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My name is Matt Haley, I'm a creative consultant and commercial illustrator, currently providing on-screen artwork for season 2 of Stan Lee's "Who Wants To Be A Superhero" tv series for the SciFi Channel. My most recent comic illustration gig was the "Superman Returns" movie adaptation for DC Comics/Warner Bros.

When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?

Not really, like a lot of my peers, I just drew and drew as a kid, to the exclusion of all else. I think I made the conscious decision to pursue comics as a vocation when I was in junior high, I just felt like if I had to have a job for the rest of my life, I'd much rather draw every day than anything else!

Who or what inspires you?

Man, how long have we got? I don't even know where to begin... I mean, the first time I went to the Tate Gallery in London, THAT inspired me. Seeing an original Waterhouse, or Sargent, up close, realizing how far I still have to go as an artist, that's humbling and inspiring at the same time. Right now, when I gripe about the long hours and short deadlines I try to remind myself how lucky I am to get paid to draw every day. Good movies inspire me, having a really weird dream inspires me, my artist friends, most of whom are light years beyond me, they inspire me. Sometimes to jumpstart the creative process if I'm not feeling it, I'll stay up really late, turn off all the lights except for my studio lights, and put on some weird ambient music or bizarre stuff like Maryanne Amacher's "Sound Characters" or the "Conet Project", and really let myself get weirded out and uncomfortable, and then I can draw like mad.

Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?

I don't have any formal training, really, I went to Eastern New Mexico University, but I had such a bad attitude in college I regularly got kicked out of my various art classes. I just kept drawing and drawing and sending my art around until somebody hired me. I started really young, I got my first gig drawing "Star Trek" for DC Comics, when I was 20, so I learned a lot on the job, blew some deadlines, and realized I had to take this stuff seriously if I wanted to keep my career going.

How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?

It's tough, one of the ways I stay inspired is to do convention appearances, because I usually end up staying up late with a bunch of my art friends and we sketch all night. Lately I've been trying to experiment with new styles, I think my standard 'naturalistic' art style was getting stale, so like for the scifi manga I'm doing next year, it's a totally different style of art than I'm used to doing, so there are no rules, I love it.

What are some of your current projects?

Right now I'm in the middle of creating art for "Superhero 2", which airs July 26th at 9pm on SciFi Channel. Right after that I'm designing a rather large cast of characters for a UK food company, starting work on the sci-fi manga which will be out next fall, and getting back to new issues of " G.I. SPY" for BOOM! Studios. I also have a couple of fun projects coming up with DC Direct, I'm really enjoying designing stuff for them.

Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?

In comics, I'd have to say the "Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl and Batgirl" GN I did with my old college roomie, Tom Simmons, it was kind of our vanity project, we came up with the idea and plotted it and convinced DC to publish it, and of course now they're making toys based on those characters, so that's one I'm proud of. I'm fairly proud of the "Superhero" art so far, the fans have been really nice in telling me they think it really adds to the show and makes it more than just a reality show with people in weird outfits. I'm also proud of the "Superman Returns" poster I did for USA Weekend last year, I didn't expect to be asked to do that, and I worked on it for almost a week, Parker Posey asked for a hi-res print of it, so I guess I finally nailed her likeness!

Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?

Painting. I mean, I drift in and out of sculpting, I love it but it's like a drug, and takes so much time away from paying illustration work. I keep meaning to finally sit down and just paint, but there's just no time these days. I love being busy, I'm very thankful that my career is going well, but it does tend to lead to 7-day weeks and 14+ hour days to keep up with it all. I'm also a little intimidated by the crushing weight of all the talented painters out there right now, painting (especially digital painting) is really exploding these days, and I can only hope to learn from them. There are a couple of workshops being hosted by artists I admire I'm hoping to take one soon and get to painting.

Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?

Quit college. OK, well, that's what I did, mainly because I didn't have the patience to stick it out in college. I think the best thing to do is work hard to develop your own style, and realize you'll never be an overnight success, there's no such thing, doing this for a living is a long, hard road, but it can be very rewarding, there's no job like it. Additionally, don't let anybody tell you you can't do it, that you'll never make a living, that you're crazy for pursuing it, the more I heard that when I was younger, the more determined I got to succeed.

What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?

If I can't immediately tell how it was created, in what software package or with what shortcut or technique, from what swimsuit magazine the figure or face was swiped, that's a successful piece to me. I'm a big fan of human figure drawing, so I tend to focus on those when I look for inspiration, and if an artist like Iain McCaig or Chris Wahl or John Lucas does a piece where the eyes of the character really seem to be looking at me as opposed to looking like dead, limpid pools, that's a successful piece.

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?

That's the single-toughest thing to manage, burn-out. It's happened to me a couple of times, I burned out completely a number of years ago when i was doing a "Vampirella' project for Harris Comics, very detailed pencil-shaded art, but it was taking me over a week to do a page, and I just had to take a break. These days, the projects are usually short and varied, so it's easier to avoid getting bored. I surf a lot of art sites and forums and stay in touch with some of my peers, but really what keeps me motivated is going to conventions and hanging out with my artist pals, we sit and do jam sketch pieces together, I go through their art books and it's all tremendously inspiring. Of course, some of them are so damn good they make me wan tto hang up my pencil and go back into radsio, but I resist the urge.

Finish this sentence. "If I weren't a designer/illustrator I would have been a..."

Talk radio host, like my father, probably late nights talking about UFOs and other esoterica.

And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?

Well, of course I'm obligated to say "Who Wants To Be A Superhero", but there's precious little on the air I like right now, a lot of the shows I love get canned, like "Carnavale", which was exceedingly brilliant. I love "Battlestar Galactica" like everybody else, and I'm going to keep bugging poor David Eick until he lets me design for it. What? This is the last season? Crap.

"Who Wants To Be A Superhero" is ™2007 NBC/Universal. "Fem-I-Nine" is ™ and © 2006-2007 Matt Haley. "Sons Of Asgard" is ™ and © 2007 Andy Cosby and Matt Haley. " G.I. SPY" is ™ and © 2000-2007 Andy Cosby and Matt Haley. The green robot head is from the XBOX game I designed, "Codename: Liberty Rocket", which is ™ and © 2007 Rift Software. And, of course, "Superman Returns" is ™ and © 2006 Warner Bros.The "Washington" image is from a series of dentist service TV commercials I did last year, they are © 2006 Dentists On The "Twin Peaks" image is from my abortive attempt to convince Lynch to let me do a "3rd season" to be bundled with the forthcoming boxed set. Sad story, I had Mark Frost on board, I had Bob Engels (their co-producer) to write it, I had a publisher, I had the DVD folks agreeing to package it with the set, I had CBS/Paramount... ugh. TWIN PEAKS is obviously ™ and © 2007 CBS/Paramount. Lastly my favorite Firestorm cover from last year for DC comics. Firestorm is ™ and © 2007 DC Comics, Inc


Anonymous said...

Love your stuff - esp. the dark light balance - great :)

Choper Nawers! said...

wow this is great stuuf the kind of spartan have so pretty cool things going on....i just love it....Best, Choper!

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