inks & things

inks & things

Major drawing on the book concludes with this Pendleton home. Now it’s on to maps, comics and copy.

Major drawing on the book concludes with this Pendleton home. Now it’s on to maps, comics and copy.

designweekportland:

Design Questions with Matt Sundstrom

Matt Sundstrom works as an art director at Instrument. When not there, he does freelance illustration and design work and creates his own books through Fantom Forest.

We spoke in the backyard studio he built himself, somewhere in Northeast Portland.

Have you always known that you had a creative bent?

Yeah, always. Always interested in drawing, always drew a lot. When I was in junior high school a friend of mine introduced me to comics and I got really excited about that for a long time. I think the stories were fun, but the whole idea of being able to tell a story by reading just the pictures, or just the words together or separately, seemed like a really cool idea. Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics came out right around that same time and really got me thinking about different ways of exploring storytelling other than just passively watching a movie or actively reading a book and having your imagination make up what’s left.

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Tygh Valley Pioneer Cemetary.

I just got back from exploring the Tygh Valley in Central Oregon and it is beautiful country. Named for the Tygh Indians, the valley became a major stopping off point for the Barlow leg of the Oregon Trail. The barn that we stayed in is right on the spot that many of the wagon trails stopped to refill at the Tygh Creek. More images to come here and over at Salt Fire Fall Dust.

A few more from Opal Creek. 

Living close to the water

I had a professor at RISD who asked two questions on the first day of class, the first of which was, “Who here lives by the river?” By that he meant who was going to cry during the work critiques, because boy howdy, the crits were going to be rigorous. Hopefully those of us who survived would be stronger illustrators with (hopefully) thicker skins, and those who dropped out would find a better creative fit somewhere else. 

Foundation level classes are necessary to lay the ground work for a long creative life. Sometimes that means knocking down what was put up before. I didn’t appreciate the reasoning at the time, but I’ve thought about my school experience a lot in the past years, and here is what I learned:

It’s difficult to separate what we do from who we are, maybe it’s impossible, but you will get better at it if you try. In art school an awful drawing is enough to make you feel like you’ll never be a good artist. In your first job, it may be a project that never really takes off, a client that you can’t satisfy, the award that you didn’t win. There will always be a reason to hang it up. Humans don’t usually like running towards pain. 

The Catholics use the word vocation (from the Latin vocātiō meaning, “a call, summons”) to refer to a specific purpose and lifelong calling that a person can be drawn to. The idea resonated with me from the first time that I heard it - coincidentally (or not) the same time that I began to draw seriously. 

It takes time to hone a craft, and paying too much attention to short term gains and losses is exhausting. Taking the long view helps smooth out those early peaks or confidence and valleys of doubt. Think 20, 30, 50 years out…if we’re lucky, even longer than that. What work do you want to define your life? What will be your legacy? It’s going to take time, but you will get there.

I don’t know if thinking this way ultimately guarantees success, but it does provide satisfaction. 

The second question our professor asked was, “Who’s from Brown?” Anyone who admitted to it was shown the door, because there is a difference between someone who choose to go to a school to learn the tools they will need for a life of making and those who are for all intents and purposes are tourists. 

I had a great time exploring the Opal Creek area this Weekend with my team at Instrument. We found this little waterfall up the road from the camp site. It turned out to be a series of waterfalls and deep green pools going up and up into the mountains. I made it at least 5 major falls before having to turn back. More over at Salt Fire Fall Dust this week.

I had a great time exploring the Opal Creek area this Weekend with my team at Instrument. We found this little waterfall up the road from the camp site. It turned out to be a series of waterfalls and deep green pools going up and up into the mountains. I made it at least 5 major falls before having to turn back. More over at Salt Fire Fall Dust this week.

Nice type #vscocam (at San Francisco Ferry Building)

Nice type #vscocam (at San Francisco Ferry Building)

New Rodeo work up on SaltFireFallDust, this month.

New Rodeo work up on SaltFireFallDust, this month.