up with my own ideas.
Would you rather have carte blanche or have a client that gives you strict outlines of the project?
It varies, depending on the client and the brand. If it's a new client, or a client that I am not too familiar with, I like to have them come to me with ideas. But if it's a client/brand that I have worked with before and that deals in the same interests that I have, then I could go either way. I am a big fan of collaboration when it comes to ideas, I just want to come up with something that the client and I are both happy with. However, I do find it a bit annoying when I have a client with a super specific idea and needs it exactly how they envisioned in their head, even if it's something that just isn't possible, or something that just won't look good.
Do you have any pointers for beginning artists? Some dos and dont's?
The biggest thing that I can tell a beginning artist is to never stop drawing. Draw every day, and you will get better. Also, be honest with yourself when it comes to your art, look at it realistically and see if it's up to the level of art that you want to be at, and if you are trying to sell the art, if it's up to the level of your peers. And if it is up to that level, make it better, never be satisfied with your art, strive to get better and better each time. Learn something new, try a new technique, draw something out of your comfort zone. Each time you create art, it's a learning experience, treat it as so.
When it comes to trying to sell your art, don't let yourself get taken advantage of. Know your value and stick to it, and never, I repeat, never send any art without payment.
Nowadays our childhood stories from the 80's and 90's are being retold and remodeled to fit an entirely new demographic. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Robocop and even Boy Meets World to name a few. Being practically raised on TV, how does this trend make you feel?
I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me. I can't help but have that first reaction of hate to anything they are trying to revamp from my childhood. Eventually I get past that and if something looks like it could be good, I end up giving it a chance. That new Robocop movie, that looked like garbage though, so I didn't even waste my time. The Girl Meet's World spin-off just isn't targeted to me, and just looks like your standard Disney Channel crappy TV show. The new TMNT cartoon is surprisingly great however, but the movie... I still don't know what to think about that.
I think the key to revamping all the properties that we all loved so much growing up is to not ignore the people that grew up with it, while bringing something new to the table. That is what that new TMNT cartoon has done, it has something for us adults that loved TMNT when we were kids, while also having that new, fresh feeling that kids today love.
Which movie or series should they never ever reboot?
If they ever reboot The Lost Boys, I will throw up. I could see them bringing it back and making it like Twilight, and if that happened, it would make me sick. They already did that to Teen Wolf, and that show has none of the charm as the movie.
Being greatly inspired by this era, does it have any effect on your work?
It effects it on every level, even if it isn't obvious in the design. Sure, I do a bunch of parody designs that are obviously influenced by the things I grew up with, but the nostalgia still sneaks into almost everything I do. I grew up in a time where horror movies were king, cartoons were crazy and colorful, and video games were still in their experimental infancy. Everything that I have grown up with sneaks in to my art whether it be the subject matter, the colors, the way the line work is... etc.
You recently did some amazing work for art galleries such as Gallery 1988 and Bottleneck. Can you tell us some more about that experience? Which one is your absolute favorite?
The gallery work has been incredibly positive. Almost every show has been a great experience. I've been able to visit a few shows at Gallery 1988 with my work in it, and it's a trip seeing people walk out with my art. My personal favorite piece from a gallery show was my 3Ninjas poster, the colors and the way it looks in person is just amazing. The poster that sold the best, however, was the Twin Peaks poster I did for Spoke Art. I still get emails from people begging me to do a second run of those.
An illustration that looks good as a poster doesn’t necessarily look good as a t-shirt. What are the things that make a t-shirt design work for you?
I'm learning to treat a t-shirt graphic as a piece of fashion, more than a piece of art. A poster can be super detailed, huge with a ton of colors and other crazy shit going on. A shirt has to be a little bit different, people have to wear the art, and have to match it with other articles of clothing. Sometimes, shirts that are too detailed and colorful can tend to look a bit 'little kid-ish', keeping things more subtle works best for a shirt. That's not to say you can do super crazy detailed illustrations for a shirt, but it's the way it's done that makes it work for a shirt.
Let's head back into time. You're a kid again and get the amazing opportunity to star in a movie or series you love. Which one would it be and which character would you love to be?
I'd be that freaking Danny kid from the first Ninja Turtles movie, the kid that leads The Foot to the turtle lair, and then ends up saving Splinter in the end. I'm always super jealous I wasn't in that movie, if only to be a part of the scene where all the kids are hanging out in The Foot hideout.
If you could bring back one thing from the 80's and one thing from the 90's, what would they be?
From the 80's I'd bring back all of the crazy action figures. They were so off the wall, and colorful, it was truly a unique time. I don't think any toy company is experimenting the way they did back then. I mean, Mattel made a freaking action figure that smelled like Skunk.
From the 90's, I'd bring back all the cartoons I watched and the way the writers wrote them. Cartoons in the 90's weren't treated as cartoons for little kids, or a 30 minute action figure commercial. They had a bit more substance to them, and the writing was amazing.
Any quotes or catchphrases you'd like to share to end this interview?
'Never Grow Old'