At Icon Printing HQ in London, we recently printed a new series of t shirts for artist and illustrator Matthew Swan.

We used DTG printing (which is ideal for accurately reproducing intricate, illustrative artwork) to put Matthew’s fantastic, full-colour design onto plain white SOL’S t shirts. Matthew very kindly took the time to have a chat with us about the t shirts, as well as his interest in visual storytelling and how he approaches making such impressive images.

Q. Who’s this on your t shirt?

A. He’s a wizard. He’s wearing a large pot and riding a hoverboard. He’s a really cool guy.


Q. What’s the first thing you do – even before your pencil touches a piece of paper – when you start a new project?

A. I don’t do anything before putting pencil to paper. Every project starts as sketches and notes. I can’t work much out without scribbling things down. However, before I begin I will most likely have a cup of tea. Maybe a biscuit too.


Matthew Swan Harbour master

Above: ‘Harbour master and glorious dog’, acrylic on paper by Matthew Swan.


Q. How do you go about making your images?

A. Each image starts as a thumbnail sketched out in my notebook, then it’s right on to the final piece. Sometimes, I forsake the thumbnails entirely and just start making marks on paper. I enjoy working with a range of materials from pencils, pens and collage to acrylics and gouache.

I can get bored if I work on the same image or project for a long time. Then things start becoming forced and not very fun. I need to switch around a lot to keep up momentum and a degree of spontaneity in my work. Since January, I have been making a zine every month with my pal John Brown. We take it turns to choose a topic and medium. It’s been a really good way of experimenting.


Matthew Swan Pirate Car

Above: A pirate car, taken from Matthew and John Brown’s self-published zine ‘Crazy Cars’


Q. A lot of your work seems to be inspired by comic books and graphic novels, and you also write, illustrate and publish your own stories. When did your interest in comic books begin?

A. The first comic I read was Hellboy when I was 16 and it has remained one of my favourites. Mike Mignola’s drawings are just phenomenal and the character of Lobster Johnson is an excellent creation. In my second year of art college, I picked up The New Avengers on a whim after seeing an issue in my flatmate’s room. I have been a Marvel fan ever since – I’m totally hooked! At the moment, my favourite reads are Black Science and Saga from Image Comics. They are both brilliant.


Matthew Swan Jungle Temple

Above: ‘The Jungle Temple’, acrylic on paper by Matthew Swan


Q. What do you enjoy most about making narrative-based work?

A. I have only recently started making sequential images and I find the process hugely time consuming – particularly the initial planning and reference gathering. But the best thing, aside from drawing intense, fantastical double-page spreads, is being able to make tiny, subtle changes from panel to panel.

Q. Where do you look for inspiration?

A. Folk tales, things in my room, things on the Internet, things in books and things in museums. All of the regular places.

Q. What would be your dream project?

A. A cover or some interior pages for a Marvel book. Any Marvel book. That would be so incredible!