Our Illustrator Interviews give you an inside peek of the industry through shared experiences and wisdom gleaned by our amazing #IllustratorTeam. This week we are excited to visit with Matt Dye, a Detroit artist specializing in traditional and digital illustration. His favorite projects involve his bold, colorful, and animated style which he developed an appreciation for while studying Fine Art at Michigan State University. In the last few years, his illustrations have been used in children’s books and educational software and his art prints and posters have been featured in art galleries, all while he continues pursuing various personal projects and client work.
QK: Matt, thank you for taking the time to share with us today. To begin, can you tell us about your journey into illustrating and what led you to pursue your passion?
MD: I’ve always loved drawing and I can remember spending countless hours practicing and drawing my own cartoons and comics as a kid. I felt inspired by movies and video games like Star Wars and Pokemon. My love for illustration has never faded and I continued to draw through high school and college. Slowly, I began to accumulate work and started to realize that drawing is something I could do for a living. As a professional illustrator, I find joy in all aspects of creating whether I’m sketching on the airplane to pass time or creating storyboards for commercials.
QK: Illustration can be as tough a market to break into as the books we help bring to life. As you developed your career, what helped you most?
MD: The people in my life have helped me the most. I had amazing professors at Michigan State that have continued to encourage me since graduating. My friends, family, and previous clients have all helped push my career forward by spreading the word about my illustration, sending me work, and offering me support and advice. My wife is always a huge source of support for me too. She’s always there for me whenever I have doubts about my work.
QK: We see you favor using both digital and traditional tools in your craft. Can you describe your technique?
MD: Whether I use traditional or digital tools to create an illustration I always start by creating some quick sketches to get a feel for the composition. From there, I’ll slowly add detail and color until the piece is finished! My traditional illustrations are typically done with brush pens (Zebra and Pentel are my favorites) and colored with Prismacolor and/or Copic markers. My digital work is done with Photoshop or Procreate for iPad Pro.
QK: Is there a medium you love but don’t get a chance to use often in your work?
MD: I really love working with ink and markers. It’s more costly and time-consuming than digital work, so I don’t get to do it as often as I’d like for clients. I’d love to do an entire book with traditional illustrations someday. That would be a rewarding challenge.
QK: How long does it take you to complete a project, typically and how do you decide when it is done?
MD: It really depends on the project. Large-scale projects can take several months to complete but single illustrations can range from a few days to a few weeks. It can be hard to determine when an illustration is finished. Sometimes it’s a matter of pushing it too far and reeling it back until I’m happy with it. Other times, everything just falls into place and it’s more clear when a project feels finished.
QK: Any projects from your portfolio you are especially proud of and would like to share?
MD: I had a great time watching the newest season of Stranger Things and it inspired me to illustrate a series of character drawings. Capturing the likeness and spirit of each character was a ton of fun and I’m happy with how it turned out!
QK: While working on so many fantastic projects, have you been inspired to write a picture book of your own?
MD: I have! In the past I’ve self-published a few mini-comics that I really enjoyed creating, I even hand screen printed the covers. I’m currently in the process of writing and illustrating my own graphic novel and I’m excited to make that a reality and share it with the world!
QK: Are there any new projects you’re working on that you’d like to share with us?
MD: I’m working on a handful of different books and projects for clients right now that I’m very excited about but not able to share details on quite yet. Otherwise, my Instagram account (@mattdyedraws) is a great place to check out my most up to date work.
QK: Are there any professional goals that you have not yet reached? What do you see for your future?
MD: As I mentioned previously, I’m currently working on my own graphic novel, which has always been one of my professional goals. I’m eager to complete that and check it off my list. Beyond that, I’d love to do character design work for animation or video games.
QK: Do you have any advice or insight for illustrators who are trying to break in?
MD: I think its super important to have an open mind and a positive attitude. Willingness to draw new subjects and different styles than you’re comfortable with will open doors to more work and it can help you find your own voice as an artist. Keep practicing and learning, remember to have fun with it!
You can discover more of Matt Dye’s work on his portfolio at Qamber Kids and the following links: