Hey there, DC Collectors! Welcome to the very first installment of a new feature we’re calling “DC Collectibles Artist Spotlight.” No real surprises here, it’s basically what it sounds like. Every now and then, we’ll spotlight one of our many talented artists in a special interview here on DCComics.com. It could be a sculptor, a designer, a modeler… Pretty much any artist involved with DC Collectibles is fair game.
Why are we doing this? Well, it’s our way of pulling back the curtain a bit, and shining a well deserved light on some of fine folks who work hard to bring you the statues and action figures you love. Plus, we know there are many of you out there who aspire to do this sort of work yourselves and might enjoy hearing how some of the artists working in the industry first got started, as well as any tips and tricks they may have.
Anyhow, enjoy our first installment, which focuses on the magnificent Jonathan Matthews!
What’s your full name?
Jonathan Lee Matthews
Where were you born?
St. Matthews, KY
Louisville, KY (after a decade or so stay in Columbus, OH)
Where did you go to school? What’s your education background?
I attended CCAD (Columbus College of Art and Design) where I studied to become an illustrator. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art.
When did you know you wanted to be a professional sculptor?
I was working at an advertising agency after art school, when I was approached by a fellow classmate of mine from CCAD (Steve Hamaker, who did all the coloring work on Jeff Smith’s Bone comic). He was working at a small toy company in Columbus and recalled that I did a little sculpting for some of the pieces in my senior portfolio. He asked me to try sculpting one of the monsters for their upcoming line of action figures based on Tony Daniel’s The Tenth comic. I was hooked from the go and have been doing figure sculpting since 1998 or so.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve been working lately on the action figures based on Greg Capullo’s run on Batman. I’ve also been working on a version of Wonder Woman for an upcoming “Art of War” Wonder Woman statue that’s just about complete.
Do you have a pre-sculpt ritual?
Press “play” on my current audio book and start carving wax.
Digital or traditional?
Traditional at the moment. I’m working toward becoming proficient in digital sculpting, as the industry seems to be moving inexorably in that direction.
What sculpted piece are you most proud of?
Well, I’m probably best known for my translation of Mike Mignola’s art on the Batman Black and White statue from most of ten years ago. I guess that statue is one I’m very proud of… I think it went a ways toward reimagining what is possible when bringing 2D source material into three dimensions. I consistently enjoy working on the Batman Black and White statues. Each is subject to the same parameters yet remains a fresh challenge. I’m pretty proud of how the Jae Lee Batman Black and White statue came out too.
Have you had any mentors in your career?
Yes. I had a professor my final year in art school named Dave Groff (still a working illustrator, look him up!) who took me under his wing out of college and helped me get a start as an illustrator. Years later, when I started at what was then DC Direct, Tim Bruckner was very informative and open about his process and helpful during my transition into becoming a contract employee for DC.
Why do you sculpt as opposed to creating 2D artwork?
The short answer is because I like it better. There’s a depth (nyuck!) and complexity that exists in three dimensions. Each dimensional piece must work from a design perspective in so many more ways than in 2D artwork. Sculpture has to work from every viewable angle. I enjoy that challenge. Additionally, the creative process of sculpture yields a piece of artwork you can hold and turn in your hand. Pictures of a sculpture rarely do it justice. There’s a tactile sense to 3D work that I’ve always enjoyed.
A piece that you’ve worked on that you wish you could go back and redo?
1/4 scale Joker statue. This piece was the first time I’d sculpted a statue that was to be used as a mixed media statue… meaning it had to wear a suit of clothes after I’d done the underlying sculpture. Challenging to say the least, and naturally I’d do some things different if I were to redo it. There are nits I could pick with nearly every sculpture I do. I just try not to spend the time doing it.
What kind of DC Collectibles product would you like to work on?
I’d like to do more stuff in a slightly larger scale. Maybe some statues in the 12 inch tall size. I’ve always liked that scale and like the shelf presence 1/6th scale statues have. I always enjoy doing sculptures of some of DC’s more obscure characters. It’s nice to bring some of the “D leaguers” to the forefront. It would also be fun to do my own take on Batman for a Black and White statue. Probably wouldn’t sell, but I’d enjoy doing it!
First DC comic book?
I always liked those Legends of the Dark Knight comics from back in the early nineties. I’ve got quite a collection of those. I loved any fully painted story. Especially if it was a Batman story. Batman was always my dude. Probably why I’ve never gotten sick of sculpting him.
Who is your favorite comic book character and why?
Batman’s always been a favorite. I like the brooding nature to both the character and his stories. Love Darkseid. Now that I’m thinking about it, the characters I love best, I love mostly because of how they look. I’ve always responded to the artwork of comics more than the stories themselves.
What was your first toy?
Probably some stuffed panda or something …
Do you have a favorite DC Comics artist?
Well, I mentioned Jae Lee earlier. I’ve loved his work for years and I think his is some of the most interesting stuff being drawn right now. Love Mike Mignola. Simon Bisley and Glen Fabry. I also really enjoy what Sean Murphy and Dustin Nguyen are doing. So I guess the answer is “no.” I don’t have a favorite—I’ve got a bunch!
Mmm… maybe blue, but I have trouble picking a favorite color. I love them all when properly applied and/or juxtaposed.
Like with the colors, I have trouble narrowing that question to one. Most of the Cohen Bros. work I adore. Love Stanley Kubrick’s films. Love old Godzilla movies… Oh! And spaghetti westerns with Clint Eastwood in ‘em.
The Justice League of America.
Three favorite cities?
I’m not too well travelled, but I really liked Columbus, OH. Asheville, NC is a relaxing and beautiful environment. Then maybe San Diego, CA?
Last thing you ate was?
A sammich called a “Richie” from a local place. Flat bread with falafel, hummus, tahini, swiss and avocado. Tasty!
Introvert or extrovert?
Introvert. Who else could spend 80 hours in a small room staring at the same hunk of wax?
How many books do you own?
Hundreds. As long as we’re counting art books.
What skill do you wish you had?
The ability to sculpt four times as fast as I actually can.
We hope you enjoyed our first installment of "DC Collectibles Artist Spotlight," as well as our week-long event commemorating our 100,000 Facebook fans. But this is only part of what we have on tap for our final day. Be sure to keep an eye on the DC Collectibles Facebook page today for some awesome new product announcements!