“I am more interested in conveying an emotional state rather than illustrating an outward appearance. Trusting my intuition, embracing spontaneity and doing so with confidence are the keys to this new body of work.”
— MATT TALBERT
Inspired by the likes of J.C. Leyendecker, contemporary figurative artist Matt Talbert gives us a little insight into his background and what inspires him as an artist. Emotion is the motive behind his work and once you take a moment to appreciate his paintings, you’ll find it in overwhelming abundance. Join us in picking the brain of the California native.
What’s your passion as an artist?
Oil painting has been my passion ever since I was introduced to it in High School. Specifically painting the human figure is what I’m drawn to.
Where does the inspiration for your work usually come from?
The initial inspiration is from the beauty of the human form and my desire to express emotions through my paintings. On a daily basis I’m also inspired by music and movies.
When and how did you first learn to paint?
I have been drawing my whole life, but my very first painting was at the age of 13 and I discovered my love of figure painting in college. I was fortunate to be able to attend the Orange County School of the Arts and then the Laguna College of Art and Design. Both provided me an amazing foundation for drawing and painting.
What’s your favorite medium to work on?
Oil painting primarily, but I also enjoy pencil and charcoal sketches.
You’re given an opportunity to sit down with any artist, from any discipline, from any generation, alive or dead and have a conversation. Who would you sit down with and what are some of the questions you would ask?
While there are many musicians I would love to talk to, it would have to be a fellow painter so I can pick their brain. I love the golden age of illustration in the early 1900’s and would love to sit down with someone like J.C. Leyendecker. I would love to just watch him work rather than ask him questions.
What are some of the principles that keep you true to yourself as an artist?
Be confident, trust your intuition and embrace spontaneity.
How has your career as an artist grown and evolved. What have been some of the catalysts to that?
It has evolved quite a bit. Going to the Laguna College of Art and Design was fundamental in teaching me all the foundation skills I needed. Living in NYC for a couple of years I was inspiriting on all levels and I grew to love painting cityscapes there and just observing daily life. A few years ago I was deep into classic cocktails and the whole craft bar world around that. I did a successful series of cocktail paintings that were an important turning point in the sense of pushing myself to be more professional.
My biggest evolution came when I decied to do a series of paintings that inspired me without concerning myself with the result. Which goes back to my principles of confidence, intuition and spontenaity. A new style was born out of that, not so much because I was trying to find a new style, it just happened by letting go. It remains a challenge to find that place of freedom.
Do you have a favorite size canvas to paint on?
Lately I’ve been enjoying larger paintings like 30×40 inches or larger, but my average piece is around 18×24 inches.
What are you afraid of as an artist?
There is always a fear that people will not like what you’re doing, that is a hard one to escape. Selling work and making a living as an artist is challenging, but it’s worth it.
Would you say that there is any aspect of your approach to art that is non-conventional or counterintuitive yet seems to work well for you?
Yes absolutely. Destruction is an important part of the process. Scraping things out and letting things get a bit messy. It sounds strange but if you can destroy certain areas of the painting with purpose it can create something quite special.
When your creative juices are stagnant and a project isn’t moving along… what do you turn to that helps get you back in a creative state of mind?
Most of the time music can jump start me into a creative state of mind. Lots of coffee and the occasional pipe or cigar helps too.
Your artwork presently revolves around delivering human emotion… Does this mean that conveying that emotion requires a like state of mind from yourself as you work on the painting?
Actually yes, a lot of the time I can get pretty into that state of mind that I’m trying to convey. That is where the music comes into help pull out some of those emotions. Especially when I’m painting eyes, I’m really trying to feel what’s going on there.
Having worked in the Pearl Paint Art Shop in Canal Street earlier in life introduced you to a number of artists and this was obviously indispensable to your own journey as an artist. What was one of the most memorable experiences from working in the store?
My coworkers were the most memorable part. There were about five of us in this one canvas department and we were a really tight group. All of us were artists from different parts of the US that landed in this one spot trying to make it in the big city. It was a meaningful part of my young artistic journey.
What’s one thing apart from your art supplies that you can’t live without in the studio?
Coffee and music.
When you’re not painting what would we find you doing to have a good time?
Playing with my 4 year old son, gardening, watching movies and having good meals.
What are some of the current breakthroughs that the artistic community has had as of late? What are some of the roadblocks or things you’d like to see changed?
It feels like there is a growing acceptance to figurative work, but that is also the roadblock. Galleries seem to still overwhelmingly prefer abstract art to realist art and painting of the human figure. Hopefully that will continue to move toward more and more acceptance in the mainstream art world.
As we look towards the future what type of work can we expect from you?
Large paintings that continue to push the boundaries of my work.