Monday, November 13, 2006

The Tale of One Bad Mongo - Mattias Snygg

After a far-too-long hiatus, the Ninja Mountain interview series resumes with your humble editor taking a poke at Swedish painter and concept artist extraordinaire Mattias Snygg!

Hey Mattias, how are you?

I am fine, thank you!

Where do you live these days?

I live in Uppsala, about 70km north of Stockholm, Sweden.

So how come you are an artist/illustrator? (circle as applicable)

Hard to tell, it’s probably because of my parents. They encouraged me a lot - especially my father – and since he had been painting in his youth he introduced me to a lot of this stuff. Also I had a kindergarten teacher who could draw, and that had a profound impact on me.

So what's on your monitor/drawing board RIGHT NOW? (Editors note - this interview was conducted in August 2006, so its painfully out of date on this point!!!!)

I’m doing promo material for The Darkness video game, finishing up some loose ends here and there. I just completed a cover for an upcoming Vampire book by White Wolf, and now I’m starting a limited edition The Darkness comic book. It’s my first stab at doing one and it’s taking a lot of my energy, but hopefully it will be worth it!

How do you first start a piece? What's stage zero?

There are many different ways, and all of them are equally valid but amount to very different results. My favorite is just to sit down, select a funky Painter brush variant and start whacking at the canvas. I make a horrible mess of everything and then stop to see if there’s anything going on in there. Usually there isn’t, but once in a while you see a face or something vague and interesting. Then it’s quite enjoyable to try and bring that stuff out and refine it.

Expanding on that, what's your general working process?

There’s a lot of shuffling back and forth between Painter and Photoshop. I have a hard time really defining my process because it’s a very organic thing, and you never know what kind of tricks you have to pull out to get the image done. Mostly it’s a very straight-forward, classical process with underpainting, shadow, mid-tone and highlight, placing the highest white, bla bla bla. Recently I’ve been experimenting with incorporating various effects to speed up the process for the commercial work, and also using 3D renders and photographs as a base for the images.

So you work mostly digitally right? What impact do you feel that has? Any at all? Pros and cons? Spill the beans on the whole 'art in a computer' thing!

Switching to digital was the greatest thing I could have done. It was very easy for me for some reason, using Painter came very naturally. My work improved by a factor of ten almost instantly. I miss having a physical painting around, there’s that collector part in me that feels empty with the fleeting nature of digital art. I usually try to shrug that feeling off and just don’t think about it. I paint for a living, I like most of what I’m doing and that’s more than enough.

What's your favourite piece of your own work, and why?

I always find the process to be far more interesting than the actual end result. For commercial work there’s almost never an artistic process, you rely on old skills and methods to get the job done. A lot of artists get stuck in their old ways for this very reason, they chase their deadlines using the same, trusty routines and it’s a comfy trip from point A to point B. The really cool stuff happens when you take off from the old path and throw yourself at something new. My Corben work is one of those things, where I tried to emulate someone else to get a feel for what goes into that. I really like how that turned out.

What would be your ideal gig?

Anything that generates truckloads of cash and throngs of screaming fans. No seriously, I don’t know what that would be, I can’t say that I have something in mind specifically. I’m getting lots of good gigs by working in the video game industry, and that’s cool. I would love to try out movies, but mostly for the money. I’m more of a printed media guy I think.

Who's your favourite artist? You can say why as well if you like!

Favorite right now is probably Banksy, he kicks so much ass it’s not even funny. As for painting I like a lot of what all the young, beautiful people on the American west coast are doing. The Juxtapoz crowd, I think they’re very interesting.

What sort of art education have you had?

Three years in total, one basic art course and two years painting. Standard art school, nothing fancy, but a very good experience nonetheless.

You're full time in house, right? How do you find that as a way to make a living?

It’s awesome, it’s great to feel that your art is part of a larger context and that so many people are dependant on what you produce. Its also kind of scary. I need people around me, constantly, so being in-house is really my kind of thing.

Do you find much time to make work for yourself? If so what sort of things are you producing?

Can’t tell you that unfortunately, it would spoil the fun, but I can tell you that I have many projects in the works and that they’ll all kick ass.

Any influences on you as a young artist you'd care to share?

Richard Corben really fucked me up when I first saw his stuff at the age of 6. The next big thing to hit me was Dave McKean that I can think of, he’s the one guy who has influenced me the most. Nowadays there are so many people I look at so it’s hard to keep track of what goes where, but those two were big very early on.

Got any snappy one liners for up-and-coming artists?

[insert horrible insult]

What's the plan for 2007?

I’ll probably keep doing what I’m doing now, working in some sort of creative environment with people from different disciplines. Don’t know exactly how or where but that will sort itself out!

Thanks to Mattias for taking time out to answer our questions!

Useful links: - paintings and some of the best tutorials on the net - about The Darkness video game - Mattias' blog - Richard Corben's site - Finnish site about Richard Corben - Dave McKean