Sketchbook Sneak Peek

Sketchbook Sneak Peek: Matthew Uebbing

by Maxwell Tielman


I’ve known Brooklyn-based multimedia artist Matthew Uebbing since high school, but it wasn’t until several years later, at his art school thesis show, that I finally saw his work. A reminder of why it’s always a good idea to pay attention to your friends’ artistic pursuits, I was absolutely floored by what I saw. Many of the student art shows I’ve attended across my time in Brooklyn have been, shall we say, less than extraordinary, so it was especially wonderful to come across such talent from a friend and fellow Western New Yorker.

It’s difficult to put Matthew’s work in words, but I think that is a hallmark of some of my favorite works of art. In Art History terms, one might describe his seemingly rudimentary line work as “deskilled,” but that seems an unjust discredit to the depth of his work. Rather than depicting a straightforward surface image, his deceptively simple art works to convey feeling through juxtaposed brushstrokes and compositions that appear almost subconsciously, instinctively placed. Although his works are often (to some extent) figurative, they are affecting in much the same way that Abstract Expressionist art is—their formal and textural qualities communicate and satisfy on a visceral, unconscious level. At times funny, smart, poignant, and beautiful, Matthew’s art is something that never fails to excite. Check out more pages from a his numerous sketchbooks plus Matthew’s own words about his sketching process after the jump! —Max


Why do you use a sketch book?

A sketchbook is like an anti-depressant. Even if I just do one drawing a day, it’s some sort of an accomplishment… a sketchbook is a time-killer, idea developer, notepad, distraction, receptacle… The most basic answer is that I use it because I love to draw.

What are your go-to sketch book supplies? Are there any brands or media that you’re particularly drawn to?

Mmmm, not brands so much. And the media depends on the sketchbook. If it’s just a moleskine or some other kind of thin paper I try to stick to ballpoint or micron pens (oh, I guess that’s a brand) and lead pencil. Sometimes colored pencils, and once in a while I’ll play around with paint pens.

Recently though I’ve been making my own sketchbooks out of this really great heavy-weight watercolor paper I bought in bulk back in college. The sheets are huge (20×30 inches) and I still have like 15 left, so I’ll have home-made sketchbooks for days. I get looser with materials in those ones; I’ve been doing layers of acrylic paint and gloss/matte medium with those, then drawing on top of that with different kind of pens and markers. Tape is also becoming a fairly common compositional shortcut.

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 sketch books with?

Actually, I rarely do preliminary sketches… I approach larger paintings the way I do my sketchbook, by just slapping stuff on the canvas/panel and letting it develop as I work on it. Sometimes I’ll do sketches for a larger work when I’m stuck on a piece and am trying to develop possibilities.

I’ve been doing a lot more observational drawings lately, most of which are blind contours. I’ll sit on the subway and stare at an ad for like 10 minutes without looking down and I’ll just let my hand draw the letters… I love lettering. There’s so much character in typography, and if you let yourself get beyond what the ads are actually saying, they’re a lot of fun to look at.

Aside from that, cartoons and little characters from my head make constant appearances… I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get rid of those guys. I also tend to write a lot of notes and diagrams. My sketchbooks are basically the abbreviated transcript of whatever is floating around in my brain at the time.

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