Checking in with Matt Thomas


 What are you working on right now?

I’m working on a lot of websites, which seems like a trend for me recently, gearing towards interactive stuff, web-based stuff. One project that has been fun is working with Category 4. I’m doing the design, they’re doing the back end. And I’ve been working on the overhaul of ACAC’s website, so that’s been fun. I’m involved in the Filmmakers’ Republik, which I designed the logo for. That’s something I’m really excited about, looking forward to learning more about that industry and working with guys like Brian Wimer. I do illustration work as well, a little more sparingly than the design stuff. When I can, I really enjoy being able to break up my day and just draw.

Matt Thomas is responsible for work that can be seen in many places around town, from the mural on the front of Para Coffee on Elliewood Avenue to the poster for Our American Ann Sisters, which showed last year at Live Arts.

What were you doing when we called?

I’ve got a talk coming up at James Madison University next week, where I’ll be talking to their design portfolio class. So I’m working on this presentation, which has really been a struggle. I’ve presented before, to clients and so on, but to talk about my work and the industry to younger designers and students is new for me. So I’m trying to craft this presentation that’ll be helpful for them in this market, which is extremely tough, and trying to make it kind of enjoyable too.

Locally, is there anybody you’d like to collaborate with?

Lots of people. I just met a metalworker named Edward Pelton. He’s really skilled, does custom metalwork, artwork, and more functional metal gates and things like that. So I’d love a chance to work with him on developing a brand. Also, filmmakers like Brian Wimer and Johnny St. Ours. Just working with them and getting a chance to see how they think is inspiring.

What kind of music are you listening to lately?

I’m kind of all over the place with music. Like a lot of people, I go through stages. I’m a big fan of the Velvet Underground, Stooges, and New York Dolls. I love that early New York punk scene that happened in the ‘60s and ‘70s. I always go back to that stuff. In the last year or so, I just came across a band from Texas called Centro-Matic. They’re really good, they’ve been around since the ‘90s, and they have this kind of jangly, indie rock with these eerie vocals. Kind of a mix between pop-rock and something with a little more of an edge, a darker tone to it.

What is your first artistic memory from childhood?

I remember drawing in notebooks during class a lot when I was really young, and I was constantly getting in trouble for it. I remember one time when I was actually praised for it, in art class, when the teacher would start us off with just a shape on a piece of paper, and we’d have to work from that shape. I drew some kind of monster, and ended up cropping his head off just because I ran out of paper. But my teacher thought it was the most amazing drawing for a second grader, this enormous monster without a head, and I didn’t understand why. She submitted it to this civil arts show, and I won first prize, but I couldn’t understand what the big deal was.

If you could have dinner with any person, living or dead, who and why?

Probably Jesus Christ. That’d be pretty high on the list for me.

Do you have a favorite building?

I love converted warehouses, converted storefronts. That would be my ideal work space: a storefront studio on the first floor, then living quarters upstairs, with some kind of outdoor green roof on top. There’s something about old buildings that I just love, and that idea of reusing something with so much character.

What would you do if you knew that you couldn’t fail?

Film. Absolutely. That’s like the ultimate for me, being a filmmaker or director. It’s the most intimidating field for me, but also the most captivating.

Outside of your medium, who is your favorite creative artist?

Spike Jonze, the filmmaker. Some of the things he did with music videos changed the way I thought about music. He turned me on to contemporary filmmaking, even just the music industry in general.