Artist and writer Matt Griffin hails from Kells, County Meath, and currently now resides in Ennis. He has garnered a reputation as one of the most eclectic graphic artists in contemporary illustration, collecting awards and accolades for his work in publishing, advertising and, in particular, the field of poster art. His passion for visual design was always married to one for writing. A Cage of Roots (2015) was his first novel in the Ayla Trilogy and was followed by Storm Weaver (2016) and The Spiral Path in 2017 (The O’Brien Press).
Q. With our recent visit from Storm Ophelia here in Ireland, can you tell us a little bit about how natural and scientific phenomenons inspire your work?
Natural and scientific phenomenons play a huge part in inspiring my work. In fact, they may even provide the biggest chunk of my inspiration. I have always been moved by nature – a wet day in the Burren, a wild Atlantic bashing itself against the coast, the thought of strange worlds out in space and what it might be like to stand on them, looking at a sky filled with a gas giant, or three moons. I love a quiet forest too – that kind of muffled silence in a pine forest or that little static hiss as a breeze moves through the trees… When I needed to come up with the story for A Cage of Roots, the first place I went was a forest (Lee’s Road in Ennis). For Storm Weaver I went out into the Burren and got happily lost. For The Spiral Path I did both! And when I go on these walks, surrounded by nature in all of its beautiful strangeness, I can’t help but think about how and why we exist. And when you think like that, you think about what else might exist, and from that – you build a story.
Q. We’re very excited to welcome you as part of the programme for the Dublin Book Festival this year. What can we expect from your workshop Create your own Creepy Character?
I’m very excited to be part of it! Put simply, in my workshop the audience creates a character and I draw it. But really what we explore is story and imagination. The character can look like absolutely anything – there are no limits, only imagination (which is limitless). So then we can look at why it might look the way it does – what’s the story behind this character. And then we give it a funny name.
Q. Could you tell us a bit about your journey to becoming a published illustrator and give some advice to young aspiring artists?
I have always drawn, and have always wanted to do it as a job. But I had no idea how! I spent my 20s living in London, working in the media in great jobs but all I really wanted to do was draw. So I slowly built up some work, learned about the industry and moved home in 2008 to do it full time. At first, it is very tough – jobs are hard to come by. But with dedication and practice, you hone your skills, improve, and jobs become more frequent. You start to realise what type of work you want to do (there are lots of different types of illustrations across a lot of different industries) and you keep improving as the scope for where you will apply your art narrows. The key thing is to keep learning, improving – developing as an artist and as a professional. So the advice I always give is to work hard – it takes dedication, but if you are passionate about it, you will succeed. And if you love it, practice is easy…
Q. Lastly, what is a favourite book from your childhood that you would recommend to all of our budding bookworms out there?
There are so many, but of all of them, I would choose The Lord of the Rings. The best thing about a book is it sweeps you off to another world. And in my humble opinion, Middle-Earth is the best place to be swept off to.