Minding the Curve with Mattie Hinkley
by Shannon Jay
Mattie Hinkley’s exaggerated and clothes-free style evolved throughout the years for a lot of reasons. It happened between shifts between schools or mediums and loneliness in cross-country celibacy or shifting power dynamics when she got back in the bedroom. Somewhere along the way, she stopped using reference materials for her characters and separating sex from any other bodily movement. Side-by-side skateboarders and surfers are featured with sixty-niners and suckers. She’ll be showing some work at her own table next week at NOICE, Norfolk’s Original Indie Comic Expo.
Seems like you've lived a lot of places on both coasts, how has each environment shaped your aesthetic?
I grew up in Virginia but went to furniture school in northern California, so I lived there for three years, and I've just returned to Virginia. Going to California was great, in a way, because I lived in a small rural town with no friends, so I just spent all my free time in my room drawing, and really figured out how I like to draw, what felt good. I had the opportunity to be very introspective. I was lonely and sad and experienced long periods of celibacy, but my art is better now.
Why is sex such a strong subject in your work and (especially considering the androgyny and queerness within many figures) what are you trying to say with this focus?
I don't want to fabricate a false narrative here so I'll be honest and say that, really, I'm just interested in drawing bodies and sex is something I think about so often that it makes its way into what my drawn bodies are doing. I also draw bodies skateboarding and walking around, but people don't seem to care as much about that. So, if anything, I'm trying to say that sex doesn't have to be any more important (or funny or dramatic or sinister) than anything else. Maybe sex is my still life, my bowl of fruit. As far as the form of the bodies, regarding their presentation as androgynous and queer, I suppose that's directly reflective of how my own body feels -- it's the type of body I know best -- and it feels uncomfortable (and boring) to draw them any other way.
How has drawing sexy pictures for 3+ years changed your relationship with the act itself (either internally or through people's reactions & responses to your work)?
I don't know that it has. Well, actually, at some point, after repeated uncomfortable (read: gross) responses from straight men about my work, I stopped drawing men in dominant positions, and that idea seeped into my personal sex life as well. So maybe it deepened my feminist resolve in the bedroom.
What came first, woodworking or illustration?
Illustration, for sure. I've been drawing since I was little; I went to SCAD at 18 intending to major in illustration (I quickly dropped out but that's another story). Woodworking only came into my life 3 or 4 years ago.
How does each medium inform each other? What do you get out of each creatively?
Initially they were wholly unrelated, except maybe that I had confidence in accurately sketching furniture designs. I learned the fundamentals of woodworking and furniture making first so I was making traditional cabinets, tables, chairs. But as I've grown as a woodworker, I feel more confident in creating my own forms and shapes, so certainly my illustration style is more and more evident in my wood pieces. For me, woodworking is a technical practice, a stressful but rewarding learning experience, whereas illustration is calming, a release, an expression. Though that switches.
Both mediums are an exercise in shapes and curves. What's your relationship to simple shapes and slick curves?
The way I draw and design is more intuitive than intentional, for sure. I wish all the time that I created differently, that my lines were wobblier, that my shapes were wonkier, and I work toward that, but when I sit down to draw or design, what naturally comes out is usually simple and clean. What can you do.
Your art from a few years ago was more realistic and defined, how did you get to more exaggerated and ambiguous characters?
I stopped using reference material. I was doodling in a sketchbook on a plane, this was winter of 2016, and I started drawing figures without trying to make them accurate, messing with their proportions, and it immediately felt so much better, more freeing, more honestly expressive. Maybe that's corny to say. I don't know. But I had never realized how constricted I felt by drawing realistically until I stopped, then I never wanted to start again.
“Maybe sex is my still life, my bowl of fruit”
What were the subjects of some of your earliest pieces? In my "research" (creeping) I stumbled upon what I'm assuming is your MySpace full of fantastical animals - I'd love to explore that connection to your current human focus.
Oh gosh, I'm a bit embarrassed. Yeah, those are mine; I used to draw animals all the time, and would give them human traits or body parts, a human head with a pig body or something. Maybe it was a young vegan's crusade to get people to see the connection between us, and I just exhausted that proselytizing part of myself.
how is your work different in the context of comics and zines?
I've started a hundred comics but never finished them. I would make a few panels then get stressed and stop. I'm not confident in my storytelling. I feel comfortable with one-liners or quick back-and-forths, but not long narratives. On top of that, I like the ambiguity of my characters: their thoughts and actions left vague for the viewer to interpret. So the comic I've been working on for this expo doesn't really have dialogue (or at least, doesn't have text bubbles). But I'll also have a woodworking how-to zine there which is chock-full of text.
What's your "day job" if not woodworking/arting full-time & how do you find work/life balance?
Thankfully I do sell art and woodwork regularly, but I also work at a coffee shop and as a dogsitter, and I've been lucky enough to receive a lot of scholarships and grants while in school. It's so hard to find balance, and I don't know that I do. I stay up late and wake up early. I drink a lot of coffee. I eat microwaveable meals. I neglect self-care and over-commit to art projects then bemoan them when the deadline approaches. I wish I were more productive but life is exhausting.
You’re finishing up a degree, although you've been to other schools will this be your first Bachelor's? What do you plan to do after school? (Every student's most dreaded question)
Yeah, so, I'm at VCU in the Craft + Material Studies department, and hopefully will finish in May 2020 with a BFA. Then I'll apply to every residency and fellowship I can get my hands on (/afford). Then after a couple years, my plan is to seek out graduate programs for Furniture Design and try to earn a Master's degree so that I can teach. Or if I can swing a permanent teaching position with only a Bachelor's, do that. So wood teacher by day, illustrator by night, human being on the weekends.