The Living Room > summer in my head

Matt Barton
Matt Barton

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Background My father is a Methodist minister. My mother was an English teacher (college initially, then high school, now retired). My first memorable experiences of drawing were while sitting in the back of church on Sunday mornings. I was a slightly crazy child, a troublemaker of sorts. I would crawl under pews, run outside and climb all around the property during services. High maintenance to say the least. My mom discovered that letting me draw all over church pamphlets was an easy way of keeping me occupied during church services. I recall that she would make grids of ovals and fill each one with little faces, then allow me to mimic the process. That's truly the first experience of drawing I can recollect. It quickly evolved to drawing all sorts of combating figures in the margins of the pamphlets (usually ninja turtles, they were easy to convey and a clear obsession for any young boy of the late 80's). I was maybe 4 years old. Through elementary school drawing was just a fun exercise. I enjoyed Sunday newspaper comics more than anything (Garfield, Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes and the like). My parents would read me these as bedtime stories. My grandmother introduced me to Asterix and Obelisk as well as Pogo. I couldn't quite grasp the nuances of the humor, but the immediacy of imagery was undeniable. At the age of five I decided I either wanted to be a comic artist or a stand-up comedian (you know, something practical/noble... as opposed to an astronaut or fireman). Time passed, family moved a few times- Austin to San Antonio, then San Antonio to Portland, TX. Making permanent friends was a challenge. Staying in my bedroom became tradition. I still close my bedroom door. Around the age of maybe 11 or 12, while on vacation I had a typical hormonal tween reaction to my mother and made some internal pact to never draw again. Drawing seemed lame or something at the time. It was a rash and slightly irreparable mistake. I just hated the idea of being paraded as the artist son or something. I was a kid- kids do these kinds of things. So maybe a seven year span of what could have been devoted to developing a stronger foundation of drawing was spent on playing the french horn (I despised it). Decisions were defaults. Expressions were buried. I looked to what my brother did and said "I guess I'll do that." The path of least resistance. When I turned 18 and left for college, literally the first day of being there I started drawing again. I opened a pirated version of photoshop, and using just the mouse I drew a random comic. It was relevatory. I escaped some sense of other's control, I had privacy again. It was my first real act of self-agency since childhood. Passions rediscovered, it became very crucial to me to not let apathy, cowardice, or some random fear of other people's judgment ruin my ambitions again. With a copy of "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" I spent the next year sitting in the university stacks teaching myself the foundations of drawing , and eventually transferred to Corpus Christi A&M to enroll in their fine arts undergraduate program.