Matt Alderman, Illustrator!

31 05 2010

Matt Alderman describes himself first as an architect (he trained at Notre Dame). He is a Catholic and a writes about sacred architecture for the New Liturgical Movement website. He also has his own blog about all matters Catholic and which is worth a visit, here. It is called the Shrine of the Holy Whapping (don’t ask me what the title means!).

He talks about his art as though its just a hobby  on the side, but I find it interesting. He has, in my opinion, a natural sense of composition and his lines flow gracefully and rhythmically. He fills up the space without it being too cluttered. In this regard it reminds me of the English artist from the turn of the last century, Aubrey Beardsley. There is also something of another English artist, Arthur Rackham, about his work.

Although I can say with certainty I like his work, I find it difficult to pigeonhole. Clearly, the subject matter reflects his faith, featuring lots of saints (and he has Catholic figures such as Dante there too). But the style is not one that which I would normally associate with sacred art (very different from Beardsley, for example who evokes a turn of the century decadence). I couldn’t see Matts’s work in a church as liturgical art, for instance, or even an icon corner in the home as a focus for quiet prayer. It doesn’t make we want to pray. But it does draw me in and make me curious about the personality of the person depicted. These seem to me to be just the qualities that are needed in illustrations, which accompany text. I wonder, Matt, do you get any requests in this regard?

I should explain that I am not downgrading his work by describing it thus. Much of the quality artwork of the last century has come from illustrators.  This point was made to me years ago when I was working as a lowly freelance sub-editor at the The Sunday Times in London. The art critic, Frank Whitford (who was a charming gentleman) always used to include reviews of illustrators’ art exhibitions in his weekly round-up. I can remember him reviewing a show of the work of E.H. Shepherd, for example, the creator of the images of the characters in the Winnie the Pooh books. I asked him why he included so many illustrator’s shows. He said it was because illustrators were, in contrast to most artists nowadays, trained in the skills of drawing and painting and were directing their skills i conformity to an external purpose (rather than self-promotion). Consequently they very often produced the most interesting and original work around.

Above, from top: Dante; St Augustine.

Below, from top: St Catherine disputing with 50 pagans in Alexandria; St Peter Martyr; St John Kemble; Archangel Raphael.




4 responses

1 06 2010

This work is gorgeous. I think your judgement is right that it has the quality of attracting the viewer and providing an alternate and attractive presentation of what might also be presented in text.

I too wonder about these images: were they created individually, as part of a set, or to be paired with some other text? A lot of my Catholic web design work could use or inspire such illustrations. As pieces of art by themselves, in what form should they be presented?

9 06 2010
Matthew Alderman

Dear David,

I know I have thanked you already for this very fine writeup, but I just wanted to do it again, and to thank you for bringing my work to your audience’s attention. I very much enjoy your own writings on this website and also your icons and paintings, which are excellent.

Adam–glad you like my art! I am currently working on a real website for them. Ideally, I’d love to illustrate a book or even a missal, but in most cases the images were created or commissioned as stand-alone drawings or prints, sometimes for artistic purposes but also sometimes for devotional ones or as presents (I am doing it seems a land-office business in confirmation saints!). I’d love to see them bound together in a book, or placed in a simple black-bordered white mat in a simple black frame.

9 06 2010
Matthew Alderman

Also, Adam, while I don’t do actual website design, I have done a number of logos in the past and always welcome commissions for those, bookplates (another source of revenue these days), letterheads, and even heraldic insignia.

9 06 2010

“But it does draw me in and make me curious about the personality of the person depicted.”

That’s how I feel about his work too.

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