Matthew Allen - Artist

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Mission Viejo which is a little inland of Dana Point and San Clemente in California.

When did you get your first surfboard?
I was 16. I had spent time on a bodyboard during the summers before that and when I didn't make the baseball team I decided that I would learn to surf. My parents bought me the board for Christmas. It wasn't the best board to learn on but it got the job done.

What do you love about surfing?
So many things. I love the peace it brings me. I love the feeling of moving through the water. I love that it is something that I am continually getting better at and that I can do for, hopefully, the rest of my life. I love that I can get exercise doing something that brings me so much joy. Most of all I love that the time I spend out there in the water is when I feel the closest to God and the most in tune with His creation.

What is your go to board?
I have a 9'5 Regular Surfboard shaped by Max Dexter and a 6'0 Fish shaped by Rich Pavel. Those are the two boards that I ride almost all the time.

What is your favourite surf spot?
Probably Church near San Onofre. There are better waves out there but that is my go to spot.

Who has inspired you?
Jesus Christ, Ron Stoner and John Severson are a few. Jesus inspires me to live my life in a way that is not self serving. I have a lot to learn there. Ron Stoner's photography inspires my photography because he captured the joy of surfing. John Severson had a variety of passions and he excelled at all of them. At various points during his life he has been a surfer, writer, publisher, photographer, filmmaker and artist. I'm sure there are things I'm leaving off there two. As someone who enjoys being creative in many different areas it is inspiring to see what he has accomplished.

What inspired you to follow your career path?
When I was 18 I was surfing in Hawaii and I had an epileptic seizure. At the time I had no idea that I had epilepsy. My world was turned upside down. The doctors told me I'd never surf again and the state took my drivers license away. I was a senior in high school and I couldn't do what I loved to do or even drive myself anywhere. To fill my days I started making art and playing music. After I graduated I took a graphic design class along with some other art classes and found out that there was a way to make art and make a living doing it. Everything else has built from there.

Do you have any triggers to get the creative juices flowing?
Not really. I've been doing it long enough that I can usually get things going when I need to. I'll have times when things randomly strike me but I can usually get myself in the zone.

Do you have a favourite piece that you’ve done?
Most times it is whatever piece I just finished! Lately I've been working on some mixed media stuff creating compositions with my photos, watercolors and pencil drawings. It is kind of a combination of three things I enjoy and I'm able to create pieces that have a little more meaning for me beyond just looking nice.

What sort of education have you had?
I graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a Bachelors of Fine Art with a Graphic Design concentration. Our program allowed us to take fine art classes along with our more traditional design courses. I'm thankful that I was able to have a well rounded art education.

What was your very first job?
I worked on the docks at our local lake. We rented boats out and cleaned up around the area.

What is your current job and what does it entail?
I've decided that I can actually call myself an artist. It is the only word that can really encompas all of the things that I do. I am a freelance illustrator, creating custom type and illustrations for magazines, books, car companies etc. I do some freelance graphic design work. I shoot photos and create art that I sell to galleries and regular folks.

How did you get into the position you are today?
I was blessed to be born into a family that loved me and taught me the value of hard work. God gave me the gift of creativity and when I've headed in the wrong direction he has forcefully redirected me. Much of my life has seemed scripted. I loved baseball, didn't make the team so I started surfing. I put all my energy into surfing, but then I had a seizure and couldn't surf so I started doing art. Then the last day of design class in junior college I met my friend Mike who I ended up starting a clothing company with while I was in college. After college Mike introduced me to my friend Will who told me about a job at Surfer Magazine. I worked at Surfer until our clothing company got big enough that we sold it to Swell, then Billabong. After a couple of years Billabong shut down my clothing company and I was out of work. I could either get another job or try to do freelance work and I chose to risk it and work for myself. About that same time my art started getting a little more popular and I started traveling to do art shows. Now if I had a regular job I wouldn't be able to get enough vacation to be a part of all these things. I guess it is a matter of working hard, making the best out of bad things and taking advantage of good situations when they come to you.

What do you like most about your job?
I like that I can spend my day doing whatever I feel like doing. As long as I don't have a super tight deadline I can dictate what my day looks like. If the waves are good I can surf and take photos during the day and get my work done at night.

Baliwaves tees collaboration 

He has recently teamed up with and created some awesome limited edition tees. We think he is done a great job representing the Balinese flow in a simple yet pure way: the vibration of the ocean and the calmness of the Balinese people. The perfect balance between constant movement and stillness.

You can grab a tee before the 31st of May here: Baliwaves by Matt Allen Tees 


What are your tips for loving your job?
I think this is different for different people. A big part of it is knowing yourself and what makes you happy. For me I love creating things but I don't like being told what to do. That can be a problem, and was sometimes a problem when I had a regular job. Doing what I do now, the people I work with choose to work with me because they want me to help them realize their vision for something and they trust me to do that. I also don't hold as tightly to my vision for projects because I am just helping someone to realize their vision, not convince my boss that my ideas are better than his. So my job works for me. However, I kind of needed my other jobs to get me to where I am now and that learning experience helps me to do my job better and appreciate it more. My biggest tips would be to be a positive person, figure out what you can learn from the situation you are in and think about what makes you happy. If you have something you want to do don't be afraid to chase it. Also don't be afraid of hard work because you are probably going to have to work hard to get or create a job you love. I worked nights for 4 1/2 years building my clothing company while I worked at Surfer. We finally sold the company because I no longer wanted to work two jobs, one of which I wasn't really getting paid for. But in the end it was worth all the hard work and long nights to get me where I am today.

Where can we find you online?

Instagram: @mattallen_art
Twitter: @mattallen_art

Posted by: Troy Roennfeldt, on May 13, 2015
Categories: Interviews