Written by Nick Kazden
Every time I walked through artist alley my eyes kept wandering to Mike Matola’s booth. The artist creates pieces unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and whenever I passed his booth there were always other people peeking at his work.
Matola recreates iconic images through words. Is that confusing? Well here, take a look at this.
He said he finds an image, “something that will be striking at a distance” so someone could recognize the photo from afar. The text isn’t noticeable from a distance, and that’s all part of Matola’s plan.
“I want the photo to be obvious and the text to be a reveal when they view the art up close.”
The poster style originated as a birthday gift. “I was trying to ome up with a clever gift for a good friend of mine and I ended up hand-writing out all the lyrics to every Radiohead album to make her a portrait of Thom Yorke.” After that, the cat was out of the bag and his friends started asking for portraits of their own. “Everything just snowballed from there.”
To my disbelief, Matola is not trained in calligraphy. He said the style just came about from using what was available to him. When he started all he had was an old art pad from his school days and a pen from his job working dishes. Now he says he has a whole process for creating his portraits. He draws the image and then “puts it underneath a drafting paper overlay,” so he can see all the guidelines he laid out for himself, and then he just writes and writes.
Motala was working on a Tupac commission as we spoke, but he said his Totoro and Ghostbusters pieces are likely his favorite.
“I hand wrote the entire script of My Neighbor Totoro in its original Japanese. It took me six months to finish because I don’t speak Japanese,” he said with a smile. He said he decided to work in another language as a way to challenge himself.