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Matt Underwood Nature’s Artist

January 16, 2015

Fishinkblog 8569 Matt Underwood 7a

I’m guessing that Matt Underwood is a man who spends a lot of his time amongst nature. Born in 1971, Matt’s curiosity about natural history lead to him drawing and keeping sketchbooks from an early age. He went on to study art and art history at Salisbury College of Art and then to Carmarthenshire College of Art to study wildlife illustration, completing his HND in illustration with a distinction. He creates beautiful artwork in a few different mediums. Paintings …

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Which often come from his observational sketching and watercolours.

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He is involved with The Artists for Nature Foundation (ANF) which is a unique non-profit organisation that aims to combine art, nature conservation and education through the work of some of the world’s finest contemporary wildlife and landscape artists.

In May 2011, the wonderfully unspoilt, car-free Channel Island of Sark became the focus of the ANF’s 15th project. Sixteen of the world’s leading artists and musicians came together on the island to raise awareness of its abundant wildlife and unique way of life, and the urgent need to protect them. Matt was one of those artists and created the two paintings below for the publication ‘Art for the Love of Sark ‘ which can be found here.

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Matt is also well known for his love of painted miniatures, he paints within a 10 by 10 cm border and even makes the gilded frames himself. Realising that his long name takes up a lot of room on such a small space, he signs them simply with an ‘M’.

He says ” I’m very fond of Dutch still life paintings and like the way that butterflies, wasps, snails and bees seem to wander into them. It’s something I like to do too, so I often include small creatures that visit me while I paint. Landscape painting has always fascinated me. I like to get a feel for the place before I begin to paint, many of my landscape paintings are of places that I know well or are places that I’ve enjoyed exploring. My miniature paintings are widely collected and I’ve had successful exhibitions in Amsterdam. I’ve also exhibited  at  The Medici Gallery, The Llewellyn Alexander Gallery, and The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Here’s a selection, and you can view more here.

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For me his purest work is captured in his softly multicoloured wood block prints. I love the textures and woody graininess that appears amongst his flowers and birds.

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This wren reminds me of some of the Polish matchbox covers I’ve seen in the past. Great colours.

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Misses Dunnock, the Robin, young Wren and the Owls, I’ve too many favourites !

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I caught up with Matt to ask him a few questions.

What first introduced you to printing with wood and what part of the process do you like the least / most ?
As a painter it took some time for me to get my head around the fact that things will be in reverse. I wanted to find a simple technique I could learn from a book over winter.  Having wasted a lot of expensive papers I did a wonderful course on woodblock printmaking with Paul Furneaux at Edinburgh Printmakers. The cutting away I find tedious at times and the final printing stressful, I do enjoy getting the colours and the tonal balance right. The rewards come when things don’t go as planned but happen and work.
What would you say is your fav subject matter to illustrate ?
Anything from the natural world. I particularly like to things that enter my day, a wren in the woodpile seen from a window, early primroses that I saw yesterday in the rain.

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How much of your time do you spend outdoors, sketching and painting ?

I used to spend more time outdoors than I do now. Now I tend to go back and find things I’ve seen. I’ve been passing a flock of lapwings in a field next to a road for a few days and keep meaning to return with my sketchbook but haven’t yet.
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Which artists (if any) do you most admire and who’s work (again if any) may have been an influence on your own ?
Of other woodblock printmakers, I like particular pieces by Ethel Mars, Arthur Wesley Dow, Norbertine Bresslern-Roth, and Allen W Seaby. I particularly like Peggy Angus’ work at the moment, and the way she simplifies print and pattern. Kandinsky’s and Félix Vallotton’s woodcuts too.
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Many thanks Matt for answering my questions and agreeing to show your work on Fishink Blog.

You can find some of Matt’s fabulous prints over on his Folksy Site.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Claire permalink
    January 16, 2015 9:40 am

    What an amazing range he has.

    • January 16, 2015 9:56 am

      I agree it’s like being three different artists all in one : ) and all of them successful too !

  2. January 16, 2015 10:22 pm

    I was thinking the same as I scrolled through his work, fascinating range! And I love the snowdrops – I’m always a sucker for a snowdrop!! Oh and the birds are pretty good too!!

  3. boabee1 permalink
    January 21, 2015 11:53 am

    I already follow Matt’s work, on Twitter so am already a fan of his marvellous wood block prints. I find the colours he uses quite unusual as he tends to favour pastels, and it makes for a pleasing change. Thanks for another fabulous post. 🙂

    • January 21, 2015 4:03 pm

      No problem Boabee, yes Pastels are an unusual yet interesting change from the norm : ) Good point

      • boabee1 permalink
        January 21, 2015 4:15 pm

        Also, thanks for all the information. I followed a link on this to Matt’s Folksy page and bought a print. 🙂 Makes me very happy. I just need to sell one of my own now! :O

      • January 21, 2015 4:23 pm

        Love your Barn Owl and Hare paintings, by the way

  4. January 21, 2015 4:19 pm

    That’s great to hear, which one did you select ? I hope you told him where you’d seen his work lol I knew I should be on commission ! (joke)

    • boabee1 permalink
      January 21, 2015 4:30 pm

      I tweeted it with your name included. I bought a cat print which is very pretty. It’s a shame I have a small purse as I would have liked a couple of pieces.

      Thank you for kind comment on my owls too 🙂

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