Matt Ryan Tobin: Grim Love

Matt Ryan Tobin uses limited color and strong line work as the base for his finely executed shirt designs. His work has more of an old style to it and it would fit right into the world of Eerie or Creepy magazines. (If you are too young to know them… look them ASAP) In addition, he is the vocalist for metalcore band, Dead & Divine out of Canada. Time to talk art with Mr. Tobin…

How did you get your first paying art job?
I first designed shirts for my band Dead & Divine back in 2003 when we started playing shows. Other bands in the local scene got wind of it and hit me up. I probably got around $15 bucks for my first one. I thought that was the coolest thing ever.

Have you always worked in your current style and if not how did you work before?
Not at all. I used to do everything with pen tool in Photoshop. Click-Drag-Click-Drag. It was tedious. I wouldn’t say I even so much as have a “current style” as I’m constantly trying to challenge my abilities by tackling different styles and taking on concepts from more than one perspective. Keeps things interesting.

Who are your artistic influences?
I’m sure I could sit here and list some off-beat designers to earn some credibility, but that’s not the case. I’m more or less influenced by everything. Growing up and buying music – I was almost more excited about the artwork and what I’d see when I opened the CD booklet. I have a lot of friends who are designers and most definitely have an underlying influence on me, but I think more so in terms of inspiration.

What words best describe your artistic style?
Out of Shape and doesn’t tan easily – but that could just be describing me.

Tell us about your studio space?
My bedroom in my house. I’m on tour too often to necessitate paying rent for my own place.
It does resemble an office more than a bedroom, though.

When you create art for a band…Do you listen to their music during the process?
Not really, but I have before. If a band gives little to no direction, it can help I guess?
Most of the time I just listen to whatever vinyl I’ve recently picked up.

Take us through a typical day.
My days are never typical, if I’m lucky. I try not to let them be. If I did, I would lose my mind. This explains me being in a band most of the time. Trying to postpone some form of routine day for as long as I can. Not to say I attempt to go on some radical adventure or decide to go skydiving. Even if that means I sit on my ass for 12 hours one day, I’ll be sure I don’t the next. I do however smoke and drink coffee. That stays pretty much the same.

How do you create your work? Take us through the process from concept to final.
Its different with every way I approach each project. If its illustration, sometimes there will be a penciled idea which I scan in and work from, but my scanners been broken for a long time. I’ve started drawing straight from my tablet, which can be annoying as it doesn’t replicate pencil and paper so much, but it gets the job done and its something I’ve grown used to.

What materials do you use? How much if any is done on the computer?
Almost 100% is digitally done usually. I’ve always been interested in tackling more art forms, and processes – but my limited working space is well…limiting. I did a lot of art in high school, I miss having a messy art room at my disposal. I’d probably be pretty rusty with a paintbrush at this point. Either way, its something I really want to get back into.

Do you use reference materials or does all of it come from your head?
I most definitely use reference materials. However, the end product is ultimately “from my head”. The ideas to mesh whatever imagery together come “from my head”. Regardless of referenced materials used or not, the point is to convey an idea. I wont delve too deep into this as its a redundant subject to try and debate.

Do the bands give you any direction?
All the time. Its rare they don’t at least have some sort of idea of what they want, or at the very least what they don’t want. Little to no direction is frustrating but too much direction can also be a bit sour. Happy mediums will often turn out a better piece in the end. Any artist would like to think they were chosen to do work over countless others because something they did stuck out. Referencing my previous works is a plus.

What is your favorite project that you have ever done?
I recently did a silk screen poster design for a film convention. It was for the film Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, which was the pinnacle film of my childhood. It was a limited piece and would be shown to one of the films main actors. It was the most fun I ever had on a project and the most pressure I ever had. Copies of the poster were given to select cast members and the two writers of the film. I was on the edge of my mind about this project and still am. Its an out-of-this-world feeling to be recognized and appreciated and repeatedly complimented by someone you idolized growing up.

What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on some As I Lay Dying merch and one of my favorite clients, Iron Fist Clothing.

Do you have any dream projects?
I would still love to design anything for The Smashing Pumpkins.

What are your favorite bands of all time and what bands are you listening to right now?
Top 5 work? 1. Smashing Pumpkins 2. Deftones 3. Silverchair 4. Poison The Well  5. Glassjaw
Right now I’m listening to Taylor Swifts “Speak Now” album on vinyl. She kills it.

What artists would you like to see on MBA?
Craig Robson & Thomas Szypula (Drop)

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About Vertebrae33

Through hard work and dedication, Vertebrae33 has established himself as one of the most prolific and exciting illustrators on the scene today.  He has received much acclaim as of late for his innovative designs, attention to detail, and wholly unique, raw style.