Instagram Spotlight: 2D Designer Matt Howorth

Looking for some creative artist accounts to follow on Instagram? Don't worry, we've got you covered! This month we chatted with 2D Designer, Matt Howorth, who is based in our Manchester studio.

He's already accumulated a huge following of over 28K on his Instagram account - @matthoworth - and a quick scroll through will help you see why. His account is full to the brim of charming character designs that ooze effortless ease. There's also plenty of pop-culture references scattered throughout, from Disney princesses to Game of Thrones to Harry Potter.

We had a scroll through and picked out some pieces to chat with Matt about!

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Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Hi! My name is Matt I'm a Character Designer and Illustrator. I work as a 2D Designer at Brown Bag Manchester and previously worked for Nickelodeon, Blue Zoo, and as an Illustrator for children's picture books.

How would you best describe your work?

I'd say I focus mostly on character work, I like to create concepts or drawings based on character concepts or stories and try to put my own style into them. I like to keep my work loose and colourful, and love ocean or sea themes, so you'll find a lot of mermaids and sailors on my feed.

Got any favourite artists? Whose work inspires you most?

Pretty much any contemporary artist working in animation! I can't get enough of the artwork behind shows and movies and follow as many artists as I can on social media. My favourites have to be Deanna Marsigliese, Daniel Arriaga, Matt Nolte, and Jim Kim.

Mid-century Illustrators such as Sheliah Beckett, Mary Blair, and Bernice Myers. I love how they combine their limited colour schemes with black inks.

As for classic artists, I love the work of Egon Schiele and Toulouse Lautrec, particularly their line quality which I've definitely taken inspiration from.

Your style looks so charming and effortless! How do you achieve this?

Thank you! I try to not be so worried about the technical aspects of a drawing and focus more on just enjoying the process. I think you can nearly always tell looking at a sketch or painting and see whether the artist has enjoyed working on the piece, so in my own work, I only ever work to create something I enjoy working on.

It seems a simple idea, but it works! I'm really not a perfectionist, so I like to keep my lines loose and have fun with colour, and tend to draw cute things.

You've got some great pop culture references in your feed, ranging from Game of Thrones to Disney Princesses! What appeals to you when choosing something to draw? And how do you go about recreating a beloved character in your own style? 

Well firstly, I have to be a fan of whatever it is I'm going to draw, be it Princesses, Game of Throne, Star Wars etc. And it usually all comes down to the character's personality, as that's where most of the inspiration comes from, along with the appeal of them visually.

I usually try to get the essence of the character in drawing itself, be it Ariel's fun-loving nature, or Gandalf's sagely calmness.

How do you develop your work and skill set and what motivates you to do so? 

I like to take time, not every day, but usually on weekends, to sit and draw for myself. It can be for 20 minutes or take up the whole day, but exploring my own ideas without any influence from anyone else helps me feel out parts of my skills I might not have used at work.

And the gratification of seeing something I've drawn or painted, even if I don't share it with anyone else, is what makes it worthwhile for me. If there are things I might not have drawn for a while and feel a little rusty with, I'll take some time to sketch pages of those as well.

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How do you approach a personal project and is this very different than your approach to a professional one?

I approach them in similar ways. I look at the 'brief', do some research, so I'm more informed and have some ideas, sketch out a bunch of drawings and slowly whittle them down and refine them. The only difference with personal projects is I get to approve the final designs haha!

Can you tell us a bit about the piece below?

This was for a portfolio project of mine a few years ago, based on Terry Pratchett's book 'Witches Abroad', which is set in a fantasy medieval world, and the story is a twist on a few classic fairytales.

I love fairytales and Pratchett's writing, and think the story could make a great animated feature, so I wanted to explore the characters in it. Along with the main cast, I also explored the extras and background characters that could exist in this world.

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It was a super fun project, and I loved getting into each character's head and finding shape language and design choices that could inform the design of their personality.

And this piece?

This was part of a fan art series I did of classic cartoons, portraying the characters in my own style. It was super fun and I had a great time revisiting these cartoons that I grew up with. I did Courage the Cowardly Dog, As Told by Ginger, Johnny Bravo, The Powerpuff girls… It was always intended as an ongoing project, so I'd love to get around to including Ed, Edd and Eddy, or The Wild Thornberrys!

What tools do you use in your work and what is your favourite?

All the work of mine you'll see online is 100% drawn and painted in Photoshop, either with a Cintiq or tablet.

If I'm working for myself in sketchbooks I use col-erase Prismacolor pencils, really cheap block watercolours, and I have these old twist Crayola crayons, which get the job done.

When I'm drawing for myself I just like to get the ideas down and have fun with it. It's quite an organic, childlike process which is what I enjoy about it.

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Do you have any other creative outlets?

I love to cook and bake! If I wasn't in animation, I think I'd definitely like to be making sweets and pastries in a cafe somewhere. There is something about cooking that I find really calming, and watching someone enjoy something you've created is a great feeling.

I'm also an avid plant Dad…I might have named a few of them.

What are your aspirations for the future?

I want to continue to work in animation, creating characters for shows and features, and eventually move into art directing. I also want to illustrate more children's books at some point, it's a process that will never get old for me.

Anahita Tabarsi

Anahita is Brown Bag Films' Marketing Director, Digital & Social and drinks more than five coffees a day...

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