T is for Trouble: an interview with fingerpainter Matthew Watkins

Benjamin Rabe

T is for the trouble

(We met Mr. Watkins in shabby café south of the Tiber, 11h am. He arrived very well-dressed though slightly tired out, sipping his macchiato, a nervous tick on the left eye.)

fingerpainted.it: Mr. Watkins they say, suspiciously black cars with tinted screens have been seen in front of your place lately. Any ideas why?
Matthew Watkins: Ha ha… If you are refering to my latest series “T is for trouble” I can tell you that I have the right to remain silent, though I find that increasingly difficult because I am having so much fun!

Tell us a bit more about it: it’s called ‘T is for Trouble, an ABC of crime’, so it certainly is for little kids? What’s the idea behind it?
It’s true that I started writing for children, older children, but by the time i got to C it was all over… I was making a book for adults.

As for the idea… I guess I have always loved noir, and been a big fan of crime fiction. As it turns out a lot the inspiration is drawn from going to school in Toronto and from my travels. As an art student i would go with a friend to Toronto’s seediest bars and draw the characters there. Many were ex-convicts or on paroll, and as one kind waiter pointed out to me “That’s a good way to get you hands broken”. But men would sit and chat, and if you bought them a beer they were happy to tell you their story. Stories of veterans, heroes and criminals. Some were really sad.

Telling stories is the hook here: it seems you like to combine words and paintings, would you call yourself rather a writer or a painter? or is that an artificial distinction to you?
I try not to get hung up on definitions. I don’t think that art is a status that gets conferred on you. As far as artistic merit goes I make no distinction between drawing writing or painting. It’s all part of the same conversation with the viewer.

Back to the ABC: it’s quite an opus, how did you get started: text or paintings first? and how long did it take you?
Starting with A… one drawing, one text. Repeat 25 times. When i got to Z i went back though it and changed the texts and paintings a little. Then I added a little colour. It’s still pretty rough, but i think I got my point accross and…

(At this point a gang of hitmen enetered the café and when I turned back to Mr. Watkins he was gone. What a busy man!)

So, here’s the whole set; lean back and enjoy!

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