Rider’s Lens: Matt Crane’s Illustrations
Our first Rider’s Lens of 2023 comes from Salt Lake City, Utah-based artist Matt Crane, who shares a sundry mix of colorful and quirky illustrations. Find the story of how he first started making art, an assortment of his hand-drawn and digital work, excerpts from his zines, and much more here…
Words and illustrations by Matt Crane (@mattcrank)
Hi, I’m Matt Crane. When I am not making art, I enjoy riding bikes, whether that is riding up the canyon or going mountain biking in Southern Utah. I enjoy traveling, camping, cooking with friends, or eating at new restaurants. I love to thrift, and I am always seeking out new experiences and taking the long way when traveling.
I’ve been making drawings since 2012, when I was inspired by a roommate who was always drawing. I also had a good friend, Natalie, a professional artist, who was very encouraging. Over the years, I’ve been commissioned to create pet portraits and have sold prints of my work at art events. When I discovered the iPad, it changed the way I created art because it allowed me to create cool illustrations and designs quickly and more consistently.
Eventually, I found my niche in the weird lowbrow art scene. As someone who grew up in the punk rock scene with a love of Santa Cruz skateboards art and Jim Phillips illustrations, I saw an opportunity to create lowbrow designs and trippy cycling shirts that aren’t generic pine trees geared toward dentists or tech bros. I also have this desire to make silly comics and fun zines.
When I was 25, I used to weigh 315 pounds. I made some changes to my diet, created some healthy habits, and lost 117 pounds. I kept the weight off for the last 15 years and learned tons of stuff, and decided to make a zine called Healthy Matt about my journey with healthy tips that worked for me.
I love collaborating with clients, brands, and art directors. There is something satisfying about creating someone else’s vision. I love projects where I get to make stuff with others, and I think this stems from being in a band where someone would play a riff and it would trigger an idea. I also love drawing bikes and food because they are the two things I’m obsessed with. And, as with Healthy Matt, I have an itch to make autobiographical comics and zines. I know I am all over the place, but I feel like I need to get my creativity out in many ways!
I’m inspired by cartoons of my youth, from Ren and Stimpy to the Simpsons. I loved reading Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side as a kid. As of late, I am obsessed with artists Brian Chimpendale, Jim Phillips, Killer Acid, and Moebius. Music and comedy podcasts always inspire me too. I feel like my brain never shuts up with the ideas. I also find inspiration when I am exercising—something about that dopamine rush I get from mountain biking or running down a mountain gives me my best ideas.
These days, I am obsessing over homemade pizza, I got one of those gas pizza ovens, and I am always perfecting my dough and pies. I have also been going to the library a lot. I love being able to pick up a tangible object and look at the cover. Lately, I have been exploring the DVD section. It brings me back to the days of working the video counter at a grocery store. I have this ongoing list of old movies I have been ticking off one by one. I am also an avid cyclist, whether it’s mountain biking, riding gravel, or climbing up the canyon on my steel frame.
From the moment my brother Mike taught me how to ride a bike and my other brother Mark bought me my first one, I gained that sense of freedom that every little kid strives for. In my 20s, I lost a bunch of weight because I moved to a more bikeable city and would commute by bike. I’ve made a ton of friends through weekly group rides, the cycling community, meeting mechanics, and being able to bond over bikes. Also, making bike art has led to me getting tons of work as an illustrator and growing my online shop, and it helped me make many friends in the local art community!
I still have a letter I wrote to myself from 10 years ago. It was a detailed version of where I would like to be in my life. In it, I had a vision of a typical day where I lived near the deserts of Southern Utah, drawing in the morning and riding in the afternoon. If I could see my future professionally, I would be making a sustainable living as an artist and riding bikes in the desert. Probably in New Mexico, Sedona, or the Capitol Reef area. I would also love to live in the Pacific Northwest; maybe I could have a summer and winter home.
Lately, besides the usual T-shirt and sticker designs, I have been working on a zine about pivotal bike moments in my life. It’s a collection of short stories and illustrations about all the times a bike has made an impact I am also working on a zine to finish out my series of zines about being Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise. I did Frugal Matt, Healthy Matt, and now I am working on Wise Matt!
Matt’s Illustration Tools
I currently use an iPad Pro with Procreate for my digital drawings. I will do initial sketches on a sticky note. If I am doing analog art, I like to use a portable Sakura KOI watercolor set/brush, Micron pens for ink, Generic alcohol base markers, and watercolor pencils.
I made this goofy map of Salt Lake City as an ode to iconic local businesses, landmarks, parks, etc. I love living here and wanted to show off everything from the funky neon signs to my favorite parks and my favorite watering holes. It’s a passion project that got me riding around the city on my bike, exploring all its nooks and crannies. With the ever-changing landscape, I thought I should document our city before developers bulldoze everything unique to build big gray box luxury condos.
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