Capture the Beast

One-on-One with Matthew Gilson

Today’s Boneshaker Press interviewee is Matthew Gilson. You can find Matt’s portfolio and contact information at his website.

What’s your background?

My story started when I was about 20. Over the last 8 years everything has been a non-stop ride of learning. However, that’s what I live for. I am always curious to question and observe what is in front of me.

In high school, I never really cared much and just wanted to have fun. But those days have passed and since then, I’ve attended college at the Cuyahoga Community College, interned at a startup accelerator in the heart of Cleveland, and became an apprentice learning the butcher trade. I have had several opportunities in the art industry with both freelance and company work. And the great pleasure to be involved with the making of a book.

Then there are all the amazing people I have met who have inspired me to never stop, just in the past year. I truly feel like the people I now have in my life saved me. I almost feel like Andy at the end of The Shawshank Redemption when he finally breaks out of prison and feels the sense of freedom and liberation.

What got you interested in the arts to begin with?

What originally sparked my interest is the fact that you get to create and build something that others can appreciate.

My father is a carpenter. I remember seeing the look in his eyes every time he made something new: that look of diligent commitment to his work. How he only got angry because he cared about what he was doing. I knew I wanted to be that determined with something and I think I found that with art.

Also, where I love to learn, I love to be the person who also helps encourage, unite, and teach other artists.

When did you decide to dedicate yourself to art?

That started around the age of 16. I remember because I was absolutely amazed with the concept art of Doom 3.

Do you remember your first piece of art you were really proud of? The one that made you say yes I am an artist!

Honestly…No. There was more of a feeling of just constantly drawing and painting and knowing that this was what I wanted to do for a career. It’s what I needed to do. Not because it was the “right” thing, but because it just felt right.

Same drawing 4 years apart.
Same drawing 4 years apart.

Do you collect anything?

Yes…cats. Just kidding, I enjoy collecting hobbies such as gardening, running and most recently, guitar. And vinyl records. Where I listen to a long list of genres, some of my favorite bands include, Ghost, Deftones and Acid King.

What research do you do?

Any book, YouTube channel, documentary that I can find that I personally feel is beneficial to increasing my skill and technique, I take advantage of. Books such as James Gurney’s Color & Light and the Dynamic books by Burne Hogarth are fantastic reading material. YouTube channels such as Proko, Xia Taptera and the animal lessons from Aaron Blaise have helped me out tremendously. The Frank Frazetta documentary is always a big influence for all fantasy artists.

What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?

On a daily basis I do my best to understand anatomy. I make sure that I take at least 30 minutes everyday to draw both a skull and five figures. Even if I do not look up the names of the bones or muscles, at least I am drawing them and understand the placement of each. Drawing a skull and five figures is very important to me. This keeps me drawing and researching every day.

Outside from those daily challenges, I personally feel that a healthy lifestyle helps as well. I have always had difficulty focusing. I found that staying healthy and separating myself from unnecessary means of entertainment and easy distractions (videos games, going out every single weekend, binge watching on Netflix or YouTube, even having my phone near me as I work) maintains focus.

What sacrifices have you made on behalf of your art career?

There have been several freelance opportunities I have taken and had to work on instead of going out to have fun. Also, I have spent more money on improving my skill, workstation and supplies then I have spent on improving my car or apartment. Pencils, paint, new sketch and note books, software, a new computer and of course, a Wacom tablet. Which later resulted to a Cintiq upgrade. I have also put my art and work before my health many times.

Through Snow
Through Snow

Do you ever feel like giving up and doing something else? If so, why and how have you overcome that feeling?

I was in a relationship where my significant other did not approve of my choice in a career path. I was willing to give everything up to make her happy. Then, something stopped me. I knew that I was the one in control of my future and career goals. I knew that what I was doing at that moment in my life could not be the end of the road.

What advice would you have given yourself ten years ago?

Drink a gallon of water everyday. Continue to not smoke, do drugs, or drink but don’t feel bad if you have one beer or glass of wine. Go outside and run a few miles or enjoy nature. Save your money so you can travel. Remain loyal to your friends, family and girlfriend. Explore museums. Stand your ground. Learn an instrument. Watch a new movie every night before bed. Learn more about painting. READ! And for cryin’ out loud, DRAW EVERYDAY MATTHEW THOMAS GILSON.

Name three artists you’d like to be compared to?

Frank Frazetta

James Gurney

Frederick E. Church

How do you keep your creative spark? What keeps you motivated?

The secret is obvious, practice. Staying healthy and active helps too. Having the right people in life to surround me is a key component to helping me shape and shift into the artist I will ultimately be.

How do you know when you have achieved success?

Ahhhh this infamous question is a tough one. However, I think I have an answer after all these years. After you have watched and read all the tutorial videos. Your friends have given you all the advice they can give you. Just simply get up and walk away. The more you keep trying to figure things out, the worse it will become. Keep thinking simple, and not complicated. It’s good to think that way with graphic design. Why not do the same with illustration?


Was there a moment or decision that was a big setback? And what did you take away from that?

One time I was let go from a job. Wasn’t exactly sure what for, but looking back, I think one of the reasons was because I wouldn’t quit. Once I came to that idea I knew that, yes, I wasn’t a quitter. Obviously, there are times where you are left no choice but to quit before something worse happens. However, at least you can say you haven’t or didn’t want to quit. I think it means a lot when someone doesn’t quit. Giving up is easy, why take the easy route? That doesn’t keep things interesting, or fun. It doesn’t it allow you to learn now does it?

What is your dream project? If there were no time/money restrictions what would you create?

I would do everything to find extraterrestrial life that is just as intelligent or more intelligent than humans. I understand that war would be inevitable. Many obstacles would need to be taken to prevent any negative outcome after first contact. Personally, I believe many humans and this newfound intergalactic life would try to start chaos because it’s not hard to believe that humans are the only ones afraid of the unknown.

Yeah, that’s my dream project; make a story that doesn’t end for many years based on that plot.

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