Interview: Matthew Skiff

“…nobody will ever master any type of art. That is what keeps us going. If perfection was attainable and I eventually attained it, art would become boring.” – Matthew Skiff


Trunk Junk would like to introduce you to the Matthew Skiff horror show. A trip through the cartoonised world of Mr Matthew Skiff, artworks that will keep you up at nights, stupefied by the blatant realism that exists in the fictive, colour filled characters he’s conjured up. A formidable stab at a society ridiculously obsessed with the idea of decency.

Matthew managed to get himself jammed between the almost perfect mix of a time where skate art was king, and every kid wanted to be Batman when they grew up. These key ingredients consequently fashioned his style into the unclad, deviant, barbarous, and very much amazing and entertaining artworks that he’s churning out today.

So let the show begin. Sit back and have your mind warped by the psychedelic obscenity that is a result of a lifelong talent in progress. Long live Matthew Skiff.

Firstly Mr Skiff, what essentials are a must for your trunk?

Candy is definitely a key ingredient for any adventure I am on. Give me bags of Sour Patch Kids, Red Vines and Sour Gummy Works and I am set for anything. My iPhone is also essential to me. Even though the thing can’t make a phone call, I can surf the Internet, check my twitter, and play NBA Jam whenever I want! Lastly, a pair of sunglasses is key as well, Oakley Frogskins to be exact. The more retro they are, the better.

Could you please introduce yourself to our readers in five singled out words?

Nostalgic, Nerdy, Pizza Loving, Loser.

How long have you been chiselling away for?

I have been at it ever since I was little. Ever since I could hold a pencil I was drawing something. I have stacks and stacks of notebooks, sketchbooks, even folders of computer paper on which I would draw anything and everything. However, I’ve been making a job of it for almost three years now.

What kick-started the talent of ‘Matthew Skiff’? What actually convinced you to pursue the act of putting ink to paper?

I am a huge cartoon kid, so much so you could say that I was raised by my television (no disrespect to my parents). I would be watching cartoons from when I woke up until the lame and boring five o’clock news came on. Saturday mornings were always something that I looked forward to. I’d wake up extra early just so I could catch as many cartoons as possible. Once we got cable you could forget about it, I was watching Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network all weekend long.

Along the way, I started watching these shows with a paper and pencil in hand, and I would draw whatever was on the screen. I have notebooks filled with Ninja Turtles, Batman and X-men, to name a few. It just seemed like a natural step for me. I don’t know exactly why I started to draw, I just did. It could have been that maybe I just wanted to be the cartoon characters, so the closest thing to being the characters was drawing them and putting them in whatever situations I wanted. My dad used to draw a lot too, so maybe the tendency is just in my blood.

Once I was introduced to comic books, then things really changed. I got to see another side of art, a more detailed side of it. I started out emulating my favourite artists like Neal Adams or Jim Lee, and then I would eventually make up my own characters and draw my own comic book covers.

I read somewhere that you are from Colorado. Do you still live there and did much of a ‘nurturing’ art scene exist or did you rely on the nature of the era that you grew up in?

I still live in Colorado, born and raised. I wouldn’t say that being in Colorado had any effect on how I started drawing. I would say that the period I grew up in had a much larger effect on me. I am a child of the 80’s and 90’s. This was the time when skateboard graphics were getting really good (we can thank Jim Phillips for that), but we also had the best cartoons known to man during these times: Ninja Turtles, The Real Ghostbusters, Batman the Animated Series, re-runs of Transformers and Masters of the Universe.

Horror/slasher movies were also a big deal, especially in my household. My parents loved horror movies, as well as sci-fi movies, and I wasn’t really allowed to watch them, but who is to say I wasn’t watching from behind the couch when my parents weren’t looking.

It’s also interesting to look back and see how much effect the clothes I was wearing has influenced me. Brands like Gecko, No Fear, Vision, the clothes Zach Morris was wearing on Saved By The Bell. I even have a D.A.R.E. shirt I got back in 1994 that I still wear to this day. Looking good was really important to me, and even though my parents were on a budget, I still had some pretty rad clothes as a kid.

Talking about growing up, we noticed that you’ve worked for Marvel Comics. Holding onto memories a comic filled childhood? Am I correct in saying comics would have been a large influence on you as a graphic designer?

Yeah. Like I said earlier, comics were a huge turning point in my life. I grew up with the X-Men, Spider-man and Batman cartoons, and then that led into a love for the comics. Then I started to get familiar with all the artists, and I found my favourites and tried to emulate what they were doing. When I originally decided that I wanted to have a career in art, I wanted to be a comic book artist. I learned how to draw muscles, women and a lot of other things just by studying how my favourite artists drew. That dream faded, however, in college I found out just how competitive that industry is and how much work it is. I was used to drawing covers or splash pages, but telling stories was a whole new world to me. Yet, I am still able to use my love for that art form in the designs I make.

You obviously have your own style that stands out in your work… I’m interested to hear how you as an artist would describe your own style?

I personally find it really hard to pinpoint an exact description because I feel like I am a melting pot of everything I grew up with, so my style is constantly changing and evolving. Every single day I see something that inspires me and I throw it into whatever I am drawing or designing. I am a melting pot of cell-shaded cartoons, comic and pop art with a little bit of 80’s and 90’s style thrown in. I try to make each design a little bit cleaner and tighter than the last design. However, a little bit of the dirty comic book cross-hatching and details slips through, but it all depends on the subject matter of design.

To me style isn’t something that you choose; it’s something that just happens. All the things that surrounded me, that I was exposed to, and that I really liked, helped me develop the style I have today. Though, style isn’t just what it looks like; it’s also about putting a little bit of you into each design. Along with the clean lines, and the crazy subject matter, I want people to look at each design and see that I had a lot of fun doing it.

What’s your say on the debate of natural talent verse hard work? I once asked our Art Director when exactly did he realise he was talented and he said, “I’m not talented, I’ve just worked hard at it.”

Hard work is absolutely essential. Sure there could be a bit of talent sprinkled in, but you don’t get anywhere if you don’t work hard. Practice makes perfect, not just in sports, but in art too. Us artists want to master whatever it is we are trying to do, and nobody will ever master any type of art. That is what keeps us going. If perfection was attainable and I eventually attained it, art would become boring. The fun is working hard and trying to reach perfection, but never reaching it.

How does board riding fit into, affect and influence your works?

It’s been years since I have skated or snowboarded. I used to be a huge snowboarder and it practically ran my life during the winter. When I was a kid, even though I didn’t skate back then, I always loved the old Santa Cruz boards. Jim Phillips is one of my favourite artists of all time and he really changed the game when it came to skateboard graphics. His mixture of horror, comics, comedy, and half naked women is something that has definitely influenced my work. I really got into board graphics when I started snowboarding. The mixture of graphic design and illustration is something that really spoke to me.

There are undoubtingly trends of sex, death, violence, joy, a touch of sinisterness, and a can’t miss dash of colour in most of your designs. What does this all represent to you and how does it resonate back into your artworks?

As mentioned before, I love horror movies. I grew up with pretty campy horror movies that were filled with sex, death and violence. Many of those movies were absurd to the point of being really funny. That is something that I have always loved about those movies. The comedy could be bad acting, a really ridiculous cut scene, or a sex scene that comes out of nowhere for no reason. I feel that the horror movies that I like don’t take themselves very seriously and aren’t trying to be anything more than entertainment.

That is what I apply to my art. Some people can take anything too seriously, so I figured why not throw it in their face and make it really obvious. The fact people get mad at someone wearing a half naked women on their shirt, a pentagram or an upside down cross, I find completely ridiculous. Why not force those people to be around those things and see their reactions. I am the type of person that doesn’t get offended very easily. I am just trying to have fun, and I want to draw cool shit. It just so happens that the things I think are cool is offensive to other people.

Where do you see yourself as an artist in ten years?

I still see myself doing the same thing I am doing now. Hopefully, that doesn’t mean that I will still be working freelance, but I want to keep doing work for the industries that I am working for now. Apparel, CD packaging, snowboard and skateboard graphics are all things that I will never get tired of. I do want to get more into clothing and fashion design (cut and sew).I would love to have my own action figure or toy line, and maybe even my own cartoon. I also think I could make a pretty cool horror movie. Maybe I’ll start putting artwork in galleries… Who knows?

I have so many ideas in my head that I want to do, I just need to stop being lazy and make things happen. As I mentioned I want to start my own clothing line, but I need an outlet for all these design ideas I have collected over the years. This will be happening sooner rather than later.

Lastly, can you ever imagine or do you think that places like the Sistine Chapel will one day invite art styles such as yours onto their walls as modern day Michelangelo’s? What art piece would you add to the collection if you had the chance?

Considering a lot of my art deals with the complete opposite of what the Church talks about, I don’t think that will ever happen. I get the reasoning to some extent, but hey, Michelangelo drew plenty naked women or paintings dealing with death and destruction. I feel like the day that art like mine is welcomed into the Sistine Chapel would be the day that making this kind of art stops being fun.

It is kind of fun to think about, though, being able to completely change the atmosphere in a place like that. I would fill the walls with some weird scenes dealing with a half naked woman, zombies and monsters or maybe a skateboarding dinosaur; I would kill to see a painting of a skateboarding dinosaur from Michelangelo or a pizza-eating turtle.


For more from Matthew Skiff, visit his website.

Browse the Trunk Junk collection; maybe even pick one out for yourself.

© Jonathan Boonzaaier 2016

Jonathan Boonzaaier Editorial Journalist Matthew Skiff Interview Two