Interview with pop surreal artist Matt Linares

Hello dear Matt, please, tell us a little about you, how did you find the artist inside you? How long have you been doing art? Is art something that you always wanted to do?
I’m Matt Linares a pop surrealist painter based in Portland, Or. I grew up in Southern California, north of Los Angeles and went to The Academy of Art in San Francisco. I have been making acrylic paintings and showing in galleires for about 10 years now. My paintings are scenes from an imaginary world called Advent Earth.

Creating some type of artwork has always been a part of my life. I’ve been drawing and creating make believe worlds ever since I was a kid. My mom was a graphic designer and exposed me to the art world at a young age. She showed me some really simple drawing techniques that I still use today. I couldn't imagine not  making paintings.

What was / is your major influences? Other artists, books, movies, music or any other media....What inspires you to create your artworks?

I’m a big sci fi fan. Star Wars was a big part of my life and influenced me at a young age. RPG Video games like Final Fantasy also made an impression on me. I have always been into anything that made me believe that I was in a new world, which is what I aim to do with my work. Music is also a big part of my creative process and its hard for me to work without listening to something. I like listening to different types of music to go with whatever type of painting I'm working on. I'll usually be listening to Hip Hop, rock, electronic music or reggae. I'm inspired by so many artists out there today like Mark Ryden, Jeff Soto, Greg Simkins, and James Jean to name a few. Salvador Dali was the artist that really made me want to paint.

How does "a normal day of artist" in your life look like?

Wake up with a cup of coffee or 2 and make a bagel. Kiss my wife and daughter then head to my studio by bike, train or car. Depending on the day, I try to get in at least 6 hours of creative time. Some days I sketch, paint, print, work in digital or work with wood to build frames. I used to be a night owl and my most creative time would be late at night. Now it's the complete opposite. Early mornings fueled with caffeine is now my prime creative time, which frees up my evenings for family time. I also always have a sketchbook near by when I need to sketch something out.

What’s your background? Are you self-taught artist or did you study art? Do you think an art education is important or imperitive for anybody wishing to be an artist? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages that you have encountered throughout your career with/without the formal training of the Art Academy?

I’m self taught in painting but I did go to an art school in San Francisco. I actually went to study 3d animation and did not attend any painting courses at the time.  After a few years I realized that I didn't have the passion for it that I'd expected.  However, not having that passion for 3d animation is what opened me up to painting. Before I moved to San Francisco, I had dabbled in a community college painting course. I started meeting new artists through social media in SF and LA who were into street art and graffiti.  They introduced me to a whole new world. I started experimenting with painting again and was invited to do some group shows. I found that passion I was looking for while painting and doors began to open. I never expected things to work out the way they did, but I’m glad it happened. I think educating yourself in art is important but going to art school didn't teach me what I know today.  The most valuable things I've learned have been from the people I've met and exploring creatively.  I don't believe that you have to attend a formal art school to become a great artist.  I do believe that it does have its benefits, so to those who would like to go should go for it.  As far as the advantages and disadvantages of having formal training goes, the student debt is immense.  I left school before I got my degree because of the expenses.  I did make some lifelong friends while attending the Academy and for that I am grateful.

What fascinates you the most about pop surrealism? How would you describe your pop surreal style? What themes do you pursue, what surrealism mean to you and what do you hope the viewer will take away from your art?

In pop surrealism many artists use references to pop culture.  It gives a lot of insight about the artist and what they were brought up on.  I really enjoy seeing things that give me a hint of nostalgia and familiarity. 

My personal style and themes usually revolve around creating new worlds.  I like to combine the fantasy world with our reality.  Surrealism to me is the closest thing to being in a dream world.  Anything is possible. 

When I started I didn't know about pop surrealism yet.  As I paint I let each piece develop its own story throughout the creative process.  I like to let the viewer determine what the story means to them.  I love hearing what people come up with. A lot of times people come up with amazing theories from what they see in my work. I feel like it can help bring out the viewer's creative side, too.  I hope the viewer can tap into their own special worlds and imagination.

What do you love most about creating and being an artist? What does “being creative” mean to you?

I love having a strong passion for artwork.  I always get really excited to work on new projects and create something new. I am thankful I am able to have that feeling.  I love that being creative can help inspire others.

Can you describe your typical workflow when you’re working on your art? What are your tools of trade? What medium do you most often use and why?

For me it always starts from a sketch.  Drawing as much as possible is always a good thing. I pick out a drawing and scan it into Photoshop where I experiment and make rough color compositions. Doing this has helped save me a lot of time by knowing which colors will go where before I actaully start the painting. I use the digital color composition as a guide, then I use acrylic to paint.  My must-have tools are my sketchbook, Wacom tablet, Samsung Tablet, iMac, Golden & Liquitex acrylic paints and my easel.  I paint on canvas or wood.  I like acrylics best because they dry quickly.

Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?

I‘d love to sculpt. I have lots of ideas and characters that I’d love to be tangible. Even though I dont animate myself, I would love to collaborate with animators.

Tell us more about your workspace. What was the most funny or weird thing that happened to you in your studio? What is / was the most strange thing hidding in your studio?

My studio is in a building called the North Coast Seed Building, which is full of amazing artists. It‘s also right by some busy train tracks, which means that many coins are often squished.  When I had a studiomate we were at a shenanigans level of  8. Since I now have the studio all to myself, I’ve been bumped down to a lowly shenanigan level 3. It's good to mess around.  When I was in a studio in San Francisco I had a local mouse that would visit me while I would paint. One day I set up a very cartoon inspired ACME mouse trap with a chunk of cheese under a shoe box held up with a stick tied to a string I was holding. I waited for him to get the cheese. And waited. And waited...."come on mouse, get that chedda!"  He never went for it. So instead I added him in the painting I was working on and have had in many of my paintings since then.

What toughest challenges have you faced as an artist during your art career? What is the biggest lesson you have learned so far?

Not knowing when you might be paid next. Also make sure you get paid!

What do you dislike about the art world? What is the hardest thing on being an artist? Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

I dont think the artistic life is lonely at all.  It's actually the most social part of my life. Going to art shows and working with a lot of artists keeps me busy.  The hardest thing about being an artist is finding time to work on every project. Sometimes a lot happens at once and you need to prioritize what needs to be done first. I’m trying to clone myself to fix this problem.  Finding balance is tricky.

Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others? Maybe advice for beginning artists out there?

Follow your passion, be kind, work hard and dont give up!

What are you doing when you’re not creating? What (other) hobbies do you have?

Spending time with my family.  I’m really into astronomy and I love to stargaze. Looking up  into the cosmos with my telescope always amazes me. It's also made a huge impact on my artwork . I also love to cook

Do you have an online portfolio or a blog where we can view your work?

My website is I´m also on all the social media sites: Facebook, Instagram and I just started Twitter.


Is there anything else you’d like to say? Is there any project you are working on right now or any ongoing event or exhibition you would like to share with our readers?

I'm currently working on paintings related to the world of Advent Earth. I have upcoming shows in 2015 in Portland, Oregon with Antler Gallery and in Berlin, Germany at Pink Zeppelin. I also have a few secret projects coming up that I’m really excited about. Stay tuned!
Thank you dear Matt, definitely we will and we could not wait to see your new ideas and visions, all the best with your art and projects. It was a honor to have you here, I really enjoyed your words. Cheers :)
Contributor Lin. September 17, 2014. Find Oh, So Surreal on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google + or RSS.