Eye-Hacker Graphic Novel
It seems like only yesterday that I set out on the journey which in all likelihood will become my largest visual art and storytelling masterpiece, a statement I don't make with the slightest modicum of exaggeration. Truthfully, I've had a bug up my butt to create a graphic novel since I first dove into the one which would make me fall in love with the genre, 'The Crow' by James O'Barr.
For those who aren't familiar, this classic piece of poetic macabre centers around Eric Draven who is brutally murdered along with the love of his life and is revived through the aid of a magical crow. He then goes on a quest for revenge, reeling with memories of his past life and longing to be reunited with his love in death. (I've always had a taste for dark stuff and this story was absolutely no exception).
The triumph of this story is due in large part to O'Barr as both the writer and illustrator, and let me tell you the man rocks 5 stars in both categories. Not only is the story utterly compelling but my God, the artwork is absolutely gorgeous especially for the old school technology available at the time. You can tell that this entire project was one that emerged straight out of his own soul and clearly struck a chord with many people including myself.
I had the esteemed pleasure of meeting the man himself at a convention a couple years ago, an experience etched in my brain as one of the most delightful of my life thus far. You've gotta love when you meet your heroes and they're actually cool people. Attempts have been made to adapt this epic story to film (with varying levels of success) most notably starring Brandon Lee, son of none other than the martial artist and philosopher Bruce Lee.
'The Crow' Special Edition
But I digress from the challenge here which O'Barr evaded by taking a more difficult yet simpler path. It turns out that aligning a writer and visual artist's visions/levels of motivation around a graphic novel project is a very hard thing to do, as I would discover through multiple attempts to cowrite numerous projects. Telling someone else's story wasn't gonna work for me. I had to do as O'Barr had done and tap into a tale which was truly my own, which is also much easier said than done.
'The Crow' signed art print
Practically anyone who's been within 5 feet of me for the past number of years knows of my love of mythology, but when I look back in time the origins of this story began before I was even aware of it. The very first character was an alien bounty hunter with a supercharged ship, and the name of the Greek titan Prometheus.
Little did I know how this seed of an idea would later unfold...It was only after I'd discovered and promptly binged 'The Power of Myth' interviews with Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers on Netflix that my mind's eye would be irrevocably flung open to the significance of mythic storytelling through my artwork.
The life encased inside the egg of this burgeoning concept suddenly yearned to come out. For several months I was planted on the couch with my antennas up, receiving and capturing the puzzle pieces into notebook form. Scattered ideas formed into sections, and sections organized into an entire cohesive storyline.
Looking back, I'm so entirely grateful that I decided to write the story before embarking on the illustrations. I couldn't even imagine the opposite process because I simply wouldn't know what to draw. Once I'd written it, then I was able to evenly divide it into individual books, then divide the books into phases, and finally write down what would happen on each page. At this point I felt comfortable to safely table it until I would pick up the stacks of pages and begin to block out the compositions, and now I've arrived at beginning the concept art.
Ultimately, I plan to upload all of the sketched pages into Illustrator and live stream the creation of each page, released in volumes rather than doing the whole damn thing in isolation. My wholehearted belief in working from macro to micro has held gallons worth of water throughout this whole process.
13 stacks of 100 pages each
The unearthed narrative blends my love of spirituality, The Hero's Journey, fantasy, sci-fi, existentialism, world building, so many of my deepest fascinations all in one container. This story is the sum of my curiosity, the size of my imagination colored by metaphors of my life experience. When I would tell one of the handful of people that I was working on a graphic novel and they asked what it was about, I struggled to boil it down without diluting it. One of the most important triumphs after the writing was complete was to distill two pieces which get you into the spirit of what it's truly about.
First, the prose: "What is it that stirs within the human heart and mind, echoing between the imperceptible to the awe striking vastness? If we were to peel back the onion skin of our persistent delusions, dare we witness the heart of the universe inside ourselves in all its madness and miracles, rage and ecstasy, grief and joy, animism and revelations? If so, we may find ourselves more dynamic and beautifully interwoven than we ever knew. If you hear this call and feel compelled to bless your vision with the revealing light of true exploration, then join me through the pages of Eye-Hacker"
And the plot, in a nutshell: "The Dreaming World of Vidranil stands on the brink of oblivion, imperiled by its former heir turned worst nightmare. Nosephagris, cursed lord of the Pit of Never marshals wretched hellions led by his chosen champions, Trivium. Hope rests on the image of an unlikely heroine, ordained by the creative forces of the universe, and object of its favored son's wrath. This cosmic quest calls for her wholehearted devotion, but the real journey will be to find the Truth within herself."
With that, I'll let the art do the talking and cap off the official announcement of this truly one-of-a-kind story: The Eye-Hacker Saga!
Gris and Forye, cosmic creative forces swirling
Inside the Dreaming Seed
Faces of Gris and Forye
Ayo and world of Grivan
3 Champions at Brevinus
If you're someone who knows and loves what Quantum Keyhole is about (if you've read this far then I'm gonna assume that's you) I need you to understand some things about me. I’ve realized myself to be an artist since I picked up a pencil and fell in love with creativity at 7 years old. Since then, art has become so knit with my identity that I can hardly tell where it ends and I begin.
At this stage in my journey, it’s become clear that this is deeper than a hobby but rather the reason why I was put on this earth: To create and unlock creativity in others. I truly believe that when you have a deep calling that gets you up each day, you owe it to yourself and everyone who you can serve to devote yourself to it whatever it takes, and ideally your gift should sustain your life.
I have a sense of urgency towards this mission of art for humanity and building the life of my dreams, that runs through every single thing that I do. I constantly oscillate between working in the moment and drawing closer to a vision of the future, being present with everyday people and desiring to create and experience the most magnificent impact. In short, I want it all and I want it as soon as possible, and I know this about myself.
Matt speaking at Gypsy House
Inversely, I don't have time for things that burn out my energy and keep me in a superficial place. I have no patience for casually coasting through life, being distracted by fair weather people who are out of alignment with the things that are truly important to me. As many people who are closest to me will tell you, there are a ton of things that I care so little about that they barely register on my radar. On the other side of the coin, I have such a crystal clear idea of what is important to me that I feel it on an existential level.
The aspiration of truly winning in this arena of professional artistry represents not only victory unto itself but also fuels every other critical part of my life: It allows me to provide for myself and my family through my true calling, brings freedom to live the life of my dreams, buys me time, space and materials to continue creating art to the absolute fullest, allows me to reach and transform the lives of people across the world, and so much more. In short, money represents mobility and in this case, empowers a dream that we may all build together.
Painting Fortuna - Photo Credit: Cody Sanborn
I’ve simply reached a point in my journey where I don’t want to get to the end of my life and say “I wish I’d done more”. At the end of the day, I want to be in the winner’s circle with people who fill my heart with admiration. I love seeing people who’ve been able to achieve something amazing, especially professional artists because it sends a message that “Someone made it. That person broke through”.
The reason I'm telling you all this is to give you a sense of the iceberg of a dream that I can't help but work to bring into reality. My #1 focus right now, the thing that will truly give flight to every venture is to build an enthusiastic community of supporters a.k.a. 'Champions' who are not only passionate about the art but even more largely the mission behind it all which is to promote creativity and self awareness, using the art as mirrors for the Self. I love the word 'champions' because 1. It's heroic, and 2. A champion not only has the mindset of an achiever but may also be used to describe a proponent of a cause.
Ashe in Siegfried Hoodie
My vision is for my closest supporters to also be my friends, and to be rewarded for contributing to the health of the mission through Quantum Keyhole. Lately I've been developing a structure for a collector 'Champions' club which entails perks, discounts, first invites to events, free goodies, studio visits, even digital badges for various purchases, etc. Everyone who purchases at least one item becomes eligible to join. I've been fascinated with the approach of gamifying how supporters can interact with the business and with this system I'm finally cracking that code.
I've recently started doing thank you posts for everyone who has purchased a piece, whether it be a greeting card, hoodie, print or what have you. I enjoy giving a shoutout to people who truly connect and support my craft through their contributions.
The second reason I'm lit up about these changes is honest to God gratitude. I know what it's like to roll up to a show, pay their fee and put the ol' line out there waiting for the fish with varying levels of success. I know what it's like to do all that work, keeping the flame of optimism alive and sell absolutely nothing. Especially if you've paid what you might consider a hefty vending fee, that can be a pretty crushing feeling. If you're a fellow artist who's experienced this (which is basically most if not all of us, with rare exceptions) my heart goes out to you and I'm here to tell you it's not the end of the road, and I still have days like that.
Matt at Athmar Park vending event
Those dog days have not only given me emotional calluses but also a true appreciation for those solid mutually beneficial connections. When you witness a piece of art that reflects a part of you back to yourself in a way that you may or may not be able to put your finger on, that glow coming through the eyes is the greatest reward.
When you as the artist are in a place of self awareness and honed development of your art, when the message of your art meets a person who understands the language before you even open your mouth, you know you're in the presence of one of your people. There's no art critic that can get in the way of this harmonious exchange. You know in an instant that you've hit the mark in the most beautiful way possible.
Here I'm delighted to tell you the most brilliant revelation that recently came to me...For all these years I've naively believed that I was selling art when in fact what I'm selling is the experience of coming alive, which is made possible through the art. I say this with utmost openness and earnestness, and once you as an artist truly realize this then the whole game changes. The visible craft has an invisible effect. If you seek to blow people's minds with your art, first aim to blow your own mind and once you do, let that glow cast on everyone who's open to you.
Matt at Love Language 2 Year Anniversary