This month’s cover artist is Matt Davis, a self-described “monkey on a rock floating through space that sometimes dreams of being a writer and artist.” When not writing about weird occult adventures in the quiet valley he calls home, along with his family and their small menagerie of pets, he moonlights as a freelance artist and cover designer.
APEX MAGAZINE: Your surreal art for this month’s Apex Magazine cover, “It Gazes Back,” gives an interesting twist on reality. As the creator, what ideas or emotions are you looking to create, to get out of your head and into the art? Do you think the possible perceptions that the viewers might have are similar?
Matt Davis: This is what I get for trying to be clever, right? The title came after the image; it’s a play on Nietzsche’s warning about gazing too long into the abyss. After a while it starts gazing back. It felt fitting and better than admitting to my occasional predilection for giving people televisions for heads. But really, I suppose, it holds close to that warning and our fascination as a people, as a culture, to gaze too long into abysses.
AM: Your pieces vary from intricately detailed works to softer, more open pieces. How does that difference evolve as you are working? Does adding textures or individual pieces ever change the original idea?
MD: There’s an obsession with abstract minimalism that I’ve always harbored, that I wish I were better at expressing. One can go and work layers of detail and symbolism into a piece, and it can be beautiful, but there’s a deeper, more satisfying trick to conveying depths and layers of symbolism simply, succinctly, by digging for the subconscious of the viewer and evoking perceptions that way. A lot of my work begins with an idea or, more accurately, a feeling I wish to evoke, some kind of concept. There are many roads to get there.
AM: Your DeviantArt site has a number of digital coloring pieces based on comic art. Does working within the confines of previously created art limit your ideas? Do you approach comic coloring differently than your other works?
MD: I’ve loved comics since I was a little kid, they’re a pretty intrinsic piece of my personality, and coloring comic art is such a hugely different beast than graphic design, cover art, or anything else I do. I think that’s why I enjoy it so much. Working within a given confine, a certain constraint, but working with pure color and expression to bring another artist’s work to life, to the next level and create a more compelling visual experience. There’s also a feeling of collaboration that appeals to me, talents and art coming together to be greater.
AM: On your Twitter and DeviantArt accounts, you’ve been asked or have covered those wanting you to work either for free or exposure. With so much attention on the topic right now, how do you approach customers who, to put it nicely, are hesitant to pay for your work? Some have said that creators overall should discuss their rates openly online, what is your opinion on that?
MD: There was an article lately penned by a pretty popular and successful concept and graphic artist that struck a chord with me (https://medium.com/@noahbradley) that, summed up, basically stated that a client’s willingness to pay is in direct correlation with their respect for the artist whose services they wish to procure. That made a lot of sense to me. At the same time, I think rates should be a mostly open subject, but they should also be realistic. A lot of would-be clients are hesitant to approach an artist because truth be told many artists have unbelievably high prices based off unrealistic standards.
AM: With a project like your Tarot set, how do you approach the differences and similarities between the cards, in viewing them as an overall set? As you were working on the project, did you feel a need to either match or even purposely avoid similarities to other tarot decks?
MD: I really didn’t know what I was tackling when I decided to start that Tarot deck. I’ve always loved the Tarot, its imagery and the way it can shape belief, all the varied interpretations and perceptions people around the world have of it. It’s a massive undertaking to design a deck, all the symbolism and metaphor that has to be folded into every image, all the history. A very big part of it most definitely was to make it original, an extension of my personal view of the world and interpretation and symbolism. Someday, maybe, I’ll dive back into it and finish off the Minor Arcana. Maybe.
You can see more of Davis’ work at rockandhillstudio.daportfolio.com, including information to contact him about commissions. His new book RED SKY BLUES, featuring interior art by Will Kirkby, can now be found on Amazon. Along with his other gallery at greydevil13.deviantart.com, you can follow him on Twitter at @greydevil13.