Interview w/ Matthew Skiff

If you're a frequent visitor to Strange Kids Club, chances are you're either a fan of horror movies and memorabilia, looking for that mid 80s/early 90s nostalgia fix or just interested in any combination thereof. So what happens when those interests mix with artistic talent and bare-chested bigfoot, you say?

Well, I'm glad you asked because it might result in something pretty close to the work of our latest Creative Spotlight, apparel artist extraordinaire Matthew Skiff. I had the pleasure of catching up with Matt recently to pick his brain...

So Matt, tell us a little about yourself.
I'm just a guy from Colorado who has always loved to draw really weird and strange things. In high-school and college, all the teachers wanted was fine art and stuff that was set in real life with no imagination, that wasn't fun at all. I grew up watching cartoons, reading comic books and watching horror movies, I wanted to create stuff like that!

What do you think first inspired you to become an artist?
I was definitely first inspired by cartoons. I would sit in front of the tv every day with a sketch book and a pencil, lay on the floor and just draw, draw the characters I saw on the television screen, and even made up a few of my own. Cartoons then lead me to being interested in comic books, and that how I really learned how to draw. I would mimic my favorite artists because I wanted to draw like them.

You utilize a number of references from popular culture (Kaiju, Horror films, Sci-Fi). What are some of your biggest creative influences?
Like I stated earlier, cartoons and comic books were both huge influences in my art. The subject matter in both of those was very appealing to me. Then later I started getting into horror movies. My dad would let me watch them when I was little, but I would always get too scared when watching them. Then eventually I sucked it and embraced Horror movies and started to watch every single horror movie I could get my hands on. The old 80's slasher and other campy horror films are my favorite.

Along with all of these, or course, came action figures. My dad would go out and literally buy me every single Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Real Ghostbusters toy there was. I still have most, if not all, of them to this date. When I got older, I got heavily into collecting action figures like Spawn and stuff like that. I had to quit that, however, because it took up too much space, and I wanted to show a girl my room without getting laughed at. They are all in storage now.

Sci-Fi was a big influence as well, I have my mom to thank for that. We would watch Star-Trek the Next Generation and the X-Files all the time together.

Your work has appeared at a number of online apparel retailers like Disturbia Clothing, Zombie Liquorice and 410 BC. How did you first get into apparel design? I literally fell into this line of work. I graduated from college and was looking to work at a design firm, but nobody was hiring. Then a friend over at Threadless (wotto) suggested I post some art over at I started posting my work and then eventually people liked what I was doing and wanted to buy my designs. Since then, that is all I have been doing, and have been having a blast doing it.

With clients like Electric Zombie and I Wrestled a Bear Once, its evident that music plays a role in your work. Just how important is music in your creative process?
I wouldn't say music necessarily plays a huge influential role on my art, however it is a pivotal part of my creative process. I have to have music playing in the background. I hate silence, and the TV is too much of a distraction to me. I have found that I work better and a little faster when I have music playing. I listen to all kinds of music... I literally love it all (except country). It's great working for bands, most of them grew up in the time period that I grew up in so we can all appreciate the same kind of subject matter when it comes to thinking up a design.

I know its a little early in the year, but what are your top 5 albums for 2010 so far?
Gorillaz - Plastic Beach, Lil Wayne - Rebirth, Alkaline Trio - The Addiction, Coheed & Cambria - Year of the Black Rainbow...and...well I can't think of another one right now...there hasn't been all that great music released yet, that is what summer is for!

I understand that you collect skate decks. What is is about them that appeal to you and which one is your favorite?
I got into skateboarding in high school and it opened up a whole other world of art that I really wasn't to familiar with. I started to do research on all the skateboard companies I saw at my local skate shops and then became familiar with the art and the artists that did the designs for the boards. It's only until recently where I could appreciate skateboard art as a type of fine art that looks great and you can hang on the wall. I will always love all the old retro skate decks from Santa Cruz and Powell Peralta. However, these days, Deathwish is hands down putting out the best looking skateboard graphics for their decks.

Any big plans or announcement for you in 2010?
Nothing too big right now. A skateboard series I did a while back just got released over at Goodbie. I have some other ideas in the works right now, but who knows if I'll get to them by the years end. I hope to be able to at least start selling my own art prints sometime this year, when I have enough free time to actually figure out what to do and how to do it.

So... what's the strangest thing you remember doing as a kid?
I was a strange kid all around. The strangest thing I can remember doing would just be the way I would watch TV. Normally you just sit or lay on the couch, but not me. I would love being upside down with my head on the cushion and my legs draped over the back of the couch. Oh, my mom always talks about how I kind of taught myself how to write. I would grab my sisters notebooks and trace her handwriting backwards....that's about all I can think of right now (and that I care to share without embarrassing myself).

Ha ha, fair enough.

For more of Matthew Skiff and his appallingly awesome apparel designs, be sure to check out his website and blog.


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