There are two types of people when it comes to art lessons in high school – those who take the lesson as an opportunity to have a natter with their peers (perhaps stopping to sketch a poorly-drawn apple from the fruit bowl in front of them for five minutes), and those who by the end of the lesson have drawn the bowl of fruit in such detail that you can tell how ripe the fruit is. Considering Northumberland-based artist Matt Robson is opening up his own shop in Alnwick to sell his work this Christmas at the age of 16, we’ll let you have a guess at which person he was. ‘I’ve always done it really, ever since I was tiny, and just carried it on,’ Matt tells us when we ask him at what age he discovered his passion for art. ‘I think my first proper piece of art that I concentrated on was a landscape actually, from when I was about 10.’
Only a year later, at the age of 11, Matt had taken part in his first art exhibition. ‘I knew of an arts festival which is pretty local to me – Alnmouth Arts Festival – and I just thought I’d give it a go. It seemed to go down well so I carried it on, did a few more and kept going from there.’ Five years down the line, after completing his GCSEs (of which Art was, unsurprisingly one), Matt has taken the leap and is concentrating on his art full time. So when did he decide to pursue art as a full-time career, rather than a hobby? ‘Not too long ago really… things just really started to pick up. I was sort of thinking “what do I do after I finish GCSEs?” and just went for it after leaving school and started full time.’
Matt spends most of his time now creating his artwork, and finds inspiration in what surrounds him – ‘Mostly Northumberland. I tend to focus on the wildlife around here – farming as well.’ Indeed a quick look at Matt’s limited edition prints shows beautifully-illustrated drawings of iconic Northumberland locations like Bamburgh Castle, as well as animals, from pigs to pheasants. ‘I actually just finished off an original quite recently of a Highland cow, which I’m very proud of. I also did an original of some foxes – I did a limited run of 50 prints of that which went within a month, that was a really popular one. It did really well, which I didn’t expect.’ When he’s not putting his own ideas down on canvas, Matt’s taking on commissions – which are proving very popular, too. ‘I do anything really. Mostly dogs – they’re a lot of my work,’ he tells us. ‘What seems to be really popular are things like tractors and horses, and just very personal things.’
‘I basically see something, or have an idea, and do a couple of smaller sketches, play around with a few things, and then draw it out and make sure it looks perfect,’ Matt says of his creative process. ‘I use coloured pencils mostly, and work on top of that until I’ve got my final piece,’ The Highland cow original I just did took a good couple of weeks,’ he says. ‘I don’t really do art start to finish – I do a bit, leave it, and come back to it so I can take my time with it.’ He pauses, before saying ‘Now that I’m doing art full time though I’m hoping to do a lot more and try new things, and obviously improve what I’m currently doing.’
‘I like being outdoors, just looking around for inspiration – getting a few ideas for things.’ Matt tells us about what he does in his free time. ‘There’s a couple of good local galleries around Northumberland as well,’ he tells us. ‘But I’m working most of the time at the moment to be honest.’ It’s impressive that Matt’s so empassioned about drawing and creating, but that’s not all he’s up to at the moment.
He’s also decided to delve into the market of creating homeware products. ‘I’m just trying to do a lot more homeware, I’ve decided to go down that line with my work as well; I’m starting to create mugs, cushions and really trying to broaden what I do.’ When did Matt decide to start introducing homeware to his line of work? ‘Last year – at shows, a lot of people were coming up to me and asking if I did that kind of thing. I think people were very interested in it and obviously there’s a big market for it. People were asking for it and I saw that I could get some equpiment in so I went and bought quite a bit of equiptment, so I’m doing all of that now as well.’
What’s next for Matt Robson? ‘Well I’ve just sorted out this shop and I’m going to see how that goes over Christmas, and then hopefully try and sort out a shop next year and eventually start opening up more shops. I’m starting off in Alnwick but you never know where it’s going to take you. I’m also thinking about larger branches – I might try and go into Fenwick and places like that in the future.’ He may only be 16, but it’s obvious that Matt’s already well on his way to establishing himself as a prominent figure in the Northumberland and, indeed, nationwide arts scene. And with clear goals in his sights, we’re sure to be hearing a lot more from Matt Robson in the coming year.
You can find Matt at his shop on 24 Narrowgate in Alnwick