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Interview with Matt Leines
by Amber Noland

ArtSlant's Amber Noland met up with Matt Leines to talk about his drawings, what influences him and how he makes his work.

ArtSlant: The subject matter in your work references a blend of folkloric imagery with a contemporary graphic play, can you tell me more about the imagery in your work?

Matt Leines: I always have problems just saying things about my work.  My imagery is an amalgam of things that have floated through my head and adapted from basically everything I've seen until it's been filtered enough to exist in the same world.  Yes, I'm interested in folklore and through my drawings I've learned more about folk traditions I wasn't aware of, and as i learn things I'm sure those things turn in the drawings.

AS: There are many layers to each drawing, pulling from a variety of themes.  Is religion one of them?

ML: Religion does play a role but not in any strict sense. I'm not a religious person anymore. There were times when I was younger when i was pretty God fearing. I was afraid to listen to Iron Maiden, thinking I'd go to hell if I did. But I've always enjoyed religious stories even if i didn't believe them. But I don't think i started out with an intention to make vague religious drawings. People would point out that a character looked like Jesus or something, but doesn't every guy with long hair and a beard look kinda like Jesus? But those observations made me take notice and since then I've looked into other religions, mostly pagan, hindu, or islam and I feel it's broadened my work.

AS: Your ink drawings are incredibly meticulous and complex, how long does it take you to complete a drawing?

ML: It really depends. Now i generally work on a bunch of drawings at the same time, shuffling between them. I'm working on one now that i probably started almost a year ago. If I'm just working on one thing small drawings can take a few hours, but most take at least days, if not a few weeks for bigger ones.  The problem with working on multiple drawings at once is that sometimes I'll stop working on something for so long that I never go back to it.  And then of course there are the times when I'm in a slump and things seem like they'll never get finished even though I've spent the whole day staring at it pen in hand.

AS: What is your earliest memory of art making?

ML: I remember when i was really little, maybe 3, drawing a picture of a man that worked at a gas station, and I know that i drew him with a moustache that went on top of his nose instead of under it.  I guess that was my start at making up the details instead of working from life. The one story i always tell, is that i was at my Grandma's house, probably around 4 years old, and didn't have some toys with me. So I took some building blocks we did have there, and some markers, and I drew the superheros on them that i wanted to play with.

AS: Who was the first artist or show that really affected you?

ML: I'm not sure.  Although I've always drawn and made pictures I never really knew anything about art until I got to college.  And I still don't think I know that much. I don't really look at all that much art in a wide sense.  When I go to museums I gravitate towards the things I know I already like.  When I go to the Met, I usually go to the same Van Eyck painting that I Love to look at, first. But things have a way to seep in because eight years ago, I'd never have guessed that Flemish painting would be something I'd gravitate towards.  And with things I really like, I tend to ration them to myself so that I have more of something I really like to discover. I guess the first show was the East Meets West show at the ICA in Philly.  It was the first time I saw Chris Johanson, Margaret Kilgallen, Jim Houser, and Clare Rojas' work in person and it gave me a sense that making pictures for a living was possible.

AS: I’m always interested in where artists make their work.  Can you describe where you make work?

ML: I live in a three bedroom apartment in New Jersey with two roomates who aren't around during the day. I used to have a studio in the dining room, until the first summer I lived here. It got hot and I'd drip all over everything, and sweat and watercolor don't mix.  So then I started drawing in my mess of a bedroom where I had an air conditioner. And have yet to move back out to my real "studio" even after it's cooled down. And I draw at a cluttered table listening to talk radio.  I finally got a flat file, and that's out in the dining room. I also cut paper out there.

AS: List 10 (or more) things that influence your work?


  1. History Channel, particularly shows about Medieval Europe
  2. Mexican folk art
  3. talking to people
  4. reading
  5. St. George
  6. He-Man
  7. The Cloisters
  8. random things I stumble across

ArtSlant would like to thank Matt Leines for his assistance in making this interview possible.

--ArtSlant Team

(Image courtesy of Matt Leines)

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