Art Illustration

Q & A With Mateo The Inker


Where are you originally from?

I am originally from Connecticut, born and raised. I’ve lived in Atlanta for about 13 years.

When did you realize you had an artistic gift and that you would pursue a career in the arts?

I’ve always been artistic, dating back to some of my earliest memories. I remember drawing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a kid and in high school developing my own character designs for comic books. The pursuit of art often went hand and hand with my hunger for general knowledge. I always felt like the better educated my core, the more creative my mind would be. The more you learn the more you can talk about and relate to, and as a result the wider the creative realm that you create in.

I have seen that previously you have made political statements with your art (the Black Lives Matter piece and “Make America Great Again” hat with the “made in China” tag). Do you feel that it is the duty of an artist to bring light to current issues in our society?

I feel it is 100% my responsibility to speak on matters of that nature. Especially with how out spoken I am. I’ve never been a fan of empty art. I feel the same about music which is often a strong catalyst to my creative motivation. I create to pull out an inner emotion, whether my artwork has a blaring social matter in the forefront, or if I’m shooting for a “develop your own correlation” undertone.


You create an abundance of characters in your work. Do you name any of them and give them personality traits?

I usually don’t name my characters. If the character being developed is part of a larger story line then maybe. For the most part my images, and the people within my images are nameless. I will shoot for personality traits through the construction of facial expressions and body language.

I often see foxes represented in your work. Why is that? What is your attachment to them/ what do they represent to you?

The fox theme is often the most asked about aspect in my art. It carries a much deeper meaning than initially perceived by onlookers. To summarize in short: I feel the fox to be my spirit animal for the many sub meanings they possess. I relate more to the Celtic definition that depicts foxes as intelligent spirit guides that know the inner workings of a forest, making them skilled hunters. Therefore, to hunt the best hunter would be the most satisfying quest. In nomadic times hunters would wear the heads of their prey to glorify their kill. I basically inserted the feminine facade into this framework, making women the modern day huntress. Most of my visuals are of women sporting fox heads (the huntress) or men in fox tails (the hunted). I feel it should be noted that this concept was developed shortly after an ugly breakup with a long time significant other (lol) and though my mental state has changed dramatically, the idea is commonly relatable to the larger community.


I’ve noticed that sometimes you will use music artists as your muse. Who are your top 3 favorite music artists currently?

Music is a big influence in my life. My top 3 favorite artist would be Nas, Pharoahe Monch, and Andre 3000. In new aged hip-hop I’ve found myself gravitating toward Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and even Big K.R.I.T.

Does music inspire you to create? (Generally or to create specific characters.)

Music definitely motivates me to create. Music itself is a form of creativity that I strongly respect. The power of music is habitually overlooked. I create music as well (I don’t self promote as often) but it causes me to salute the true lyricist that still exist that believe in creating thought provoking content.


If you had the opportunity to illustrate a cartoon, (not sure if you have previously,) what would it be about?

If I were to create a cartoon it would be about my experience moving to Atlanta for school and going to a HBCU.

What is your favorite illustration by another artist and why?

That’s a hard question because there are a ton of artist that I really enjoy and respect, but more for their style of work and concepts as a whole, and not just for individual pieces. If I were to choose one I’ll take it back a bit and go with Caravaggio’s “Christ Crowned with Thorns” from 1603. Caravaggio possesses a knack for shadows that any artist would envy.

photo courtesy of Wikimedia

What were your top 3 favorite cartoons growing up? What are your top 3 currently?

Growing up: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Simpsons, and Looney Tunes.

Currently: Boondocks, Rick & Morty, and Futurama.

Anime: Akira, Ninja Scroll, and Afro Samurai.

If you could meet anyone you have done an illustration of who would it be and why?

I did an alternative album cover for the rapper Lupe Fiasco a while ago that I really enjoyed. It mashed Lupe and Akira for his album “Tetsuo & Youth”. I feel like he has an interesting perspective on music, politics, and is super creative. I don’t fully agree with all of his notions, but i believe he would provide an excellent conversation.

What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?

Keep drawing, every single day. Strive to learn, improve, and master your craft. Surround yourself with like-minded creative souls, and embrace what separates you from other artist.


What are your goals this year regarding your artistic career?

One of my biggest goals right now is expanding on my artistic exposure, whether through word of mouth or social media. I plan to do more interviews and get into more group and solo shows. I’d like to step outside of my usual creative hubs within Atlanta and Charlotte and maybe enter a show in different cities/states.

Follow Mateo The Inker on Instagram (@mateotheinker) and visit his online store here

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