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Artist Matt Gondek (pictured) has been designing neon googly-eyed monsters for bands, companies and clothing brands for five years now, and at 28, he is already co-owner of a clothing brand (Wonderful Life). Drawing and designing have always been part of Gondek’s life; from the moment he could hold a pencil, he would draw comic book characters and monsters from movies. As he got older, his work progressed with him, and his current career began to germinate as he made the transition from pen and paper into the digital world.
It wasn’t long before the artist’s striking designs caught Fango’s eye, and he was immediately snapped up to design a brand-spanking-new line of T-shirts for us. As such, we thought it high time to catch up with the on-the-rise designer, to chat about the design process…and googly-eyed monsters.
FANGORIA: Many of your designs boast all manner of salivating monsters and dripping beasts. Where do your ideas come from?
MATT GONDEK: My ideas all stem from a mishmash of comic-book art, monster movies and urban art. Those three media have always fascinated me and are definitely portrayed in what I do. I’m not sure where all the gooey slime and saliva came from, through! I guess it’s just because I like drawing drippy stuff.
FANG: Are you a fan of horror movies? Are there any particular ones that have inspired you on a visual level, and what’s the most disturbing image you’ve ever seen in a horror film?
GONDEK: While I’m working, I tend to watch a lot of cheesy horror movies from Netflix. I like spooky films with ghosts and aliens, though my all-time favorites are the TREMORS movies. I’m also fascinated with space travel, and I’ve always been a fan of EVENT HORIZON. The most disturbing image I’ve ever seen in a horror film has got to be in AUGUST UNDERGROUND. A few years ago, a friend and I went to try and help out a small movie company called Toetag Pictures on a film they were working on. When we got to the guy’s house, he showed us AUGUST UNDERGROUND. I think they’re called snuff films? The two parts that I can’t forget—unfortunately—are when they make an old man cut his member off to save his wife’s life, and a part where they cut open some lady and make love to the hole. Pretty graphic.
FANG: Which designers and artists have inspired you in the past?
GONDEK: I’m a big fan of Rob Schrabb’s work. He did a comic book called SCUD THE DISPOSABLE ASSASSIN. I also like the artists Peekaboo, Skinner, Jeremyville, Augor and Buff Monster. As far as digital artists go, I have recently become a big fan of a design studio called I Love Dust.
FANG: When you did you make the conscious decision to go into business as a designer?
GONDEK: I went to a tech school to learn how to create websites, but still drew my weird monsters on the side for fun. After I graduated, I ended up doing a website for this landscaping company, and absolutely hated the experience. I got so bored with it that I completely lost all interest in commercial design. A few years passed, and by chance a band on tour asked if they could stay at our house overnight. While they were there, they happened to see some of my artwork and asked if I could design a shirt for them to sell at shows. They liked it so much, they asked me to create a few more.
At this point, the band had just gotten signed to a record label, and their shirts were being sold at Hot Topic. One of my shirt designs for them got accepted to be sold at those stores, and pretty soon a lot of other bands and companies were contacting me. That was about four or fiver years ago, and the ball has been rolling ever since.
FANG: How tough has it been to get to the position you find yourself in now?
GONDEK: I absolutely love what I do, but it’s been a hard road getting here. When I started getting serious about a career in art and design, I had to work on it at night, since I still had a full-time job. For the first three and a half years, I’d go to work all day till about 6 or 7, then come home and sit at the computer and work on my designs until about 2 or 3 in the morning. At the time it was hard, but I can look back now and appreciate all the experience I got. The nice thing about my regular full-time job was that I sat at a desk all day, which afforded me the time to plan out and rough-draft all my designs before I got home to actually create them. When I wasn’t working, I was e-mailing every company and band I could think of, looking for new opportunities. I also spent a lot of time going to shows and meeting bands. I definitely paid my dues.
FANG: How do you reconcile your monster/horror-based designs with the more accessible, family-friendly work you do for Wonderful Life?
GONDEK: Very seldom do I sit down and have in mind exactly what I’m going to make. I just start doodling and see what comes out. Some days it’s more gruesome and horror-based, and other days it’s happier and friendlier. I really don’t have any control over it, unfortunately. I used to try and force it one way or the other, and the end result was always disappointing to me. What I do now is just sit down a few times a week and draw. When I’m finished, I think about what project would best suit it. I’m very lucky to have a broad range of clientele, which lets me take whatever weird drawing I come up with, horror-based or friendlier, and apply it to one of their projects.
FANG: How long does it take you from having the initial idea to completing one of your designs? They’re very busy images with a lot going on in them—how do you know when each one is finished?
GONDEK: When I first started, it would take me two working days to complete a design. Now, though, as long as I have a clear goal in mind, I can complete a design in about five or six hours. I don’t have a clear answer about when I know they’re finished. At a certain point, it just feels right. Something that comes with practice and experience, I suppose.
FANG: With so many other design brands on the market, what do you feel makes yours stand out from the rest?
GONDEK: I’d be lying if I said we were totally different. The point came in my life when I wanted to try my hand at the other end of what I do and sell the clothing outright, instead of just making the artwork. I contacted a good friend of mine who was also interested in starting a clothing brand, and we began working on it. It took us about six months from start to finish to create, and at this point I am very happy with it. If there’s one thing that sets it apart, it’s that our brand is not all horror, zombies and monsters. Yes, we have those elements, but we wanted to take on a happier approach, because while we may enjoy those kinds of things, we wanted people to have an alternative to the horror and the dark, disturbing elements you see coming out of a lot of brands.
FANG: You’ve also designed for various bands in the past. How is the process of designing for bands different from your other work? Do they collaborate or leave you to it?
GONDEK: My band work and my work for other clientele don’t differ too much. More often than not, the client, whoever they may be, trusts what I do and just lets me go at it. It’s always nice to have a little direction on what they want, but for the most part they let me take the reins and see what I can come up with. Sometimes, though, I do get a client who wants something very specific, and the challenge comes from trying to recreate something they see in their mind. This is a little harder to do, but the end result is usually something I wouldn’t have thought of on my own.
FANG: Do you have any favorites amongst your own designs?
GONDEK: I am proud of the line of snowboards I did this year for Rome. I’ve also just completed the biggest project I have ever taken on: the complete tour package for a band called Blood on the Dance Floor, which was something like 15 shirt designs, three magazine advertisements, the stage setup, bracelets, stickers and an album design. Naturally, the line I just did for FANGORIA has me pretty stoked too. I never thought my googly-eyed monsters would have ever gotten me this far, and I’m excited to see what the future holds.
FANG: Speaking of the future, are there any plans for forthcoming projects that you’re able to share with us?
GONDEK: 2011 is shaping up to be a huge year. We have a lot in store for Wonderful Life, and I’m also working on a really secret new clothing brand with some pretty important people in the music scene. On top of those, I plan to just stay the course and keep drawing monsters. Hopefully, someday they’ll be on a Nike shoe or something.
Check out Gondek’s work at his official website.
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