PIease introduce yourself:
Hello, my name is Matt Salisbury. My pronouns are he/him and my professional title is Illustrator.
I mostly just say I embrace and I like to explore all kinds of things, I like to paint, I like to draw, I do a bit of sculpture and modelling, and I do it to tell stories.
What do you make?
The last thing I made is a comic book about Tom Thompson. I made it for my thesis class for college and also for personal reasons.
It’s a 16 page story - basically a pitch for what could be a longer book, maybe something around the 70-80 page range. It’s hand drawn, hand painted and it’s mostly following this narrative of a young guy whose father was so obsessed with the history and the mystery surrounding Tom Thompson. Cause there’s a lot we know and there’s a lot we don’t know [about Thompson]. He died really young and in a really peculiar kind of way where it’s still being disputed about like - Did he drown? Was he murdered? Was it an accident? We don’t know. And I just kinda wanted to focus on that a bit and there’s just a unique sort of spiritual aspect when you’re focusing on it. It doesn’t feel real, it feels like a dream talking about this guy.
In my book, Tom Thompson is more of a presence, he’s not really the most important part, the narration is really between the father and son. It’s a story about a father and son. The dad has been so obsessed with Tom Thompson that he put part of that obsession on his son; he named his son Tom, he enrolled his son in the arts, and his son feels he is just living in the shadow of this person.
Working on this project I learned a lot more about Tom Thompson as a person. For example, what he did before being a painter. I just knew he was an outdoorsman in Algonquin Park, and then he got into painting, and then he became buddies with the guys who would be the Group of Seven. He was an illustrator! He went to art school, he lived in Seattle - I think - where he was working for a studio doing stencil art and book illustrations and he hated it and came back to Ontario. It was an interesting journey for this guy.
Who would you want to collaborate with dead or alive?
One person I would love to collaborate with would be Dallas Green. For your viewers who don’t know him, he was in a band called Alexisonfire, he tours around with his own group City and Colour, and I’ve always loved his work. His stuff is deep, it hits heavy to the heart and I would love to collaborate with him on anything. Maybe it’s like stuff for his album, maybe it’s a music video or something, I don’t know I’d just love to collaborate with him.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
The best advice I’ve been given was from one of my professors who said, ‘work smarter not harder.’ I think even outside of creative practices that’s really great advice. We’re in a time where we have so many tools that we don’t have to push ourselves into exhaustion to get the work done. We have the internet, we have tablets, we have all kinds of new tools we can incorporate into our daily flow to get things done. Smarter. Quicker.
What are your best tools as an illustrator?
I always have to have a sketchbook on hand. I probably collected up to 30 sketchbooks in the last two years and they’ve ranged from huge to really tiny pocket-sized ones. I’m always going to have ideas and I need something I can write in, something I can sketch in and it doesn’t even need to be for a project - just to keep me flowing, keep my hands going. It’s probably one of my most important tools for me.
What's your dream project?
My dream project? That’s kind of a big one because I’ve always wanted to continue working on comic books and I think that’s something I can do but a dream project would actually be to work on a film doing storyboards, doing design. I would love to work on a film one day.
As for what I’m working on right now, I’m developing a new story called Blank and it focuses on people in a world where there’s been an outbreak but this outbreak actually renders most people completely invisible and it’s just been my own unique take on social isolation.
What are your next steps?
Where it is right now, I think maybe in a year I would be ready to pitch it once I’m able to get the rest of the story written up. As for publishing, I would be happy with self-publishing if I could find a bigger name publisher. I know there’s Drawn & Quarterly, there’s Simon and Schuster who's been putting out graphic novels. One of my favourite illustrators Jeff Lemire got his book Roughneck published through them. That might be someone to reach out to in the future.
Where do you see Peel Region’s Art and Culture in the future?
I think where I see it going in the future, there has been some definite growth that I’ve been finding. I think in the future we can look forward to seeing a bigger push, a bigger community of artists young and old. I think if this happens you’re also going to be finding it more in the education system. I know for myself, art in school was not the most important thing and growing up being interested in visual arts here in Mississauga, I didn’t really see much of a presence and there was one I just didn’t know about it - it just seemed very quiet. We’re getting, what is it, the Studio Paint Bar in Port Credit? Visual Arts at Riverwood? So it’s great I think if we give more to it it will be great.
I definitely wish I had more access to galleries or different art events. When I was a kid, VAM had been around for quite a few years, and I wish I knew about that when I was younger. Even if I could have just been a volunteer, to have been around a creative space and having more access to art galleries. When you’re someone who is trying to build an interest you need to be around creativity.
An event would be the most attainable goal. A nice big public event and you could host it anywhere. You could host it at Celebration Square. It’s the most open, public space and it’s Square One - everyone’s going there. I think that’s the best way to get kids involved, teens, adults, seniors. You could have different stations set up for outdoor pottery, outdoor painting, drawing, all kinds of things. It doesn’t have to be crazy like learning Photoshop outside but you can engage with people in a fun public way.