Sketchbook Sneak Peek

Sketchbook Sneak Peek: Matthew William Robinson

by Maxwell Tielman

sketchbook_mwr_1 copy

One of the great, unexpected things about starting this column is the fact that, each week, I am able to see the myriad ways that artists use their sketchbooks. Not much of a sketcher myself, I always assumed that an artist’s sketchbook was filled with practically finished pencil drawings, perfectly rendered designs, and lots of nudes (a la Jack Dawson in Titanic). This, naturally, is not the case. As many of our recent sketchbook-keepers have confessed, a sketchbook is a wonderful place to get messy, experiment, and venture outside one’s comfort zone. This certainly seems the case with today’s artist, the multi-talented Matthew William Robinson.

I first met Matthew as the boyfriend of my friend Romina. When one is informed that a friend’s significant other is an artist, it’s not uncommon to find one’s self bracing for the inevitable moment in which he or she decides to show off their work. Regardless of its quality, you will likely need to provide effusive praise, so as not to spoil any feelings or friendships. Luckily, I didn’t need to feign any excitement with Matt—it was all quite real and totally warranted. His work, largely comprised of visual explorations of structure and material, is stunning. From his painted canvases to collaged substrates, Matthew’s art toys with ideas about architecture, three-dimensional form, and two-dimensional space—concepts that on paper might seem heady, but on Matt’s canvases are absolutely wondrous.

When Matthew isn’t working as a high school art teacher in Manhattan or trolling real estate listings for his dream house, he is collecting inspiration for his artwork. His multi-functional sketchbooks (part planner, scrapbook, and memory-keeper) are filled with notes, architectural drawings, and charming visualizations of ideas that need to be worked out. I recently spoke with Matt about his work and he described his artistic process as something of a ceaseless journey—a quest to understand the physical, oftentimes industrially constructed world around him. In a way, although these sketches don’t end up on the gallery wall, they are also part of this ongoing artistic exploration. Check out more  of Matthew’s work and read some of his own words about sketching after the jump! —Max



Above images: A sampling of Matthew’s work. To see more, check out his online portfolio here!

Why do you use a sketchbook?

Mostly, I use my camera to document structures, places and art works that inspire me and lead into ideas. I revisit the findings and print the ones I like the most for use as collage elements in my paintings. Otherwise, my sketchbook is full of personal writings and bizarre drawings of snack foods.

What are your go-to sketch book supplies?

Are there any brands or media that you’re particularly drawn to?
In list form:
Rhodia Pad No. 11 – Orange – 3″ X 4″ – Graph
Moleskine Classic Pocket Notebook – Ruled 192 Pages – 3.5″ X 5.5″ – Black
Moleskine Reporter Pocket Notebook – Ruled 192 Page – 3.5″ X 5.5″ – Black
I look for smooth paper with a mild tooth, a notepad that is made with care, no matter how impulsive or unfiltered my drawings are. I like the wildness of hand and gesture framed in an orderly fashion.

Aside from preliminary sketches for larger projects, are there any things that you like to sketch just for fun? What are some things that you most frequently fill your sketchbooks with?

I like writing notes to my girlfriend with minimal words. The notes are mostly hearts but also some idiotic pictures that require an interpreter. Also, I draw maps of places I’ve never been to, and highly detailed renderings of raised ranches.












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  • Excellent work, Matthew! And Max, I know that anxiety you described all too well, haha! It’s such a relief when it’s good art…

  • Sketchbooks are so intimate, I am impressed that anyone would be willing to share. These drawings are humorous, insightful, and engaging, even if just quick scribbles, and a great glimpse into the creative process.

  • Sketchbooks are my favorite thing! Matthews is so fun to look over, I love the combination of sketches and text. Whenever I find an artist that really interests me, the next thing I look for is photos from their sketchbook. They always have a different quality to them compared to a finished piece, more intimate and less self conscious.

    I kept a sketchbook while I was in Europe for a couple years, it is still the best souvenir I ever brought home from that adventure. (you can check it out here if you’d like :) http://www.behance.net/ChelseaWard )

  • Love your sketches, particularly the map showing your address (?) in Brooklyn. I used to live at 301 Washington Avenue and I recognized the area immediately.