Gradwatch 2018: Animator Matt Armitage, Kingston University

Animator Matthew Armitage is one of the 10 artists we have picked to feature in our annual Gradwatch showcase; putting the spotlight on art and design graduates who we feel produce outstanding work

Still from Matt Armitage’s film, America, I Think?

Matt Armitage studied Illustration & Animation at Kingston University. His work combines digital and hand-drawn techniques and features a skilful use of sound. America, I Think?, based on Armitage’s memories of a family trip to the US, is a fast-paced montage of sketches depicting the sights and sounds of Orlando ands its theme parks. His graduation film Brass looks at brass band culture in the US and UK, comparing brass music created in response to the UK miners’ strike and Hurricane Katrina.

Creative Review: What sparked your interest in studying animation?
Matthew Armitage: Lots of TV! In my family we watched so many films while I was growing up, so animation offered me a chance to make short movies quickly. I remember making stop motion films in my bedroom with my Action Man toys. That’s where it all started. Growing up in a rural village there wasn’t too much to do, so I did a lot of drawing. Animation always felt like the natural progression from my doodles.

CR: Tell us a little more about your work.
MA: Versatility has always been key to my animation work. I think it’s important and good practice to have the ability to go between styles and react to a brief, rather than an idea be changed by one sense of style. I always feel in a project [that] most time should be spent in the early stages, especially in research, so because my animations frequently involve culture and location, I love to get out on location and use real people and situations to directly produce a narrative for my films. I use a combination of digital and hand drawn techniques to create my animations. I animate using software like TV Paint and Photoshop to create a base layer but then overlay paper to give my films real and tactile textures. Although it’s important to keep up to date with technology, nothing beats pencil to paper!

CR: Who – or what – has been a particular source of inspiration to you? 
MA: An artist who has influenced my work, especially my graduation film BRASS, is Andre Derain. After seeing his work in Paris I was inspired by his bold use of colour and varied brush strokes to suggest different atmospheres. This is something I used in my film to differentiate between two very different worlds. With my work being mainly based in reportage, I am also inspired by the people around me…. Also Martin Scorsese! His films are the best.

CR: Tell us about your graduation film… 
MA: The film explores the culture of brass music as a response to social and natural disaster. It’s easy to be overly careful with a grad film, so I really wanted to push myself and keep learning with it. I focused a lot on the structure of the film, flicking between timescales and location to see how it affected the narrative. I have roots in Yorkshire brass banding, but wanted to get a sense of what brass meant in other cultures. In the early stages I didn’t know where the research would lead, but when I saw the powerful images of hurricane Katrina and how the people of New Orleans had responded in the years after, I knew this had to be in my film.

CR: You studied Illustration & Animation at Kingston – what do you feel you gained from doing that course?
MA: Kingston’s animation course was an amazing experience, it developed my technical animation but also taught me so much more about all aspects of the subject: how to present my work and how to react quickly to different briefs, a skill I’ve used a lot since leaving university.

CR: What are you up to at the moment?
MA: At the moment I’m working as an intern at Studio AKA. I’m also doing freelance work looking to develop myself as a director and animator.

CR: What are your plans for the future now you’ve graduated – what would you like to do next? 
MA: To keep making work! At the moment I’m enjoying learning all the different aspects of studio animation but plan to work towards the goal of becoming a director in animation and film. I’m always thinking of my next film, so I plan to dive right back into some location drawing very soon.

CR: And finally, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given so far?
MA: I’ve had a lot of great advice over the years but the best one is ‘do what you want!’ Always listen to feedback, but your work has to be your work. Don’t let too many opinions get in the way of what really inspired your idea in the first place.; @mattarmitageanimation;  More from CR’s Gradwatch scheme here