Spotlight - Matt Johnstone - Illustrator


- View Matt's Creativepool profile.

*‘Matt Johnstone is an illustrator based in London. He grew up in the Sussex countryside in a village called Steyning and since graduating from Central St. Martin's College of Art & Design has illustrated for a wide range of clients both in the UK and internationally, including Drink in Brighton, Nokia, Penguin Books and Greenpeace. Matt has been illustrating for The Guardian newspaper since May 2007, producing monthly drawings for the back page of the sport section. He uses pencil, pen and ink to create his drawings that have a humorous, surreal and comic feel. His work has been described as ‘technically charming'

How long have you been a Freelancer for?
Since I graduated from college, about 6 years in total.

Describe your work in one sentence.
Line drawings that are usually detailed, slightly surreal or humorous and aim to tell a story.

What's the most important thing you've learnt in your line of work?
Be positive, believe in your ability, work hard and be true to yourself.

What attracted you to your chosen field?
I think I just followed the path that I enjoyed the most and the one that I was best at. I used to draw cartoons when I was young and try and replicate characters from comics, I enjoyed Art and Design at school and it just kind of continued from there and this is where it led me! I was always sure I wanted to do something creative but didn't imagine I could be an illustrator as a job. I did Graphic Design at college because I thought I would be able to get a job at the end of it but my work seemed to naturally head in a more illustrative way. I also realised that I didn't have the talent or time on my side to fulfil my other dream of becoming a professional footballer!

Tell us about your best project to date.
I worked on a campaign promoting Greenpeace China's annual car-free day, which encourages people to walk, cycle or use public transport instead of their cars. I illustrated 3 sets of tyre marks that appeared as posters, press adverts and advertising around the Hong Kong underground. In the detail within each drawing the tyre tracks tell a story and show a cause and effect. The top tire mark shows the myriad car trips that people take in a day, such as driving to the supermarket or to school. The bottom tire track shows the environmental impact of these journeys, such as a polar bear's sad demise due to melting ice.

What sets you apart from your competitors?
Hopefully it my ideas and the small details and intricacies I use in my drawings, lots of my drawings have elements that you might not see at first but have to search around and discover.

If you could work on any project for any company/organisation, what would it be and who would it be for?
I would love to work on more animated projects, I did some animation projects at college and it is definitely an area that I want to revisit in the future. A few years ago I had the chance to work on an animated film for Nokia and my drawings were brought to life by a team of animators that mostly used traditional hand-drawn animation, which was such a great experience to be involved with. My dream job would probably be working on animations for comedy scripts.

What frustrates you the most about your job?
Probably the uncertainty of not knowing when the next commission is coming, but maybe this is what drives me to keep working hard?

What pearl of wisdom can you offer to someone thinking about starting out as a freelancer?
For an illustration freelancer I'd advise thinking about how to price jobs, usage licenses, copyright and rights by checking out the Association of Illustrators.

If you could have ONE super power, what would it be?
To breathe under water, so I could swim with the fishes.

What's your favourite bit of kit?
I wouldn't be able to do much of my work without my set of Rotring Isograph pens.

Tell us a random fact about yourself.
I once tried to do an overhead kick during a football match and concussed myself; I temporarily lost my memory and didn't know what was going on.

What's your favourite song of all time?
I don't know about my all time favourite but 'Common people' by Pulp and 'If you see her say hello' by Bob Dylan are my favourites today.

iPhone or Blackberry?
Don't know? My phone is a bit of a basic phone it does incoming and outgoing telephone calls, text messaging communication and also has the hit game 'snake' on it.

Too Cool for School or too School for Cool?
Too School for Cool

Facebook or Twitter?
I am pretty new to Twitter, but it seems a great way to quickly promote your work and stay connected with other creatives. It's also a great way to get an insight into Jack Wilshere's life, so I'd have to opt for that.

Eat In or eat out?
Eat in

Follow Matt:
Twitter: @Mr_Johnstone
Facebook: /mattjohnstoneillustrator
Vimeo: @mattjohnstone
Visit my Website 

If you want to be in the spotlight, email us with examples of your work or a link to your Creativepool profile.


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