'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 4 June 2020

Meet The Illustrator: Matthew Rivera

Name: Matthew Rivera

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Fun, vibrant mixed-media collage using digital scissors and pencils.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
A bright room with a view, stacks of drawing paper, a jar of 4B pencils, dozens of kneaded erasers, Adobe Illustrator, a scanner, CMYK swatch book (I’m colourblind so I need it for reference), coffee, 90s sitcoms for background noise (Frasier is a fave), eye drops, flip flops, and my pet bunny Mavis for snuggle breaks.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
I’ve been using Adobe Illustrator since 1990, so it’s like my right arm. I also love watercolour, and mixing digital and traditional media.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Wow. It’s tough to narrow down to three. I’d have to choose Miroslav Sasek, Ed Emberly and Alexander Calder. I think their art embodies so much joy, and I respond to the bold and graphic nature of their styles.

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
Hands down, the Renaissance! I’d love to meet da Vinci, Michelangelo and possibly Shakespeare. It would be so cool to immerse myself in their work during their lifetimes. Oh, and definitely to see Florence again!

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
I thought about pursuing illustration in college, but felt commercial art was a better direction for me at the time. In 2013, I found the creative aspect of my career as an art director dwindling, and decided I needed a new outlet. After fumbling around for a couple of years, I finally just picked up a drawing pad and started sketching. Soon after, I rediscovered the art of picture books by visiting local bookstores, and amassed a huge collection. I was especially drawn to the artwork of Miroslav Sasek, Catherine Rayner, and Patrick McDonnell. That’s when I realised, “Hey, I can do this!”

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often? Talk us through it.
I need a lot of sunshine and natural light. We recently moved from L.A. to Portland, so finding an apartment with the perfect amount of light was challenging. For now, my little slice of window works. I need a desk big enough for my computer screens, plus drawing and painting. I’m fortunate to have both a monitor and a Cintiq, which is where I do my digital drawing. I keep my creative space pretty simple and try to confine my pencils, paintbrushes, scissors and other tools to my cart. It’s a daily battle, trust me. I like to surround myself with a few visuals, but I don’t go overboard.

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
I love the process of painting my shapes to fit my blocking in Adobe Illustrator. I look at the blocking on screen while I paint, and guess how the paint will fit. I don’t get too precise, and allow for a lot of spontaneity with the watercolour. Having it fit the shapes in ways that I wasn’t expecting, like exposing areas with a lot of texture, is what really excites me.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
Never stop learning and never stop exploring. Obviously talent is important if you want to build a career, but I think it also takes tenacity, endurance, and that old cliché: hard work. I live by my favourite quote: Never wish for it more than you work for it. Also, if you’re looking to go into children’s publishing, I suggest joining the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and attending conferences and meet-ups, if possible. I honestly can’t stress this enough. It’s a great way to meet other people who share your interests and goals. I met all of my fellow artist friends through SCBWI, and they’re my biggest support system. I’ve learned so much about children’s publishing through SCBWI: how picture books are made, how the industry works, and how to promote yourself as an artist. Plus, conferences and events provide many opportunities to rub shoulders with some of the most well-known editors, art directors and agents in the business.

Matthew fell in love with illustration as a kid after finding Ed Emberely’s books in his local
library. He graduated from the University of Arizona with a fine arts degree and
worked as an art director in California. Now, he lives in Portland, OR , and makes art
for kids!

For more information visit Matthew's website or follow him on instagram.