The rise of the internet has brought with it more opportunity for creatives to get their work out into the world. However, this very advantage has led to a plethora of noise to sort through when you're surfing the web and looking for new inspiration—whether that be art, photography, or even music. So in the rare occurrence that a new artist or piece of work jumps out at you so much that it metaphorically slaps you in the face, you're fast to take notice. Enter: the art of Trek Matthews.
Wielding a refined palette of muted pastels, Trek is a painter and illustrator who creates large and small scale works using letterforms and architectural references from around the globe. We visited Matthews at his new studio in Chicago to talk about his latest projects—and to accept our newfound obsession with with all things pastel.
Photos by Jaclyn Simpson
Trek: A long arduous journey, especially one made on foot.
Even if Trek Matthews describes himself as something of a “homebody,” his life and his work are heavily based on being in a constant state of movement, domestic and abroad, and the inspiration that comes with it. Originally from Milwaukee, he just recently became a resident of The Windy City—but not before finishing school in Atlanta. His seemingly tenured career started only a few years ago while studying graphic design before turning to printmaking. Promptly following this, was a newly discovered love for murals. “At 19, I sort of accidentally dove into public murals without much knowledge of painting—let alone painting at a large scale. Since then I’ve been using painting to explore my interests, and travel has been key to its growth in idea and execution,” he says.
The act of traveling globally, and how other people in these new places get around, is a form of creative inspiration that lends to his work being a sort of travelogue. Trek tells us, “Travel has been vital to helping me evolve my work. Not only is it extremely enjoyable to walk around in a totally foreign part of the world, but I have found that using the public transportation options in these places have been vital to experiencing the culture.” In a sense, he's creating colorful memories of his journeys; his pieces are the way he sees the world around him, presented to the viewer for interpretation. He credits a trip to Tokyo as a major turning point in the evolution of his work, describing the city as “inconceivably huge, dense, and having so much going on at any point in time.”
What might be most remarkable about Trek’s work is the way he can take a brush, paper, and four raw color hues and somehow come out the other end of his creative process with a finished piece that has so much depth you want to stroll into it. It’s like walking up to the front of the line to a nightclub made of pure light while the bouncer holds the velvet rope open for you, beckoning you to come in and enjoy yourself. When he explained “I’ve been trying to add dimension to very flat objects, and keeping it as minimal as I can,” we had to concur. The four color hues he uses are a fixed quality due to Matthews enjoying the soft, relaxing focus they bring to the work’s hard edges. They serve as a reflection of himself within his own art, mirroring his light-hearted personality in the almost tesseract-like pieces he produces. He says they offer up “soft colors for tired eyes.”
Although he’s young, Trek’s had a very well-rounded artistic career already, which makes him the perfect person to impart wisdom. For anyone just starting out on their journey of artistic endeavors, or those that have come to a crossroad, Trek offers this: “The toughest part about being a young creative is the lack of technical and conceptual experience. Everyone has to make a lot of bad work before they can start making good work. Try new materials, always know you can improve, and look past trends. Make something that truly interests you, and make it genuine.”