I first came across Philippines-based illustrator and designer Dan Matutina’s distinct work many years ago. His hard-edged, original and absorbing creations drew me in, and I featured his earlier stuff on my other site Ape on the Moon.
Since then, I’ve worked with Dan on several of my own projects, made good friends, and even chatted over coffee and Char Siu pork with him in Hong Kong.
I’m always surprised at how Dan continually strives at pushing the boundaries of his own creativity, whilst maintaining an infectiously positive attitude and a feel in his work that is distinctly his. In the first of this Red Lemon Club Premium Interviews series, which looks closely at craft, creativity and execution, we asked Dan some questions…
What was your training?
“I went to a Fine Arts university with a major in Visual Communication. We had a variety of training with materials, illustration, painting, graphic design photography and film. Most of us were jacks-of-all trades and we sort of specialized when we were in our senior year.
Apart from illustration, I was pretty much into film back then. I had my internship at a film institute where most of the Philippines’ independent film makers came from. At that time, film (even shorts) were expensive to produce so I dabbled in graphic design and illustration.
After college, I worked as an art director for an advertising agency for 3 years. I still involve myself in film projects when I can.”
Your illustration style is very unique. What is the most important thing to keep in mind when developing your personal style?
“I think it’s important to know what you like. From the time I was in school until today, I see a lot of work from Filipino artists; graphic designers from the 40s and 50s; artists in the 80s and 90s; up to my contemporaries, that I really like.
These are the things that can help you develop your personal style. Discipline is part of it too. If you develop a style, it can constrain you a bit, because you have to work with that style for every new project that you get. This is where the desire to push and evolve comes in.”
If you were on a ship that sank, and you landed on a desert island, what one thing could you not be without?
“Pencil and paper. I think I’d die if I couldn’t write things down or draw things I see. haha.”
You recently featured some of your work in an exhibition: ‘Into Space’. How did you get hooked up for this?
“Pablo Gallery asked me to exhibit some of my works in their gallery a year ago. At first I was a bit nervous
because I’ve never done a solo show.
This was a first for me. I thought I’d try something new; things that I haven’t done yet. The works I made share some similarities with my current work but were executed in a different way. I made lamps, installations and prints. It was quite liberating to be honest.”
What do you think is the main thing stopping other people becoming more successful in their creative field?
From other interviews, it is clear that you like to start the day early. How do you discipline yourself to enable you to do this?
“Yes, I’m a morning person. I find it a joy to work quietly in the morning with freshly brewed coffee at my side. I think my body-clock has been programmed this way already. Even if I sleep late at night I still wake up at around 6 to 7 in the morning.”
“I’m a morning person”
“It’s especially rare here in the Philippines to make good work for the government. It’s the reason why a lot of studios are doing their own projects to help them.”