Matthew Lord is an illustrator from Marysville. He earned a bachelor’s in fine arts from the University of Kansas in 1999 and currently works as a freelance artist and part-time professor in the University’s design department.
I was the youngest in the family, so when my siblings were in school and I was at home by myself, I spent a lot of time at the table just drawing.
I think as I’ve grown as an artist, I’ve been naturally drawn towards nature. I take lots of trips up to the Natural History Museum. Before I really started doing art heavily, in earnest, I was a stay-at-home dad, so we’d take trips with the kids to the museum a lot. And exploring those environments got me interested in all the mystery involved in the natural world. When I sit down to draw there or have students draw there, it’s kind of like a contemplative gift you can give yourself, giving your brain a little space to explore.
With illustration, you’re often trying to take someone else’s idea for an article and make a visual representation of it. I think about that when I’m composing surrealistic things. I’m really trying to tell a story but just the intro to the story. I want people to engage with my art and think beyond the frame of the picture; it’s open to interpretation.
I’ve been awarded the Rebuilding East Ninth Grant; several artists have been picked to do projects around town to connect downtown to the arts corridor in Lawrence. My project is called the East Lawrence Family Tree Project. Four other artists and I are drawing and painting portraits of families that live in East Lawrence, and at the end of it, we’re going to have a celebratory potluck and show the art at Art Emergency in East Lawrence. The idea behind this project is to celebrate the people who live in the neighborhood and get artwork in the hands of people who may not have the means to buy their own artwork.
My advice if you’re pursuing art is to keep a sketchbook with you. A lot of the successes I’ve had have started off as what I call small bets. They start as small ideas and I slowly build on them, and then they start to flourish. It’s a matter of building a strong habit. I have to be consistent about shutting the noise down when I get into my artwork. I make sure that I’m drawing every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s thirty minutes or three hours. I get in a little bit every day so I don’t get rusty. Take everything in and use that stimuli to your advantage.