Mowing the lawn with Matt Sundstrom

I feel like the work that we do is our legacy. More than anything else. I feel very conscious of doing work that in some sense feels of this time, and also timeless.
Starvation Creek Falls, Oregon

RECAP: sketchXchange with Matt Sundstrom

August 7, 2015

On Friday, Aug. 7, Matt Sundstrom shared his practical insights into creating some amazing black-and-white landscape illustrations. We learned that Matt can't stop, won't stop making something everyday - hundreds of sketches, a backyard studio, a successful career at Instrument, a family... We also learned that nice guys do finish first. 

If you missed the SketchXchange, fear not. You can relive the evening in photos.

Photos by Britt Appleton & Chris Hoge

INTERVIEW:  Matt Sundstrom

There’s an unofficial “nice guy” test, I think, which is: in a heat wave, can you stand in a sweltering cabin in denim and be patient and kind? Can you answer sweeping questions thoughtfully when it’s 100 degrees and inside your house you have cold Coke and a daughter who’d like to play?

Matt Sundstrom is an incredibly kind guy. He’s a lot like his work. He is patient and studied and diligent. He is the Associate Creative Director at Instrument, and every night except Friday he’s drawing in the cabin he built in his backyard. It’s just an endurance thing,” he says. “If you’re not doing it every day, then you have this period of burn in where you just have to get a lot of really bad stuff out of your system before you start getting your feet under you.”

He draws comics, which is the first art form he fell in love with, back when he was a kid. "When I was in 7th grade or so I had a friend of mine bring in comics. He kind of challenged me to draw comics so that we could put together our own book. We created some really bad comics together, but I was just really excited about it."

process shots via SaltFireFallDust

He also draws landscapes. Landscapes are kind of his jam. "It's a niche that's not really occupied a lot here in America, so that would be a fun thing to be known for. It's something that I love doing," he said. "Whenever there's been polling done about what people view as interesting art, usually representation art and landscape tend to be high, but also high up on the kitsch factor."

From Wizard Island

There’s something very contemporary and digital feeling about Matt’s landscapes. They look exceptional on a screen. There's also a friendliness that feels like classic children’s book illustration. Simply put, they’re nice to look at. Landscape without people is challenging, because it is not obvious where to focus. I think Matt knows exactly how much to include to avoid that problem.

I found with my work I tend to go in 10 year cycles of things that I’m interested in, so landscape is really interesting right now but it might be something else later.
spirit animals drawn for the 100 Days Project

Matt's currently working on a book of comics and landscapes about Oregon. He tries to do a book every year. He describes Stephen King's concept of mowing the lawn from On Writing. "The fun stuff usually comes really early or really late, the rest of your process is just mowing the lawn."

That idea means a lot to him. He says he repeats it to himself when he works. It's about more than the project for him. It's a legacy. "I definitely feel very strongly about the idea of your work standing for who you are," he said. "I think a lot of things really come down to the work. It’s really the only thing tangible that we leave behind, besides personal connections, which start to fragment as soon as you're gone. I feel very conscious of doing work that in some sense feels of this time, and also timeless."

 

Matt's studio, which he built

Find Matt online: 

  Matt Sundstrom.com  |  Salt Fire Fall Dust   |   Inks & Things    |   Fantom Forest  

Drive Into the Sun   |   PDX 100    |    Medium   |    Pinterest 

Instagram - @mattink        twitter - @mattink