London-based illustrator Bo Matteini: has many strings to his bow, immersing himself in multiple aspects of the creative industries; as well as an illustrator, he is a designer, stylist, painter and art director. Drawing, however, is Bo’s bread and butter. His expressive, undulating lines deliver his subjects with a delightfully fluid touch, rendered in a bold, high-contrast palette of block monochromes and pastel hues.
“I was always drawing as a kid,” Bo tells us, “but I sort of fell out of love with it as I got older and chose to play music instead. I didn’t actually go university until I was 24, this being a sort of last-minute thing as I saw that all my friends were graduating and I thought – ‘have I missed out on something here?’.” It was during a talk on the purpose of illustration at the beginning of Bo’s studies that he began to truly consider the possibilities of the medium: “I remember a tutor of mine defining the word as ‘to illuminate’ or ‘to shine a light on a subject’ which I found quite eye-opening.”
Bo comments that “illustration is given a bad rep and is somewhat devalued when compared to other visual arts, due to how the medium is purposed within the industry, but I think it’s more than that.” His practice is dedicated to exploring the “more”, to seeing what a drawing has the power to express, what can be contained within its lines. “Recently,” he tells us, “I’ve been doing a lot more observational drawings – trying to stick to a location and just draw what I see. Doing this has been super helpful in developing my skills and patience – how to simplify something and keep to the same visual language. Drawing in public is of course always lots of fun… seriously, if you can get over people staring, it’s a great resource.”
Describing his approach to creating, Bo says: “I like to set myself ‘informal rules’ when making work. I think this might be far more of a subconscious, abstract idea than I’m qualified to explain, but it’s sort of like looking at the set of intuitions you have when making a drawing – where you would start, what you choose to omit, what you would use to visually represent the subject. Things like: having certain elements more fully realised and others more abstracted, or having lines intersect to create other shapes – it’s stuff like this that I really nerd out about.”
Bo’s observational practice functions almost like a kind of visual journal, in which he records his immediate environment, either directly or conceptually. He tells us: “I keep sketchbooks with me all the time now since graduating, it’s sort of become part ritual, part burden haha!” It seems to Bo that the more he visually documents and interprets, the more there is to illustrate, and having to select subjects and instants from the rich abundance of life around him is one of the key challenges he encounters; he often finds himself “thinking about all the things and other moments I could have captured, and ways I could improve myself.”
And what better place to select scenes and subject matter from than Glastonbury Festival, an epicentre of exuberance? The festival forms the subject of Bo’s recent series of illustrations based on drawings from his sketchbook. A regular attendee of the internationally famous annual festival, Bo says: “I’ve started taking a sketchbook every year now, 2019 being my fourth time going. Carrying a sketchbook has become a nice way of capturing the weekend with my mates. Psychedelics and drawing… interesting to say the least.” Full of movement and energy, Bo’s drawings ripple with the festival’s animated spirit.