Sarah Velasco: Can you tell us about what you do as a freelance illustrator and designer?
Matt Gondek: My day consists of a variety of things. Most of my day is focused on my freelance illustration. That entails preparing new rough ideas for clients, and completing new work that is sold. I'm primarily known for my work in the shirt business, but I have also completed tour posters, snowboards, album artwork, and a variety of other misc. things.
I also spend a portion of the day blogging on my clothing brands website, as well as packaging orders and delivering them to the post office. From time to time as the seasons change I invest a great deal of time creating new products for the line, as well as hiring and communicating w/ other artists as they complete designs as well
Sarah Velasco: How did you start out? When did you know this is what you wanted to do?
Matt Gondek: I have wanted to draw for a living since I was a child. My big break came about 4 or 5 years ago. A group of friends and I were at a show in New Jersey. After the show my roommate was talking to one of the bands and offered them a place to stay if they were ever in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania (Where I live). Eventually the band took us up on our offer. While they were at our house the lead singer had noticed some drawings I had laying out, and asked if I'd be interested in creating some shirt designs for them. I did, and they really liked them so they kept hiring me. By chance, the band got signed shortly thereafter, and my tee designs I created for them started getting in retail outlets and quickly gaining attention. When other bands found out who designed them (me), my schedule quickly began to fill up.
Sarah Velasco: What's your schedule like?
Matt Gondek: I'd like to say I have a set schedule, but as of writing, it's quite scattered. I normally wake up around 9am. The first thing I do is check emails, then it's time to start work on whatever illustration piece I have lined up for the day. Around noon I stop for lunch and spend about an hour working on my clothing brand, Wonderful Life. After that it's back to illustrating until around 4. Later that evening, I may come back and work on illustrating more, or a lot of the time, I work on sketching out new rough ideas for future projects.
Sarah Velasco: How do you come up with new designs?
Matt Gondek: I've been blessed with a very weird and active imagination. The years and years of comics, cartoons, and video games growing up helped though too I'm sure.
Sarah Velasco: Who do you look up to? Has this changed over time?
Matt Gondek: There are a handful of artists whose work that I enjoy yes, but to be honest most of the people that I look up to are not in the design field at all. I'm more interested in smart independent businessmen / women. People who are able to take a skill they have, and turn it into a lucrative business or financial gain. While drawing is my life and I love doing it, at the end of the day, I'm running a business too.
Sarah Velasco: Is there one piece you have done that is your 'favorite'?
Matt Gondek: If I had to choose just one piece, it would currently be the design I did for this year's Van's Warped Tour. I was hired to create a tee design for the tour. It's a project that I've wanted since I began doing this.
Sarah Velasco: Are there any common misconceptions in your field of work?
Matt Gondek: Yes! More often than not, my friends imagine my job in the following way. Wake up late. Doodle. Make tons of money. If it were only that easy! Being a freelance artist, let alone a successful one, is like any "cool" career like rock star or athlete. There are tons of people who want your job / clients and are willing to work twice as hard for half as much to get them. It's a constant battle.
Sarah Velasco: Can you tell readers about upcoming projects you are working on?
Matt Gondek: I recently just completed a second clothing brand called JocknRoll.com, which is an unlicensed sportswear brand. As of writing, we've only focused on my hometown (Pittsburgh PA), but plan on branching out soon. Also, my intern and I have been feverishly working on a new website where every day for a year, it updates with a new color drawing of one of my friends. A way of giving back for all their support.