Nick Matej Works His Own Way

1.  What’s your name and title/business name?  Where are you located, city,  state, country location?

My name is Nick Matej and I live in Cleveland, Ohio. I’m currently working at a local print shop and I moonlight as a freelance illustrator and lettering artist.

36days05_A2. What’s your educational and professional background, i.e., college, professional school, high school, apprenticeship, etc.?

I attended Kent State University for several years with a focus in Fine Arts before getting a degree in Graphic Design from Cleveland State University. I had been drawing and painting as early as I can remember so I thought I would go to school to become a fine arts painter. As time went on, my interests and aspirations began to change. Some friends turned me on to design, so I switched my focus and fell in love with it. I ended up getting a job in the printing industry while in school, which is something I’m still doing today.

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3. Preferred tool(s) and medium?

Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop are my go-to combo. I’ve experimented with a lot in different markers, materials, and things like that, but I’m most comfortable taking a quick paper or iPad sketch and fleshing things out in Illustrator. I’m not super tidy or good about sketching even though I’ve tried. It just doesn’t work for me like I know it does for a lot of people. I remember watching a Skillshare class with Simon Walker—one of my favorite lettering artists—where he gave insight into his process. He creates these amazingly refined pieces, but he barely does any sketching or planning. He’ll draw some thumbnails on things he has lying around his desk, like a utility bill or something like that. Those give him a general direction and the project develops from there in Illustrator. Seeing that made me feel better about some of my own process. You can get great results even if you don’t work the “conventional” way. It’s really just up to the individual.

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4. Where or how do you “recharge your creative battery,” i.e., books, blogs, music, art, exercise, meditation, prayer, hobbies, interests, etc.?

I like to listen to music and play a bit of guitar here and there, which is a nice escape from the computer. I try to spend a lot of time outside. We have a great art museum here so I visit that often. If I’m hitting a rut or getting frustrated, I’ll step away from the work or maybe look through some design blogs or Pinterest for inspiration.

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5. Tell us something about you that might surprise or delight us.

A lot of people are surprised that I’ve never had a “real” design job. Working at a firm never had much appeal to me, so I’ve taken a somewhat unconventional path. In the past few years my freelance work has been ramping up and it’s becoming my main priority. I’m hoping to make the jump into full-time freelance work very soon. Wish me luck!

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