Artist Mike Matola spends hours working on his ‘Line by Line’ portraits, an impressive collection of the most recognisable faces from the worlds of music and film, all with one thing in common. Each person is constructed entirely from letters, with lyrics and quotes building a visual profile, the edges and curves of characters forming features and detail.
How did you first come up with the idea to create pictures from words?
It was actually something I came up as a gift idea for a friend.
How do you choose who your subject that you’re going to draw?
Its partly somebody who I think will catch people’s attention from across the room, but mainly someone whose written content I don’t mind meticulously studying for the next month.
Can you describe the process you use to create each work, step by step?
Yes! It is an incredibly simple process. I plan out and create a stencil of the image beforehand and place it under my the paper I’m working on. This way I can have everything spaced out correctly without having any pencil marks let over. I would hate to have to take an eraser to a finished piece and risk any of the ink smearing. Then I start writing, that’s it. That’s all I do. People tell me that they could never do something like this. I guffaw and exclaim, “Yes you can!” You just do it one word at a time. Just keep going. Never stop!
How long does it take you on average to finish each work?
It ranges anywhere from 18 to 48 working hours.
Do you find it more soothing to write out song lyrics then movie quotes?
It’s funny you use that word “soothing.” Peoples assume I’m able to reach some sort of zen level doing these prints, which I suppose on some level is true but it’s not like nirvana or like I’m floating on a cloud. It’s more like I finally get all of the horses in my head pulling in the same direction. As for which I prefer, song lyrics or the movie scripts? Movie scripts. The song lyrics are special and it is rare to be able to study such large bodies of musical works, in order, top to bottom but I’m a much more visual guy. When I’m transcribing scripts in their entirety I enjoy slowly replaying the scene in my head and I can hear the actor’s voices and really take the time to appreciate the craft of the words on the page vs its finally product. I would probably get the same thing from my music piece if I transcribed the sheet music but…oh! OH! That’s a good idea. I’m going to have to do that.
Have you ever found it difficult to make the words you’re using fit the image you’re trying to create?
Of course! Most the time it doesn’t fit correctly at all. I like that though, if I wanted it to be perfect I’d just do it on the computer.
Who has been your favourite person to draw so far?
I just finished a Ghostbusters print and I really dig the layout I used for it. It’s Ray, Peter, and Egon all standing aloof in the hotel elevator just before their first outing. Its this perfect small quiet scene where both the characters and audience have no idea what to make of the experience. It’s like being in the elevator just before a job interview, a small vertical portal into the second act of your life.
What do you think makes your work so likeable?
I’ve deemed it the “Ah-ha! moment.” When I’m showing, I like to sit at a table and quietly work on a new piece as people are milling around so I don’t have to hover around my work like a vulture. I like to watch people’s reactions, at first they just walk by looking apathetic, they pause, they walk even closer, they’re right next to me. Leaning in and staring intently at the pieces, I can tell they’re almost there, it’s all being assembled in their minds what they’re looking at. Then all at once it snaps into focus, people gasp, look at me, look at the piece I’m working on and then look back at the picture on the wall. This is usually followed by “Oh my god, you’re crazy. You are a crazy person.” People like the ah-ha moment. It’s something I didn’t realise was going to happen. I like the ah-ha moment too.
Mikes incredibly detailed works of art are great for film and music lovers everywhere, starting at £40 www.evermade.com/product-category/all-art-prints/super-detail