As part of a series profiling new and newly signed illustrators, we spoke to Dan Matutina – a graphic designer and illustrator based in the Philippines.
Matutina’s artwork is inspired by science fiction, folklore and comic books. He has been commissioned by Airbnb, Wired, Fast Co and Google, is co-founder of Manila design studio Plus63 and received an ADC Young Guns award in 2013. We asked him a few questions about his career so far…
Could you tell us a little about your background and career so far?
I grew up in a province an hour away by plane from Manila, where I’m now based. My time in high school was spent studying science and engineering, but I was already doodling and drawing then. In my final year, I finally decided to pursue a degree in fine arts and major in visual communication.
When I was at university, my first love was filmmaking. But because it was really expensive to make one at that time, I focused on graphic design and illustration. After I graduated, I worked as an art director for an advertising agency for three years and after that, I started my first design studio with four of my friends. We went our separate ways five years later and I started Plus63 Design Co. I did a lot of freelance illustration in between design work [and] this is when I started getting commissions from different magazines and publications.
Animation for Lovaganza 2015, art directed by Matutina
How would you describe your illustration style?
It’s very geometric and angular. It features clean shapes and lines combined with textures, brush strokes and spatters. I use a limited palette, but I do add a new set of colors from time to time.
You also run a design studio, Plus63. Could you tell us a little more about it?
I started with Plus63 with some friends three years ago. Plus63’s name came from an area code of the Philippines. We’re a very small team – there’s only four of us – but we work with writers and other specialists when needed. Our projects are mostly brand identity, print and cause-oriented design projects. We did the Design Co.Mission last year [the studio sent out ‘mission packs’ to studios in the Philippines, in an attempt to encourage designers to collaborate on design solutions to improve public services, health and education in the region] and we’re working with an international organisation for a Disaster Preparation project.
Plus63’s DesignCo.Mission kit, sent to design studios in the Philippines
How do you balance freelance projects and running the studio? Do you focus more on one or the other?
Working in my design studio is my day job while illustration is my night job, but I do try to pace the projects I accept so I don’t overwork myself. It’s almost an even split – I get more illustration projects, but I log more hours on design projects.
And what is the creative/design scene like in Manila?
The creative scene in Manila is very exciting right now. It might not be as advanced as the creative scenes in Western countries but it might be as vibrant. People like to go to design events and conferences, like Graphika Manila, collaborations between different industries and disciplines are happening, and companies are starting to invest more in design. A lot of good young designers and illustrators are also cropping up. The industry, compared to advertising, is still fairly young, but that’s what makes it exciting. People want to be part of the movement.
Illustration for IBM
Who or what are your biggest creative influences? And where do you look for inspiration?
I have a lot of creative influences. A whole group of them are national artists from the Philippines. One is Arturo Luz, another is Vicenta Manansala, for whom I recently made an illustrated tribute for a local magazine. I used to see his works in my high school textbooks and loved them even then. There’s also Ang Kiukok and HR Ocampo.
I love the works of Eyvind Earle, Erik Nitsche, Paul Klee, Syd Mead, Charley Harper, Hayao Miyazaki, Fortunato Depero, Eduardo Chillida, and a whole lot more – I’ve been inspired by the works of my contemporaries and friends. I’m also inspired by film, science and technology, manga and anime, folklore, myths and legends.
Illustration for Wired UK
When did you first develop an interest in illustration?
When I was a child I drew a lot of cartoon characters. I grew up watching Thundercats, Voltron, Mazinger Z, Disney films, Robotech, G-Force, Silver Hawks, Adventures of Tintin, TMNT and other cartoons and comic books, including local ones. So most of those characters were always in my sketches and doodles. When I got a bit older, I made my own characters, comic series and stories.
Artwork for FastCo & the Guardian
You grew up in Tacloban City [in Eastern Visayas, the Philippines], which you describe as an area ‘rich in folklore’. Has this influenced or inspired your work at all?
I’ve always believed that part of a person is defined by where he/she’s from. Growing up in the province and hearing all of the different folklores and myths influenced me when I tell and write stories. We have a ton of islands in the Philippines (about 7,107 to be precise) and each has its own unique cultures and legends. The Leyte and Samar provinces, of which Tacloban City is the capital, are rich with stories of flying people, monsters, big dogs, witchcraft and magic. Some of those elements can be found in my personal projects. I rarely use them for client work, but I sometimes insert them as graphic elements when I can.
Illustration for Paypal
Which project have you most enjoyed working on, or is most special to you?
I’m really proud of my Versus/Hearts project [an illustration series depicting rival game, TV and comic characters embraced in the shape of a heart]. It’s a simple project that made a lot of people happy. I think it’s my most popular project as well. It’s been on hiatus for quite some time now, but I plan to make new posts soon.
Another recent favourite is the animated piece I made for Colin Hesterly and The Academy for Lovaganza 2015 [above]. It was a collaborative project and I was very happy with the result – I did the design and illustration, while Colin directed and animated it with Jordan Scott.
Who or what would be your dream commission?
Some of the projects I’ve worked on recently were dream projects/clients of mine. Right now my dream illustration commissions would be from either Xbox, The New Yorker or Disney/Pixar.
And finally, any projects coming up that you’re particularly excited about?
I’ve been forever working on a personal book project that morphed countless of times already – I’m still finishing the manuscript right now. I’m also working on a really short animation project with a friend of mine, and just finished a cover illustration for big tech company to be used in one of their events.
Artwork for Wired Italia