Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Matt Gauck, at the moment, lives in Chicago but has his sights on Savannah, Georgia. A native of Cary, NC, Matt attended Appalachian State University, graduating in 2003 with a degree in graphic design.
But his love for illustration and painting outweighed that of commercial art and design. He has since created pieces of art deep in meaning and strong enough in its imagery that some could become short novels.
Matt’s work is playful and numbing at the same time, fusing shaded colors and joyful characters surrounded by surrealistic or ominous scenery. The pieces are positive and sad simultaneously, pulling diverse emotions from the viewer.
He has done work for bands and steadfastly supports the DIY (do-it-yourself) crowd, eschewing much of the mainstream lifestyle that corporations have helped to anchor in American culture. He recycles, rides a bike instead of a car and finds food from dumpsters.

You were raised in Cary, NC?
Yep. If you’ve ever been to Cary, and met me, it’d be really hard to make sense of how that worked. Most suburban, strip-mall, homogenous town on the planet.

Attended Appalachian state for graphic design and a master’s at Savannah College of Art and Design. At what point did you realize that was what you wanted?
When I was almost done with high school, I decided I wanted an art-related career, and both my parents were really encouraging. At that point, it seemed like graphic design was the only artistic career path that made any money at all, so I got my BFA in that, but immediately realized I 1) don’t care about money, and 2) prefer drawing and painting to a computer ANY DAY. So after one summer, I went back to grad school. It was all pretty fast, I was done with my MFA when I was 24.

Did you draw/doodle a lot as a student?
All the time. The sides of all my notes in every class, from 3rd grade through college were just drawings. Not really serious stuff - I never went places with my sketchbook or paints or anything. Just doodled.

What is the appeal of horror films? The gross-out? The scariness? Or just strange nature of it?
Oh jeez, that’s freaking impossible...haha – well, at first I think I was really interested in stuff that scared me, a lot, because that was such an interesting emotion to have to deal with. I mean, you just don’t get scared that often in real life, unless it’s when something really awful happens, like a friend gets really sick. Horror movies are the ‘fun’ side of being scared, and I'm all about fun. That’s my m.o. But, I’d be lying if I didn’t laugh every time somebody’s head gets blown off, or someone gets hacked to pieces. The blood is just funny, seriously. I can’t explain it, but after awhile (and I have seen a LOT of horror movies) it just gets funny. Black Christmas, Night of the Living Dead (b/w), I Spit On Your Grave, Re-animator, and Cemetery Man – that’s my top five. I think.

Are you self professed bike rider?
I love my bike. That’s the only way to get around, seriously. I’ve biked over 3000 miles on long distance trips, state to state kind of stuff, and I also get all my food (dumpstered) on my bike. For me, bikes are just the best possible answer – you can fix everything on your own (DIY), there isn’t a cost beyond the bike and the parts itself (I really hate money), it doesn’t pollute the environment (I still bike all my recycling 2 miles each week), AND you stay in good health doing it.

Really like Quicksilver (the 1986 bike messenger film)?
I freaking love that movie. My roommate keeps claiming that every time I watch that it negatively effects our friendship. Ha. The part in the middle – the bike trick section – it’s amazing! I watch the biking parts of that like once a week – kind of like a ‘bike messenger highlight reel’. I'm really into “Rad”, too. Aunt Becky from Full House. Crazy.

Cartooning? Who do you admire?
Bill Watterson, hands down. Calvin and Hobbes was easily some of the best art to come out of cartooning. I like Daniel Clowes now and again, too, but more for the story. Watterson is dominating the draftsmanship category.

Do you write little books or cartoon panel series?
Not really, I did when I was younger, but I find I can create better stories with just one image. You have to trust your audience, but also sort of ‘guide them’ in the right direction.

Do you find confliction between graphic design and cartooning or do they come together?
There’s a ‘happy middle ground’, for sure – you wind up designing all art, and I think graphic design is just like any other art form, where you would arrange aspects of the picture into a ‘visually pleasing’ manner. There’s an undeniable link there, but it’s sort of hard to pin down.

Is graphic design done for smaller entities or do you do work for larger companies?
I’ve done work for both – I’ve worked for independent firms of 5 people, I’ve worked for IBM, and I’ve done everything in-between. IBM was weird, but I learned a lot…Like not to work at IBM anymore. Design, in general, has become a strange subculture to itself, one in which you can get wholly sucked into, and convinced your work matters more than it really does. A lot of people get very caught up in graphic design as a lifestyle, and then aren’t able to focus on real life, going on around them. You can use graphic design to help fix problems, raise awareness, you know, “sell” social change…but most people wind up doing posters that promote things they don’t MIND, but still aren’t exactly what they want to ‘end up’ doing.

Does the graphic design work fund your art or is a full tie job?
Right now, I do the occasional logo, or help layout a cd or record or something, but that’s about it. I prefer staying away from the ‘straight graphic design’ stuff. Most of my money now comes from illustration. That’s what I wanted to do, so I figured I would keep at it.

Series dvd? How did you get involved?
I am really good friends (through high school and hardcore shows) with one of the guys who started series, and I got asked to do the Bunnyfest DVD cover and the logo. I think my friend isn’t with the series anymore, but it’s still going on, from what I understand.

What is the best environment/location for an art show?
That obviously depends on what you want to happen – sell all your art, or just get your message out to a public audience. I'm more of the second crowd – I just have ideas I like, and it’s nice to see when one inspires someone else. So, keeping that in mind, I'm a believer in the co-operative run spaces, or the ‘bookstore with space in the back’ type places. Coffee shops are nice too, but I still hate coffee. Anywhere that people can come and not feel like they’re in the “art world” or at a museum. Art is about reactions as much as it is the art itself, so the space matters.

How many cd/album covers have you done?
Hmmm. Overall, I’ve helped on about 15, at this point. Some of those were full illustrations, some were just design help. Maybe closer to 20, now that I'm thinking about it.

What medium do you prefer, oil over acrylic?
Oil, hands down. Acrylic is too plastic-y. It’s really gross.

What specifically do you find appealing about Magritte? Surreal qualities? The colors?
Honestly, I just like his stuff ok – the painting quality is good and all, but I think the ideas are the important part. That pipe bomb piece I did was really just a clever idea I had. Well, kind of clever.

Do you prefer smaller pieces to large canvas pieces?
Small! Art that’s big is impressive and all, but I will always prefer to paint things you can get close to, and have some personal time with. The intimate details are much more interesting to me. I will admit I have a great deal of respect for those who paint really large and do it well. You have to understand, though, that you don’t have to paint on a large scale to get an idea across.

What is the genesis of your ideas? Is it always commentary related or is it merely your imagination at its best?
I have no clue where these things come from. I really don’t. I’ll have an idea, something simple like “something going against impossible odds” or like “contradictory problems”, and then I’ll just start sketching stuff. Everything I paint has some aspect of me in it, and from my standpoint, I think it’s super obvious. But that’s me. They’re all comments on life – I think anyone who is creative derives their ideas from their life experience, and then their output is a direct response to their input. This is my lifestyle, the things I’ve seen, the books I’ve read, and the friendships I’ve made, all rolled into one creative ball.

There’s a wonderful collaboration between the themes of horror, innocence and reality in these pieces, as well as inventive and playful characters along the way. Some are sad and cute, is this purposeful or just the natural flow of your creativity?
Some of this just makes sense to me – the horror themes are just reactions to the movies, I think, but they still have a tongue-in-cheek quality to them. The characters are usually based on kids, because I think a kid’s manner of seeing the world is about 100 times more interesting than anyone else’s. That mentality you have when you’re a kid, and playgrounds are the coolest thing in the world – that stuff was so much better than concerning yourself with minimum wage, and all that ‘adult garbage’. Anyway, back to the question, yes, it’s all very deliberate choosing, the characters are the types of things that make sense in their given situations. I’m aiming to paint stories, not paintings. And these characters are part of the story.

If you could illustrate any book, which one?
Hmmm. Probably a Mad-Libs book a first grader finished. That would be awesome. Lord of the Flies would be fun, too.

Are there any philosophies you are trying to get across within your art? In ‘Remorseless’ there’s that image of a human who’s controlling a robot who’s trying to grasp at a heart, sort carrot and the horse. What’s the story, if there is one, behind that piece?
That piece was developed for a contest, where you were asked to ‘visually define’ a word. My friend picked (at random) remorseless for me (I picked, at random, ‘earwax’ for her…she actually won first place) – anyway, I was trying to come up with something unmistakably ‘remorseless’, and that came out. I use a lot of strings and rope in my work, something stemming from my experience with my younger brother, building things, making things work on our own. That one falls into my ‘contradictions’ category too, because when he moves closer, it gets farther away.

What do you believe is the power of art or its inherent strengths?
Art, to me, inspires its audience to strive for something creative and (hopefully) positive. The act of making art is a creative one, in that you create something from existing things. Not so much like paint and pencil, but rather the ideas that go into them, or the news you just heard about something awful, or whatever. Art is a direct response to the world we live in, and, on some level, it’s a call that we can perhaps do something about it.

How much do you write compared to painting? What do you like to write about?
Writing is a little, little hobby at best. At some point I thought that some of the experiences I had were too funny to go untold. I'm very wary about writing, because it asks a lot of people, to sit down and read about my life for a couple hours. I'm really not that important, but there was some stuff that happened to me, involving a long bike trip, that was really funny.

How many ‘zines have you done and how do you produce them, at home? Kinko’s?
I’ve only written that one, it was sort of a ‘toe in the pool’ kind of curiosity toward the ‘zine world. It’s done fairly well, in that I’ve gotten compliments and I understand that people find it funny, and it’s sold out a couple different places. I’ll probably try writing a second one, and I'm debating doing a little black and white art ‘zine, too. We’ll see. And I sometimes print at Kinko’s, but I greatly prefer the ‘hookup’, which involves my awesome, supportive mother, using her IBM privileges to further the DIY punk movement (go mom – thanks again!), or, well, whatever. Kinko’s is kind of a ‘last resort’, in my mind. I mean, they charge MONEY for copies. What is that? I’d honestly sooner get a job there, copy all my stuff when I could, then quit. Much easier.

In many of these pieces there’s a theme of tiny things at the foot of larger things, sometimes winning out over them. And images of non-human objects that are full of life, are you being reserved or implying a greater premise?
Let’s see…I think it’s all about hope, and impossible odds. Anything impossible, to me, is interesting, because it’s considered off limits by reality. It’s all a fairly romantic vision of life, but I prefer it that way. Where there’s life, there’s hope for something better.

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