Colin Matthes

This week on Tuesday Tours I’m featuring international artist, Colin Matthes, who bases out of Milwaukee, WI. One of the first shows I curated was Warning: Contains Graphic Images, and my call for artists brought me into contact with Colin. I remember being blown away by his graphically painted portraits. I was sad to see the exhibit come down because I was no longer greeted by Colin’s paintings each morning when I arrived at the gallery. Luckily he created zines and sold prints through the JustSeeds collective and I was able to purchase some of his work, which continue to adorn the walls of my home today. 


Colin MatthesTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
My name is Colin Matthes. I am an artist from Milwaukee, WI. I work on multiple projects at once. They are usually quite varied and require different attention. The media for my work depends on the idea. I work collaboratively (most often with Justseeds) and also on individual projects.

MatthesC_studioHow long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
My workspace is ever-changing; I travel a lot to do residencies. But my favorite studio space, and the one reason I call Milwaukee home, is the studio I have been in for 8 years. It’s on the top (7th) floor of an old tannery overlooking lake Michigan. I share it with three other folks I work closely with Nicolas Lampert and Pete Yahnke (both in Justseeds) and Paul Kjelland.

I have to make a chaotic space in order to think and to get work done, but besides that I can work just about anywhere. Also, I need plenty of time alone, especially when I am starting to get my rhythm. Residencies provide unbroken work time that can span for months. This is where I produce some of my best drawing and painting work, and where many new ideas and projects begin. There are less distractions like rent, work, and life obligations. When returning from a residency I aim to keep this momentum. There are advantages to maintaining a studio that I can continually return to over the years, and I look forward to making work in this Milwaukee studio over the summer.

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Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start creating?
Not really. For a while it was wasting time, check email, Facebook, etc.- But I am getting better at not doing that.
Its nicest for me to get to the studio where I have something that is a problem or in a half finished state. I can just start using my hands. A space without a task makes me anxious and it is best if the ritual is working, not preparing to work. I make it a point to physically work on something when I enter, and slow down for contemplation later.

Is there anything you like to listen to while you’re working? What are you reading/listening to now?
Yes, I listen to audio books, music, and talk radio. I recently got hooked on Hardcore History (a podcast). It took me a while because at first the narrator’s delivery made me nuts. I got past the stylistic annoyances (or they grew on me), and now I’m super hooked. The podcast is engaging while going in depth (and sometimes getting repetitive) about specific (usually violent) historical moments. I’m currently fascinated learning about the Khans.

I listen to a lot of varied music. This last week included Thelonious Monk, George Jones, Redman, E-40, Catharsis, Kris Kristofferson, Propagandhi, Nausea, Jonathan Richman, Malachi, and the Boss.
Some of my audio book favorites include The Shock Doctrine, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas, and Breakfast of Champions. I have been trying to listen to some classic literature as well, but the narrators have been so bad.
Also streaming the Jared Diamond Guns, Germs, and Steel pbs special on you tube was a highlight in the past couple months.

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Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
I guess the milk crates I use for transport and storage have been inspirational for some of my work. I also bought a small hand-carved wooden duck at a rummage sale years ago. It’s a good one.

If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do?
Buy more space or a Festool Plunge Cut Circ Saw and Guide.

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
I don’t know. Everyone’s different. For me what works is to make whatever space you have work and not worry about what it’s not. Also, the way my mind works, the best creative spaces are chaotic, messy, and overflowing with debris and kinetic energy. For me it’s calming and helps clear my mind.

More than finding/making the perfect space, it is essential to consistently put in time thinking and working, regardless of where. I don’t know, it can be anywhere, I am writing this in the library right now. One friends favorite places to draw are Taco Bell and Qdoba; free refills, free tables, lots to draw.

Any new projects you’re working on?
You can keep up with my projects at and to see collective projects visit

Thanks, Colin! I love the new series ‘Flood Resistant Paintings’, especially the ‘Hit Enter’ piece.

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