Decode the work of Matt Harrison Clough



Hailing from Shrewsbury in the UK, Matt Harrison Clough, is an illustrator whose creative, clever, colourful, images are thoughtful and provocative. When he’s not drawing, he’s building flat pack furniture and rummaging through boxes of Lego. Discover the concept behind our December issue, and find out what drives Matt to create, in our interview below.

Hi Matt. To begin, please tell us about the work we are featuring in Papirmass.

The print was originally created as the cover for the Outsider Issue of Popshot magazine. Jacob, the editor, kindly asked me to create an illustration for the cover that would capture the idea of an outsider or underdog. I’d tried using people in sketches for the cover, but they always looked a little depressing, like the person was being outcast rather than breaking the mould. I eventually landed on the image of a bird flying out of formation, which had a great sense of freedom and not following the crowd.


Briefly describe your creative process. How do you make the leap from idea to finished piece?

My process isn’t particularly unique or ground breaking, I typically just use Photoshop and a Wacom Intuos tablet to create my illustrations. The sketches i send to art directors for feedback tend to be very quick and rough, so after an idea has been approved I draw a more detailed sketch, and then begin to build up the illustration in Photoshop. If I need reference for a particular piece, I use google images or books and magazines, and I often use Illustrator’s 3D Effects feature to create shapes and rotate them if I’m looking for a certain perspective.


What themes or issues do you address in your work?

Working in editorial, the issues addressed in my work vary with each brief. That being said, there is a running theme throughout most of my work: I love illustration that offers the viewer something to discover or decode, even if it’s something simple! I like to create work that allows the people to join the dots and gain a sense of achievement when they make a connection, or find a hidden image.

What is the most important item in your studio/workspace?

All of my work begins with a pencil and a sheet of paper, there’s no faster or better way for me to get my ideas down.


What do you love about your studio/workspace?

I’m lucky that my workspace is nice and quiet and enjoys a lovely amount of natural light. It’s a space I can work in and escape to.

How has your practice changed over time?

When I first started out I was very preoccupied with creating good looking work; I spent a lot a time fussing over the final product, rather than concentrating on the initial ideas. I’ve since learned that an illustration with a good core idea gives me a greater feeling of excitement than one that is just well executed. Recently my work has become much simpler and more graphic and I think this is a result of stripping back overcomplicated visuals and letting the ideas do the talking.


What is your greatest accomplishment?

When I was 10 years old I met Quentin Blake! I’d entered a Blue Peter drawing competition, he was one of the judges and my drawing was hung in the National Portrait Gallery with the other winners. That was a pretty proud moment.

If you could change one aspect of our society through your work, what would it be?

I’d like to make people smile. My work usually has some kind of visual twist, and I’d hope people get some form of enjoyment from looking at my images.


Do you think creativity is innate or learned? Why?

I think it’s a bit of both. Some people are naturally more creative than others, but like anything, creativity can be learned with time and effort. Not everyone is born a naturally gifted cyclist, but we can all learn to ride a bike if we choose to!

What in the world do you find most mysterious?

I find it baffling that people enjoy eating mushrooms!

Matt Harrison Clough is our December 2016 artist.
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