Matt Hayton is an illustrator/bookbinder/adventurer from a small town nestled in a valley on the outskirt of the beautiful Lake District in England. Matt considers himself almost entirely a self-taught artist but did study a foundation art and design course at Kendal college.
“Art has always been an integral part of my life, even at the points where I wasn’t directly pursing it. I had a two and a half year stint at attempting to be a plumbers apprentice, which ended when I realized my heart wasn’t in it. I decided instead to take a risk and chase my dream of (hopefully) becoming an illustrator. I enrolled myself on a one year art and design course at the local college and then a two year art and design foundation course.
I draw inspiration stylistically from scientific illustration and golden-age fairytale illustrators such as Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac. I love folklore and the idea of a narrative or tale been retold, altered and treasured over many generations and that is something inherent in my work. I also love Pokemon as much as the next 90’s kid. I kind of think the whole series is built on folklore too, or at least thats how I like to look at it.”
You also state ‘adventurer’ in your bio. Please tell us more!
Living somewhere as untouched and beautiful as The Lakes, definitely has influences on the subjects that I like to look at with some of my illustration, e.g. folklore and local tales I’ve used in the past. The area is also an adventure in itself that I enjoy exploring, some of the remote area are great places to seek out nature and some inspiration when I can. For me, being an adventurer is about seeking out new experiences, and taking the time to notice things that other people might overlook.
Revisiting earlier illustrations seems to really be part of your process. You post a lot of work in progress on Instagram. How important is the feedback you receive there?
Going back and reworking earlier illustrations is always helpful for being able to show progression and to see growth—comparing how I might have previous drawn a character, to now. Recognising growth is really important.
It’s wonderful having an audience of people that enjoy looking at my work, and can help me to gauge how successful an illustration is, and if it’s one that I might want to have printed, or do more variations of.
Fox constellation – original.
Often work that I don’t feel as confident in, can be one of the more popular pieces that people respond well to—it’s a great feeling when I have moments of self-doubt, and struggle to be subjective, that others see something more. The biggest compliment for me, is people that comment and like images I post, buying prints and originals and wanting to own a piece of my work.
Fox constellation – new.
That illusive thing called ‘inspiration’: what do you do when it doesn’t strike? And what’s your process when it does?
I think in the past I’ve not drawn during dormant periods that lack inspiration, recently I’ve tried to make myself draw small things to help work it out. During those times I’ve enjoyed making fan art especially, as that takes away the pressure of thinking up a concept, but gives me some freedom to enjoy drawing a character and putting my own stamp on it.
When that wave of inspiration comes along, you just have to ride it. When I do have an idea and a thing that I want to draw, I always try to sit down and make time to work it out, I always get excited to finish a piece and put it on paper to show people and share it.
Wirt from Over the Garden Wall – fan art.
Will you be making more books, or zines? Is there anything you would love to be working on? Your dream job?
Yes. I would love to do some more books & zines, I often create a lot of my work with a mind that it could be collated into a book, or larger whole project. It doesn’t always work out like that, but it is something I have a mind to do.
I would love to work on a children’s book, some of my favourite illustrators like Emily Hughes, Amélie Fléchais & Oliver Jeffers, make beautiful books for children and I’ve bought many of them as gifts for my nephews (and kind of want to keep some of them for myself aha).
Linking with wanting to work on a children’s book, my dream job would be working as a freelance illustrator, being able to have a selection of different projects to work on and make my living from would be amazing!
Hokioi. From Bird Book, an illustrated and hand-bound book on bird folklore.
The King Wren. From Bird Book, an illustrated and hand-bound book on bird folklore.
You’ve been working on some beautiful portraits recently! Would you like to make more commissioned portraits as well or do you prefer to choose subjects yourself?
Yes, I do prefer to choose my subjects, like with the Penny Dreadful portraits drawing my favourite characters from the show—I was really super excited that the shows twitter account reposted my Lily Frankenstein portrait which was lovely. I still live in hope that Billy Piper might see it, I love strong female characters. I have been trying to draw more female portraits as many of the ones I’ve done before have been males, I also want to draw more varied ethnicities in the future.
Lily from Penny Dreadful.
Victor from Penny Dreadful.
Working on commission portraits is fun to do still, I’ve done a number of them in the past, I’ve done wedding portraits a few times and that’s a special thing to be asked to do. I always enjoy commissions, and like the challenge of capturing a likeness.
Last week we talked to Adam Pritchett and the projects you’ve been working on together. You told me you’re already plotting your next collaboration. Care to share more about that?
We are in the process of working out the details for our next character. I’ve recently done a few early illustrations for her, she’s going to live in the same universe as Broin & Sproutboy, and will be an etherial spirit/spectre inspired by some English folklore. We’re still early days, but she will have a long draped cloak that Adam is planning to heavily embellish sewing with beads, so that could be an influence on the character story and what she does in the universe:
Forest Ghost – early sketch.
Forest Ghost illustration.
Matt explained that the rabbit face is a mask. Maybe the forest ghost has more than one disguise? You’ll just have to follow Matt and Adam to see how this mysterious character evolves…
More from Matt?
Subscribe to our monthly newsletter
Never miss out on inspiring stories again! Sign up and receive the latest visual strands news in your inbox once a month. Exciting!