City : Los Angeles
Where did you grow up?
I was raised in suburban Columbus, Ohio, near the Ohio State University whose mascot is the this really surreal character Brutus Buckeye, which is basically this guy with a buckeye nut for a head.
Now see, I didn’t even know that the buckeye was a nut. I knew it was a tree but . . .
Yeah, it’s called a buckeye because it supposedly looks like a buck’s eye. So you can imagine the mascot is pretty weird looking.
What were your early years like growing up in Ohio?
I guess like most boys growing up in the suburbs, I liked getting lost in a fantasy world. I watched a lot of fantasy movies and cartoons that definitely had an effect on me artistically. I would draw things like dragons, monsters, and demons with battle axes, you know typical boy stuff. My artwork started off that way and has evolved from that but I still like staying in touch with that fantasy world of childhood.
What movies did you love growing up?
I was really into a lot of those old puppet movies like Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal and The Never Ending Story. I loved the mix of fantasy and reality in those movies, especially
The Never Ending Story where it started out in the real world and then slowly faded into another dimensional world, a world of fantasy. I also like the idea of this blackness which starts eating away at the fantasy world and how it takes imagination to keep it at bay. I see it as being relative to our growing up and losing touch with our childlike sense of wonder and imagination. I try to stay in touch with my inner child and try not to lose that childlike wonder. It’s important to me to stay in awe of all the beauty and weirdness in both the natural and the human world. It ‘s been harder to hold on to that viewpoint as I’ve gotten older but that’s been my goal.
Was your family supportive of your decision to become an artist?
I was pretty lucky that both my mom and dad have been really supportive of me ever since I was little. My mom saw that from an early age I loved drawing and, so, she sent me to summer college classes at the Columbus School of Art and Design when I was very young, and then later in life they put me through art college. I’m glad to have had the training in Art History and Figure Drawing Fundamentals because I’ve fallen back on that knowledge throughout my life.
How do you see your life and your artwork changing now that you are older?
I feel like the older I get the more I believe my own intuition about people and about things. I try to figure out my feelings about things in a more abstract way rather than trying to think too much about it. For instance, if I have a good feeling about something I’ll head in that direction and if something feels weird I just won’t mess with it. So I have noticed being in my thirties that I let an inner feeling or inner energy guide my feelings more.
I agree and think the thirties are a time for looking deeper into things while also getting things done. Like you were saying earlier, childhood is a time of being imaginative and studying life with a sense of awe. The teen years I feel are dark and a lot of teens seem to have an obsession with death—possibly mourning the “death” of childhood? The twenties seem like a time of figuring ourselves out and trying to get our feet out in the world but also of wanting to escape like a child back into creativity; that’s usually around the time we start drinking and doing drugs, to escape. But I feel things begin to even out and we get calmer, more focused on our health and career goals in our thirties. What do you think?
Yeah, I definitely have a dark side like everybody does and I feel like I was a lot closer to the darkness back in my adolescence. I was into goth and industrial music and was just aggro in this suburban abstract way of not liking what was happening in the world or at least the industrial machine that I saw us transforming the world into at the time. I’ve been slowly trying to transcend that and be thankful for how lucky I am. We can all be completely nihilistic about life sometimes and see it as all being futile. Then it becomes so easy to slip into ‘So why don’t you save the planet and just kill yourself?’ But instead, you can be a creative force in the universe instead of being a destructive force. There doesn’t have to be a reason for creating something because the universe is naturally a creative force, and the human need to create is a reflection of this universal force.
Lately, I’ve been kind of embracing the idea of garbage. Especially living in L.A. there’s just a crazy amount of garbage everywhere, which is just a byproduct of the industrial machine. There’s so much trash everywhere and you have to kind of embrace that and try to see the beauty in these piles and piles of junk. And there’s a lot of psychic junk too. We are given so much information through sophisticated commercials and advertising brain-candy, and we think we have to process it all. And, so, I try to use my feelings and translate all of that garbage into art. I base my characters on some of these things. Recently, I did a character who’s part centaur—part cow—part clown hybrid. It’s basically a mixture of a centaur and a cow’s body with a Ronald McDonald face and he’s holding a knife. It’s just strange to think that in Hindu culture cows are highly revered but in our culture it’s the complete opposite. It’s just like WWII for them here in America. I think one of the biggest challenges in life for me or for anybody is to live more consciously, to just think more about what we do.
I completely agree and I’m so glad that you are making a statement in your art which hopefully will help people to think about their impacts on animals.
Besides being influenced by the trash and fast food culture, what else influences you about living in L.A.?
Well, I lived in San Francisco for the past ten years and have been here a little less than a year, but I do like Southern California. The weather is amazing and I ride my bike a lot. I live in Koreatown but ride my bike to Venice Beach sometimes and I really like the vibe there and just people-watching. You see crazy street performers on roller blades playing electric guitars, people doing yoga. It’s just like the 1980’s version of
California I had in my mind growing up in Ohio. It’s still alive and well at Venice Beach!
There also is a good underground art and music scene out in L.A., which is subculture to all of the TV and media stuff going on.
Do you have any kind of daily ritual for working on your art? Do you work on it every day or do you just wait for ideas to come to you and then dive in?
I haven’t had a day job in a long time. So the first thing I do when I wake up is to check my email to see if I have any commercial illustration jobs because that’s what I do to pay my rent. I try to do some art every day. I feel like I was a little more ambitious in my twenties when I was really trying to get out there and go crazy with it. I’m still focused on making art but I’m also into cooking, going hiking and swimming, etc., so, there’s definitely more balance in my life now.
You have one illustrated children’s book The Night Riders. Do you have any other children’s books in the works?
Not right now. I did a comic book series recently called Boys Club, which is about a group of immature boys and a zine called Dungeon Family that is just all of these strange alien creatures in a dungeon. But, I would like to do another kids’ book. It’s just a matter of finding the time to do it. The Night Riders took me a really long time to make and complete. It’s a lot of hard work to come up with a kids’ story and then research all the references and then piece it together and make it all fit. Night Riders does kind of use dream logic. It isn’t really a story but an excuse to draw all of this cool stuff and string it together with a loose narrative.
Would you ever want to make a full length cartoon or have you started to do this?
Yeah. I’m actually trying to write a television show now that might end up being a collection of animation, CGI, and puppets. It’s something new for me working collaboratively with other people and it’s an opportunity, being in L.A., to meet people and try to branch out into television, which is something new for me.
And I’ll always have art to fall back on. You know I can always just sit around and draw all day if I want to.
What helps to keep you inspired on a daily basis?
I get inspired by my girlfriend Aiyana (Udesen) who is also an artist. She and I are collaborating on an upcoming show with our friend Albert Reyes that will be called The Future Colors of America. It’s really cool because we all have our own different styles but we all kind of feed off of each other and push each other to go out of our own comfort zones.
Interview of Matt Furie by Emma Kathan for Psychic Gloss Magazine.