Meet Motion Graphics Artist Matt the Nelson
Matt the Nelson – @mthenelson – is a motion graphics designer based in the San Francisco Bay area. He creates content for agencies, studios and brands. His work has been featured in the New York Times, USA Today and Digital Arts Magazine. And it turns out he's awesome.
Interviewer Alexi Ueltzen – @alexi – is Ello's Community Evangelist. When she's not socially evangalizing, she's probably swimming or taking ugly pictures of her dogs while they sleep.
Alexi: First off: Why “Matt the Nelson”?
Matt: When I was first trying to break into the creative industry I thought “Matt Nelson” wasn’t very memorable or interesting. I started sending out resumes as Matt the Nelson and it got a lot of attention. One creative director thought it was my real name. Maybe one day I will make it my real name, and get it tattooed across my chest.
Alexi: Tell us a little about your background. How did you get interested in motion graphics?
Matt: I began playing around with animation and design from a young age. My dad was a video enthusiast, and had a lot of media equipment he would let me play with. I would create these primitive stop-motion animations using his camera and basic editing software. This was before online video took off, so I would literally burn DVD’s and distribute them to all of my friends. By the time I graduated high school, I was set on working in the design and animation industry, so I ended up earning a BS in digital media and design. Following graduation, I began working full-time as a motion designer for commercials and advertising.
Alexi: You’ve got a pretty distinct, sophisticated style. What influences your aesthetic?
Matt: My influences include everything from industrial design, to occult imagery, and fashion. Those elements may or may not be obvious in my work, but the influence is there. Working quickly is also very important for me, so I try to keep the look very minimal and clean.
Alexi: What inspires you, or where do you go for inspiration?
Matt: There’s a core group of artists in the motion design world that inspire me - Ash Thorp, Beeple, and GMUNK, to name a few. There’s also a number of fine artists I look up to, such as James Jean, Alexander McQueen, and Damien Hirst. I tend to be bipolar in my consumption of art: some weeks I go without looking at references at all, and other weeks I binge on consuming huge amounts of art.
Alexi: How much of your time is spent working for clients vs doing personal projects?
Matt: For my day job I work at a media and advertising agency, so most of my time is spent on client projects. However, weekends and nights are dedicated to personal work. Once you start making money on client projects, it’s hard to focus on anything else, but carving out time for personal work is incredibly important. It often builds skill sets that you can use in other areas. The inverse happens as well - I’ll learn a new plugin or trick for a client project, and I end up using it for personal work. The relationship is symbiotic.
Alexi: Do you try to push the envelope with your work? If yes, in what way?
Matt: On a good day, I push myself to make work that’s insanely imaginative, weird, or captivating. Other times, I just crank out an image as quickly as possible. A lot of people have this notion that they can only create something when they feel inspired, but then they end up not creating very much at all. It’s more important to stay committed to your craft, even if you don’t feel like pushing the envelope, or putting in the work.
Alexi: Are you based in the Bay Area for the tech culture, or just the really good sourdough?
Matt: Both. The Silicon Valley area has such an amazing culture that blends technology, art and design. In the same way that online video revolutionized advertising, VR will be the next breakthrough for digital creatives, and being in the Bay Area brings me one step closer to that. It doesn’t hurt that there’s some wicked good places to eat here.
Alexi: What are your thoughts on social media, and how it helps or hurts artists today? Specifically, can you share some thoughts on Ello?
Matt: At a surface level, social media is a tool designed to give you little dopamine hits and keep you addicted to a never ending flow of notifications. Creatives are facing this existential conflict: do I leave social media because it’s a time-suck? Or do I use social media to share my work and connect with my audience? Ello is different because it has creative integrity. The culture on Ello is interested in contributing content, engaging with people, and creating works of art - not trying to sell me multivitamin peppermint weight loss tea.
Alexi: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever made (or would like to make someday?)
Matt: A few years ago, I locked myself in my Chicago apartment and polished off half of bottle of vodka. I created an animated music video that features a little dude on a quest for a magical top hat. The animation includes time travel, exploding heads, and a video of me dancing shirtless.
Alexi: What are you doing when you’re not sitting in front of a computer creating? Mostly Pokemon Go, right?
Matt: I’m either bingeing on podcasts, or out on a run with my wife and our dog. California trails are great for running, because they have breathtaking views, lots of shade, and crazy people.
Alexi: Anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like to tell our readers?
Matt: Start working on your dream project today. There will never be a perfect time to pursue that project you’ve always wanted to do. Life only gets busier, and commitments only pile up. You have to take steps everyday to stay committed to your personal projects. In the words of the great Shia Labeouf, “DO IT!”