These local artists combine creepy and cute to forge their own artistic path.
As a child, Matt Duncan was an introvert who used his considerable drawing skills and creative mind to connect with his peers.
“I wasn’t the most social kid,” admits Matt, who lives in Fern Park. “At birthday parties, I would sit down and sketch, and then all the other kids would come over to me and ask what I was drawing. That was a way to overcome anxiety and also relate to the kids. I would start with a blank page and then with just lines and shapes I would create something that made them feel a certain way. That clicked with me immediately.”
Now 29, Matt is a freelance artist, music producer, and videographer who recently signed a deal to license some of his animated characters to the online entertainment network Crypt TV. He is also a well-liked instructor at Shayna’s Village at The Roth Family JCC in Maitland, where he teaches introductory film and photo classes for preschoolers.
A self-taught artist, Matt is the creator of a kooky collection of creatures, mutants, and monsters called Creeptoons, which inhabit a bleak environment known as Creeptopia.
Although his artwork can be very dark, Matt tries to strike a balance between scary and cute. His oddball characters often have big heads, large eyes, and skinny bodies. Some have jagged teeth, zipper-like smiles, and malevolent expressions; others look melancholy or even lonely.
Matt hopes that people will take a close look at his characters and realize that things aren’t always as scary as they initially seem.
“Maybe you’ll see something more, like a soul in the eyes,” Matt says. “Maybe you’ll even feel bad for the creature and have empathy for it.”
Matt has always been surrounded by nontraditional art. His artistic influences include the animated comedy The Simpsons and experimental 1990s cartoons such as The Ren & Stimpy Show.
And, Matt grew up in a family that was both musical and artistic. His maternal grandfather, Joe Petrovich, won an Academy Award in 1971 for Best Animated Short Film for The Crunch Bird. The quirky cartoon is about a woman who buys her husband a strange bird that possesses an unusual talent.
“It’s very similar to my art,” says Matt, whose favorite artistic medium is watercolors. “It’s a little bit creepy and kind of funny and satirical. I feel like art is just in my blood.”
Matt graduated in 2008 from Deltona High School, where he was the comic artist for his school newspaper. He studied music production at Stetson University and Daytona State College.
His fiancée, Stefani Rabideaux, is also a self-taught artist. Her artwork, a mash-up of pinup girl imagery and cartoons, features beautiful females who light up a dark world.
Stefani and Matt frequently exhibit side-by-side at conventions such as MegaCon Orlando and DesignerCon in California. They’ll be vendors at this year’s MegaCon Orlando, which is May 16-19. And in October, the couple will have a Halloween-themed exhibit at Stranger Factory, a gallery in New Mexico, where they often show their art.
Their work falls into a visual art movement known as lowbrow art, or pop surrealism.
“It’s not necessarily fine art,” says Matt, who loves the genre’s anything-goes attitude and lack of pretension. “It’s cartoon imagery mixed with social commentary and whatever you want.”
Even though they’re both visual artists working in the same genre, Stefani and Matt aren’t competitive with each other. Rather, their artistic styles are different enough that they complement one another.
“We lift each other up,” says the 28-year-old Stefani, who first met Matt in art class at Deltona High. “When he sells something, I feel like I’ve sold something.”
Matt’s work has been garnering quite a bit of attention lately. Several of his Creeptoons characters are being featured in animated form on Crypt TV, which specializes in horror-themed digital content. Last summer, Matt signed a licensing agreement with the entertainment company to run his first-ever Creeptoons cartoon.
The three-minute episode is posted on Crypt TV’s Facebook and YouTube sites. All the characters were hand-painted by Matt, who used animation software to turn the paintings into a cartoon. He also wrote the music for the episode and voiced one of the characters.
The project, which he collaborated on with artist Gus Fink, took about six months to complete. The cartoon is the first episode in what Matt hopes will become a series; he is hard at work on the second episode now.
“That is the most fun I’ve ever had doing anything,” Matt says about this new venture.
Ultimately, Matt wants to create a full-blown, imaginary world like the Simpsons’ town of Springfield or even Disney – but populated with his brand of creepy-cute, bizarre characters.
“I just like the idea of making a world of characters where people can go and explore it,” Matt says.
To see more of Matt’s work, log on to Instagram.com/Creeptoons. To see more of Stefani’s art, visit Instagram.com/FikaArt.
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