Tell us a bit about yourself (name, location, affiliations, personal stuff).
My name is Matte Stephens, I’m 32 years old and have made my living as a painter for the past 12 years. I live in Birmingham, Alabama with my wife, Vivienne (The Double Sided Vivienne), along with our dog, John and 7 cats: Simon, Isabelle, Lillian, Krasner, Zuzu, Jean-Paul, and Norma Desmond. We live in a suburb that was built around 50 years ago and it still retains a bit of that era. I get most of my inspiration from my life at home and the nature surrounding it. We have barred owls, great blue herons, hawks and rabbits in the woods that border our back yard. We also love visiting the screech owls, Great Horned Owl and red-tailed hawk that live at a rehabilitation facility at Ruffner Mountain which is really close to our house. Several of the screech owls are missing eyes, (that is why they are living in captivity) so most of my owls depicted in my paintings are missing an eye. Painting is the only thing I have ever wanted to do. I currently show work at Velocity Art and Design in Seattle, WA.
What is the first thing you can remember making by hand? How and why did you make it?
The first thing I can specifically remember working on was in kindergarten. Everyone had to do a posterboard painting about their favorite part of the Wizard of Oz. I remember working on it with my dad and the great feeling it gives you when you finish something you like. I still try to get that same feeling out of my work.
What inspires you? Where do your ideas come from?
Vivienne is a big influence, she is an amazing person and very worthy of having her portrait made over and over. The personalities of our pets often show up in my work. Simon is the one I paint the most for some reason. If you look at the scene in the bear monster paintings, it looks like you are standing in front of our house. I think every day life is the main influence in my work but other influences come from old movies, modern design, old toys from the 50’s and 60’s and random stuff that has been discarded from the early 70’s. I also get inspried by old cartoons or really anything that reminds me of being a kid. Oh, and national park service propaganda of the 1940s and 50s. We’ve made a couple of trips to the north woods of Wisconsin to visit Viv’s mom and I found a lot of inspiration there, it has a Bavarian feel to it and it is not overly developed.
What are your favorite materials?
I love to work with gouache on illustration board- birch plywood -canvas -gocco
What is your favorite color?
Every shade of green
What are your most and least two favorite films?
Well- watching movies is a huge part of my life so this question is a hard one to answer. I think my favorite movies at the moment would be -Come and Get It – The French Connection -Midnight Cowboy -Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf-A Face in the Crowd-Marty-Butterfield 8-Public Enemy- North by Northwest-Clash by Night-and any movie by Otto Preminger-John Schlesinger-John Cassavettes-Krysztof Kieslowski-Billy Wilder-Julian Schnabel. there are too many to list!
The movies I don’t like are The Anniversary Party-Titanic-Gladiator-Braveheart and once again, too many to list!
What are you reading right now?
“Eero Saarinen” by Jayne Merkel and “Francis Bacon and the Tradition of Art.”
Any tips on selling handmade stuff?
Making a ton of stuff helps I think, you need to have a sufficient inventory for people to choose from. List every day –it helps keep you out there. Start a blog to let people get to know you. Be nice! It always helps to be courteous. Work really hard at what you do. I spend 14 hours a day in my studio and sometimes I feel its still not enough. Don’t skimp on supplies– try and use the best avalible supplies in your price range. Try everything and don’t give up!
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
Not much, I watch movies, go for walks at Ruffner Mountain with Viv and play with our pets. Wow, my life is mostly work. Maybe I need to get out more.
How can Etsy be improved? Any feature requests?
For me it has been absolutly perfect, I can’t think of a thing to change or improve.