Matt Bailey is a Cheltenham-based illustrator, known for his stark black and white images involving dark, occult themes. Having stumbled across his work on social media, we approached Matt to do the cover for our latest anthology, Dirty Rotten Comics #7. This week, Gary sat down with Matt to chat about the allure of the occult, his influences in popular culture, and his forays into the comics medium.
Firstly, can you give us a bit of background on what you do and how you came to get here? Is illustration something you do as a full time gig?
Oh man! I’d like it to be. At the moment, I’m working a full time day job, and doing all of my illustration in the evenings and weekends. It’s getting a bit cramped for time at the moment, so I’ll be cutting down my hours at the day job shortly, which I’m looking forward to.
As far as how I came to get here, I feel as though it’s equal parts tenacity and luck. One probably feeds into the other, and I’m definitely making it all up as I go along.
There is something about the weird and the occult that is very appealing to us as humans. Perhaps it’s a morbid fascination with mortality, or the allure of the unknown. It’s a theme that occurs frequently in your illustration; what draws you to this as a subject matter?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a bit of a voracious reader. When I was younger, I would read any folk story, or myth that I could get my hands on. They were always dark, a bit sinister, and so inteesting. I do believe that the weird and occult stories speak more honestly about the human condition than others. We’re all a bit fucked up. Can I swear in this? If not, take that out, haha!
In terms of popular culture, we have a great British tradition of eerie horror that I feel your work taps into. Are there any particular pieces of media that stand out as being inspirational in what you do?
Definitely. I think that anyone looking at my work can tell that I love Mike Mignola’s Hellboy. More recently, Becky Cloonan’s short comics and Robert Ball’s Winter Knight have been the things I have found to be really inspiring.
Have you ever dabbled with comics or more structured, narrative pieces? Do you have any plans to expand your work in this direction in the future?
I do have a comic that I’m working on at the moment, actually. It has given me such a new-found respect for narrative artists. Shockingly, it turns out that writing and drawing sequentially is super hard! As a result, it’s going slowly. Very slowly. Unfortunately, it’s usually the first thing to take a back seat when I need to focus on other work. I hope to get it finished before the year ends.
Anyone that follows you on social media will know that you’re an incredibly prolific creator. Does this productivity come from consciously sitting down at the drawing board for several hours at a time, or do you tend to work more casually? What is your typical creative process?
I’m definitely a workaholic. I get really fidgety if I haven’t drawn anything in a day or so. Every day after work, I get in, eat, and spend the next 3-4 hours drawing or researching. I try and make something that I can show every night. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out, but for the most part, I can look back in the morning and be happy that I made something. What else would I be doing?
With regards to my creative process, it almost always starts in my sketchbook. The pages are all covered in 5×5 square grids, which I use for thumbnailing. I used to have a bad habit of finishing drawings inside my sketchbook, and this keeps me from doing that. Once I have an idea, it usually takes a few squares to figure out, and then I jump straight into the larger finished piece.
Lastly, what are you working on at the minute, and what kind of things can we expect to see from you over the coming year?
As I mentioned before, I’m hoping that you’ll see a comic from me before the year’s end. Without giving too much away, it will be in a fantasy setting, and is a story about revenge. Expect it to be dark, short, and violent.
Thanks to Matt for this week’s interview. You can keep up to date with Matt’s work at his website, baileyillustration.com. he is also active on Twitter @baileydraws. Make sure to pick up a copy of Dirty Rotten Comics #7, out tomorrow.