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A Colossal Collab

Featured Photo from A Colossal Collab

Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris, taps Casselberry artist Matt Duncan to illustrate her debut album

When artist and animator Matt Duncan noticed a compliment on his Instagram page from Paris Jackson – none other than the daughter of Michael Jackson – he was flattered.

“I just thought that was so cool, but I didn’t think anything would come out of it – like a professional job!” the 31-year-old Casselberry resident says.

So, when Paris asked Matt to do the artwork for her debut solo album, Wilted, he was blown away. What followed was a whirlwind couple of weeks in 2020 creating art for the album’s front and back covers, an animated lyric video for the first single, “Let Down,” and looped teaser videos for the other tracks.

Wilted, which Paris has described as an alt-folk record, hit #1 on the iTunes U.S. alternative albums chart after its November 13 release. The album’s hypnotic, dreamy sound is miles away from the iconic music of her late father, “The King of Pop.”

After Matt posted an announcement about his collaboration with Paris, the 22-year-old singer-songwriter commented, “So grateful for you... what a blessing,” followed by two heart emojis. Matt, who has been promoting his work on Instagram for about seven years, has more than 51,000 followers.

“It’s just crazy to me that all this happened on a social-media app,” Matt says. “I didn’t have to drive to an interview or do a meeting or submit my portfolio or anything like that. My portfolio is my social media.”

Matt is the mastermind behind a cartoon collection of creatures, mutants, and monsters known as Creeptoons who inhabit a surreal universe called Creeptopia. His unusual characters, or Creeps, range from downright scary to weirdly cute, many with jagged grins, lopsided eyeballs, and oversized heads.

A mostly self-taught artist, Matt graduated in 2008 from Deltona High, where he was the comic artist for the school newspaper. Matt, who is also a musician, studied music production at Stetson University and Daytona State College. His art and animation have been featured on Crypt TV, which highlights horror-themed digital content, and at Stranger Factory, a gallery in New Mexico that specializes in contemporary character design, illustration, lowbrow art, and narrative art.

As with most visual artists, the pandemic has greatly affected Matt’s ability to sell his pieces face-to-face. Two of his biggest in-person events – the popular MegaCon Orlando and DesignerCon in California – were canceled last year because of the COVID-19 crisis. A few freelance gigs fizzled out, too.

Fortunately, Matt had built up an audience for his bizarre brand of artwork on Instagram and his Etsy shop, and he had begun posting animated shorts and time-lapse videos of his drawings on YouTube. So, Matt resolved to redouble his efforts on the social-media networks and other platforms he was already using.

“COVID really did make me push myself and work a lot harder than I knew I could,” says Matt, who creates in his home studio and on his laptop when he’s on-the-go. “I had to, because I had no backup plan.”

Matt’s artistic procedure involves using a combination of hand-painted and digital illustration techniques for drawing and painting, along with animation software. One of the most time-consuming aspects of the Paris collaboration was drawing and animating the lyric video for “Let Down.” The video, which runs a little over four minutes, features multiple characters including a Cyclops-style mushroom and a melancholy-looking Creep holding a drooping flower. Paris posted the video on YouTube, where the singer’s fans have weighed in, not only about the music and her pretty voice, but also the animation.

“It’s cool seeing all the comments, with people saying they like the dark style,” Matt says.

The artist was honored to work on the Wilted project and is impressed by the multi-talented Paris, who plays guitar in addition to singing and writing songs. Besides her musical pursuits, the young woman is also a model, a film and TV actress, and an activist. Matt is hopeful that his work for Paris will lead to more jobs creating animated music videos  for bands.

“I would have never thought I could work with Paris Jackson or a person on that level,” says Matt. “I wouldn’t have knocked on her door because I would have thought, ‘That’s not going to happen.’ This whole experience did make me think, ‘Wow, maybe I’m thinking too small and I should try bigger things.’ This has been my life goal, to just make a living doing art and animation and stuff that I really enjoy. I just feel really happy and lucky that I can animate creepy monsters.”

To see more of Matt’s work, check out his Instagram page @creeptoons.

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