Who are you, where are you and what do you do?

I’m Matt Littler from London, England. I’m a collage artist, freelance illustrator and maverick about town.

Do you remember your first collage and how you got into it in the first place?

It would have been back in art school. I used a lot of found imagery, then messed around with photocopying it and working over that. I’ve been in love with the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat since I was a teenager and you can probably see that influence in my early, early stuff. But I was always into bringing together disparate images to create a whole new story, so that collage element has always been there.

What was the process like getting to what you do today and have you tapped into other types of creative work?

I haven’t stopped creating since I left art school, but it’s taken me a long time to find my thing. I think initially I was experimenting with a lot of different working practices and mediums; although the work was good, it felt like a struggle sometimes. As soon as I started concentrating on solely collage work, everything just clicked.

Do you set the mood to create? Play Reggie Watts or put on incense sticks, light other stuff, maybe?

Ha Ha! To be honest, my process couldn’t me further from that. I’ve found I can’t listen to music at all when I’m working—too much distraction—so I usually put on some talk radio or rolling news, which I find puts me into a zone where I can concentrate.

This year with the madness of Brexit and Trump, I’ve become mildly obsessed with Fox News and Info Wars. It puts me into a mildly apocalyptic mind frame: inducing terror seems to help the creative process.

Tell me more about that process.

I guess the process of finding imagery is totally rooted in sample culture and vinyl collecting. I’ve moved a few times and sold all my records as I was sick of lumping them around. So I suppose I replaced my vinyl habit with a magazine obsession. Luckily where we live there’s loads of second hand shops, so I’m constantly on the hunt for images, looking through old books and magazines for source material. And if I travel anywhere, I make a beeline for charity shops and vintage magazine sellers. There’s a vintage shop in Norwich that I can’t get out of without spending £100 every time.

Once I find something I like, I’ll cut it out and either use it to complete a collage work or file it away to use later. It’s like having a load of jigsaw puzzles on the go where you are waiting for the final piece to complete an image. Sometimes it can take years to finish a collage because that bit you need is being elusive.

I’m kind of borderline O.C.D and have a photographic memory of all the images I’ve collected, so I’m constantly making connections in my head. That’s where the initial image starts, as an imagined thing.

“[…] it may seem random being surrounded by thousands of cut outs, but I actually have a method to the way I work.”

Analog vs digital?

I’d been working digitally as well as drawing and painting since I left college; I found that my work was fluctuating from project to project. I was becoming increasingly frustrated trying to balance commercial work, so it was a sustained effort to move to analog. I just found it completely liberating.

As I said above, it may seem random being surrounded by thousands of cut outs, but I actually have a method to the way I work.

Does your dog sometimes get pissed when you use cats in your collages?

He gets more pissed that I’m working and not throwing a ball for him!

Take me through your day.

I literally work every single day and if I didn’t have a wife and a dog, I’d probably spend a bit more time at my desk! I try to keep a disciplined 9-5, which sounds boring, but the structure gives me the momentum I need to keep going. If I get stuck I’ll just mindlessly cut up images that interest me until the lightbulb goes on again. Or I’ll take the hound down to the pub with my notebook and just doodle and sketch (and drink) until I get a breakthrough. 

You did all the album artwork for Strange U’s current album. How did the connection come about and did you have complete creative freedom?

I did a seven inch for Jehst called Dolph Lundgren that spawned a video which seemed to connect with them. I went to see them on tour and was blown away. I felt that what they were doing just fit perfectly with what I was trying to do, so I pitched them some characters loosely based on the Muppet Show, dada, surrealism and rap. They dug it, so they sent me the demos and I just got on with creating.

What’s your take on personal vs client work?

I’ve got to the stage now where the two are co-existing happily. People come to me because they want my particular style, so it’s not like I have to produce something that isn’t me. I also really like the stimulation of working with other people and being dragged down creative avenues that I wouldn’t normally go on my own. Equally when I’m working on a personal project like the gallery exhibition I just did, I like getting back to playing God a bit with all the characters in my head. 

“[…]there’s always the chance someone else will find the same image”

If you could only use one print publication as a source to produce collages for the rest of your days, which one would it be?

Ha, yeah, I love anything from the 70s. The print quality looks almost futuristic now, as we’re so used to viewing everything on screen. I use old LIFE magazines a lot—not just the article pictures, but the old ads, too. They have some really wacky imagery that you just don’t get now.

What contemporary artists inspire you?

Winston Smith, the Dead Kennedy’s sleeve designer, would be an obvious influence. I try to not look to closely at other collage artists as there’s always the chance someone else will find the same image, and I don’t want to be put off pursuing an idea. As I said earlier, Basquiat has been a huge influence as well as a bit of Predator-era Ice Cube, RAMMELLZEE, Terry Gilliam’s stop motion animations and Ralph Steadman’s Gonzo illustrations. I do like the randomness of Instagram so I’ll check into that every day and have a look around.

What future projects will 2018 bring?

I’m just finishing up Dr Zygote’s solo project, The Maghreban, which is coming out in the New Year. I’ve also just done a Lee Scott project about Jesus Christ wearing Lacoste. Other than that I want to have more exhibitions next year and I’m planning some screen printing projects.

This article was published in BS29

Interview Felix Adler