You can stare at Matt Knoeck’s art for minutes or days and keep finding new creatures, beasts hidden within beasts, drawn with elaborate precision, each with a different expression and stance. His ink drawings exist as a comprehensive whole, but when you look closer you realize even more is going on there: monsters pile into bigger monsters, and under the surface of the whole, hundreds of creatures make war and love and fun.
Matt lives in Fort Collins; I met him through my best friend Jilli, whose roommate he’s been since the late summer. Together with one other roommate, they live in a fairytale harmony, three humans and three cats, at Mulberry Community Gardens, one of the coolest, freest places on the Front Range.
When Matt first became interested in creating art, he started with painting, but by an auspicious accident, a friend left some fine pens at his house. Matt picked them up, and realized that was where his talent lay. He has more control with pen than brush, so he quit painting. Though he mostly draws on paper, he’s recently experimented with other media, such as wood and bone, and adds some color to his pieces with marker.
Madison and I were immediately arrested by Matt’s art. Would he like to design the logo for MadRim Productions? I had a vision of a llama in silhouette, poised on the edge of a cliff–the rim of madness. Matt penned the fiercest, most bad-ass llama to ever graze the surface of the internet, and it exemplifies his style–our llama has undeniable personality and its coat is so rich and textured, you’d think you could stroke it through the screen.
Monster Matt loves animals. Originally from Wisconsin, he studied fisheries and wildlife at the University of Minnesota and currently works in the CSU veterinary training hospital, filing and assembling records. Paperwork isn’t his passion (is it anyone’s?), but it enables him to interact daily with animals and grants him the means to exist and practice his art. Like most of us artists, he can’t support himself on his craft alone. We have our jobs and we have our passions, and we do our best to ensure they intersect often.
Matt claims he doesn’t have an artistic process, which is difficult to believe when you encounter his incredibly detailed pictures. He’s drawn to (har har) creatures with patterns, such as scales or feathers, and he invents the rest as he goes along. To fill white space, Matt will add horns, tails, and limbs, thus ensuring that most of his monsters are novelty creatures, repeated nowhere else.
Though he’s an individual artist, operating on his own means and skills, Matt wants to connect with other artists and makers. I asked him a bunch of questions regarding collaboration and open-source, and his answers were both detailed and succinct–just like his art. He visited the Artery once in Fort Collins, an artists’ haven with an emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration. Matt would like to team up with a woodworker, to both learn how to design and build a piece, and also to decorate the final product with monsters. Additionally, he’d like to see what someone with a talent for water colors could do with one of his drawings.
Matt adorns t-shirts with monsters using bleach, water, and fabric markers. These shirts are especially cool because each design is unique; there’s only one of each in the world. Additionally, he recently started selling prints of his favorite pieces, available on his website for $15. Check out Mammothoth for more pictures and information.
Matt’s role in the maker movement isn’t immediately obvious, but it’s the collaborative element of his art that includes him. He has the potential to “art up” a lot of everyday objects: clothes, furniture, skate decks. I asked him to describe how he would decorate a rocket getting sent into deep space, and I loved his answer: “I would for sure cover it in animals and label them with their Latin names. Maybe split them down the middle of half regular, half organs and skeletons. I went to school for Fisheries and Wildlife, I like my anatomy and Latin.” If I was an alien and I encountered that rocket, I would feel only positive things for the human species.
All photos courtesy of Matt Knoeck.