Local Artist Interview: The Matt Clinard


May 10, 2016

1. Give us a little background on yourself. Where are you from, how did you first get interested in making art?

I grew up in the Ohio River Valley in a place called New Albany, Indiana. My hometown sits directly across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky where I also lived for several years before leaving the area in 2010. I spent a couple years working in national parks and road-tripping around North America before settling in San Francisco in 2012.

I’ve loved creative projects since I was very young. As a kid in the early 90’s I had a notebook where I would draw all of the NBA team logos. In high school I taught myself to use illustrator and photoshop and entered into a local logo design contest and won! Ever since then I’ve looked for interesting ways to get my art out into the world.

2. What’s the story behind your Baby’s First Trip design?

We talked about doing something colorful and geometrical, similar to some of my past work, that could represent SF. I love minimalist design styles and the idea of representing complicated things with very basic shapes. I also really love drawing cityscapes. Obviously, I included the recognizable landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Lombard Street, some of the lesser known landmarks that I really love are the Golden Gate Park windmills and the Japan Town pagodas. I also added a bicycle because SF is a great bike city.

3. Tell us a little about Swirvington.

Swirvington is a nonsense name that was made up by my friend Cory when we were like 15 years old. We originally thought of the name when we were bowling one night and we ended up using it as the name of our band. After the band broke up I started using the name to represent my work. I like the idea of Swirvington being a brand that encompasses all of the work that I do whether it’s paintings or photography or whatever.

4. I noticed that you have a lot of city-specific designs. How does the concept of home tie into your work?

I’m obsessed with the idea of cities being giant works of art that we all contribute to. San Francisco is a great example of this with the dramatic landscape, cultural diversity, and beautiful architecture. Architecture is very important and inspiring to me. Making art that relates to home is very fun because the people around me can identify with it immediately. Seeing strangers on the street wearing my t-shirts is super exciting for me every time and when that work is inspired by the city it adds to the feeling of community.

5. Who are some of your biggest influences, both in the world of visual art and beyond?

I’d say my visual style is very much influenced by illustrators and designers from the 50s and 60s like James Flora, Mary Blair, Evelyn Ackerman, Ed Emberley, Charles and Ray Eames, or even Picasso. I love all different types of music from Hip-Hop to Opera to Bluegrass to Metal. I feel lucky that I can enjoy listening to Hank Williams as much as something like Flying Lotus. I also have a weird obsession with motivational speakers. Sometimes when I’m drawing I will put on headphones and listen to recordings of Les Brown or Tony Robbins. I actually find it very soothing.

6. What is your connection to San Francisco, and what does The City mean to you?

As a kid in Indiana I dreamed of being in California based on just seeing it in movies and skateboarding videos and things. I first visited San Francisco in 2009. My good friend Jared who lived here at the time gave me a tour of the city and I was smitten. I had visited other great cities like New York and Chicago but I felt drawn to SF in a way I had never felt before. Something about this dense city on top of this rugged landscape, all of the cultural diversity, the fog, the close proximity to the ocean and mountains made it very appealing. I felt like I was supposed to be here. By the end of 2010 I was sure that I would end up living here.

7. Favorite place to eat at in SF?

This is tough because there are seemingly endless great restaurants in San Francisco. At least once a week I get bahn mi sandwiches at Little Vietnam on 6th Ave., Tea Leaf salads from Mandalay on California are great, soy-rizo burritos at Papalote, the veggie po’ boy at Brenda’s Meat and Three is one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten, veggie kushari from Pharaoh’s on Geary is a frequent stop, 15 Romolo, Patxi’s Pizza…the list goes on and on.

8. What’s your favorite neighborhood in San Francisco and why?

I’ve been living in the Richmond District for almost four years now and it’s probably my favorite. Inner Richmond is so diverse with all of the Chinese, Vietnamese, Russians, Koreans. Sometimes I’ll be walking to breakfast down Clement Street and I won’t hear anyone speaking English – it’s great! It is still fairly quiet and undiscovered compared to the rest of the city and there are a lot of cool places to go. Green Apple Books is a favorite. Love all of the organic produce markets and Russian bakeries. I also love being so close to Golden Gate Park and the Presidio. The amazing parks are one of my favorite things about San Francisco.

9. If you could collaborate with any artist, living or dead, who would it be?

I think Mary Blair would be a great person to meet and work with. I saw the Mary Blair show at the Disney Family Museum a couple years ago and it was a life changing experience. All of the work she did with Disney from the movies to the giant murals to creating “It’s a small world”, it’s all very inspiring. She has a great..almost Scandinavian inspired style.

10. Plans for the future? Long-term life goals?

I plan on traveling a lot more, definitely visiting some national parks and going on long hikes in the wilderness. I’ve even tossed around the idea of living in a van for a year just so I can travel around constantly. I’ve lived in five different states so far and I imagine I will probably add a few more to that list, though it will be hard to leave SF. The great thing about doing art and design is that you can do it anywhere, at anytime. I hope to keep finding new and interesting projects to work on, paint more murals, and improve my photography skills.

Be sure to check out Matt’s design, Baby’s First Trip on our online store. Also, you check out more of Matt’s designs and stay updated on his work though his website, Swirvington.




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