Matthew McDole was raised on a farm in Bedford, KY, and currently resides in Louisville, KY. He is an illustrator, painter, designer, and skateboarder. His work explores love, mystery, and the macabre.
He mixes tattoo flash-art style with pop culture references, seamlessly blending deadpan humor with a modest amount of melancholy. McDole’s clean, graphic imagery expresses a kind of be-happy, life-is-meaningless attitude. Ultimately, however, McDole is a romantic and this feeling of insignificance is a cause for celebration and reason to enjoy life. He believes people should make the best of their situations in the brief amount of time they have.
The imagery in his work references all manner of symbols from intimate to absurd. His designs reflect personal experiences and interests that highlight joys found in life both large and small. These things are great reminders that things aren’t always so serious, and we don’t always need to sweat the small stuff.
His work has been featured twice in skateboarding's most iconic publication, Thrasher Magazine, including this interview published August 2021:
Canvas Artist Profile: Matthew McDole
Matthew is a Louisville-based artist and avid skateboarder who mixes tattoo flash-art style with pop culture references. His work is a blend of macabre and deadpan humor. While he doesn’t generally create specific narratives within his work, he does draw upon his personal background and experiences. The tone of his work expresses a kind of be-happy, life-is-meaningless attitude. Rather than being consumed by seemingly negative feelings, McDole sees them as a cause of celebration and reason to enjoy life more. —Daniel Pfalzgraf
In your art pieces which have numerous items juxtaposed together, I could swear there’s a detailed story being told. However, in your Canvas write-up, Daniel says you’re not necessarily creating specific narratives. Can you settle this matter?
Sometimes there is a story or an overall theme but a lot of the time I just start drawing stuff until the page is full. It’s all “me” themed, though. Ha!
When you start a piece featuring lots of individual content, do you have a sense of what’s going to appear in it? Or do the subjects surprise you along the way?
A little bit of both. A lot of the time I will doodle stuff and know that I want to use them in my next piece. And other times I’m just drawing stuff that pops up in my life while I’m in the middle of making a piece. Stuff from movies, songs, books, antique stores, etc.
It feels like there’s something not quite tattoo flash art about your work. Your pieces seem to exist in a realm adjacent to flash art but independent from it. Any thoughts on that?
Yeah, I always loved flash sheets at tattoo shops because of the layouts but I’m not into shading and a lot of the other stuff that you see on tattoo flash sheets.
That said, do people get tattoos of your work?
All the time. A lot of people reach out to have me draw their tattoos or ask if they can get something I’ve drawn tattooed on them.
I didn’t go to art school or ever learn to draw the way most people do, so I just stuck to what I could do. When I really got into making art on a regular basis I was into Ed Templeton and all the other ‘Beautiful Losers” and most of them have similar minimalistic styles. It made me feel like I didn’t have to be this insanely gifted artist and that I could just make stuff for fun. A lot of art I like isn’t from super-talented people as much as it is from people with really good taste. It’s like skating in that way. When you’re not the best skater you just do what you can, enjoy yourself, and your style naturally evolves. I would rather see the Gonz roll down the street than see some jock kid doing tech shit and I have that same mentality about the art I like.
Who are you digging in the skate world these days?
My friends and the kids at the park always get me the most excited. You gotta love seeing your friends and the people from your town get better and grow. I still watch old stuff all the time. I love Bobby Puleo, Dan Drehobl, Dill, Kenny Reed, Gonz, Brent Atchley, and a bunch of people I’m forgetting at the moment. That Ipath summer preview from 2005 is just as good today as it was back then. Heath Kirchart is my favorite even though he’s so much different than the type of skating I’m normally into. His style and approach to skating and video parts is amazing. As far as new stuff, I really liked that newest Worble video. Corey Glick, Evan Smith, Deedz, Ben Koppl (rollersurfer), Oski, and a bunch of others I’m forgetting. Polar videos are always on at my place and I always like those Greco short films.
How about the art world?
My favorite is still Margaret Kilgallen but she’s been dead for years now so I’m not sure that that’s the answer you’re looking for. Current artists I’m digging are Van Eggers, Steve Powers, a bunch of sign painters, Land Boys, Jess Mudgett (who just painted some stuff at Double Rock), Wolf Bomb, and a bunch of people I’m forgetting.
I love painting walls and just painting bigger stuff in general. I usually draw everything out first before I start on mural stuff so I know what I’m doing before I even start. In a way it doesn’t feel that much different than doing smaller stuff, it just takes longer.
Anything you want to say? A shout out?
Shout out to Blacklist skateshop, Rhett skateshop, Home skateshop, and anyone over 30 who still skates.
For more art and info on Matthew, visit his Instagram: @matthewmcdole
In Conversation with Graphic Design Artist Matthew Mcdole
Artist: Matthew Mcdole
Matthew Mcdole is an in-demand graphic artist that is probably skating when not managing his many clients. His work ranges from murals to logos for big breweries. Even with Mcdole’s busy schedule, he remains present, cherrishing sentimental items from family and childhood, items that help him capture the simplistic beauty of life represented in his work. I got a chance to talk with him recently about time, life, and his creative process.
Ai: Hey, Matt, How are you?
Matt: Good, no complaints at all. You seem busy.
Ai: Yeah, but so do you.
Matt: Yeah. Well, it's weird because I do so much stuff for people. Like, I’ll do something for someone, but it’s for two months from now. It almost feels like I’m not [busy] because I’m not putting stuff out. But that's such a strange feeling in the internet era…the idea that you're not doing anything if you're not putting stuff out…which is insane.
Ai: Right. We’ve thought about the same things at Artinformation. I think we’ve concluded that posting online isn’t necessary if it takes away from the attention we want to give to our subject material and the people involved with our research. Like a good meal, quality takes time.
Matt: I think about that all the time. If I haven’t seen someone post, I just imagine they're doing what I'm doing. They're probably working or paying for something that they just don’t feel like sharing.
Ai: Yeah, or they’re going through family stuff. Just living life.
Matt: Right. I’m moving this week. And so, I haven’t skated or made anything since last weekend. And even though I've been insanely productive, I feel like I haven’t been doing as much.
Art and skating are the things that I think about when I go to bed. At the end of the day, those are the things that I think about. It's good to have those things to think about at the end of your day. Moving isn’t like that.
Ai: When you feel like you’re behind. How do you get yourself back in the head-space to work?
Matt: I’m always thinking about what I’m doing to do next. Usually, it starts with a drawing, and depending on what it is, I get it on the computer, mess with it a little, and send it off. The next thing is a shirt for a brewing company.
I already know what i’m more or less doing. It’s like second nature. It’s like if you haven’t swam for a bit, you just need to get back into the pool. Its not hard to get back into it.
Ai: Do you get time to do stuff for yourself?
Matt: Yeah. If I have a thing to do for clients, then I want to do that. I usually work on client work. And I’m making notes in the meantime of stuff I want to do whenever I get the time. If there's something I want to do, then I find the time. If there's something I’m really excited about, then I find the time to do that in the middle.
Ai: Do you find yourself spending more time in the past, present, or future? How would you describe your relationship with time?
Matt: Personally, it’s good to enjoy and live in the moment. Not doing spontaneous and crazy things but just taking the day as it comes. Like plan for the future, but be present before you plan.
Writing things down helps. If you try to keep a mental list of what you have to do, you’ll always be stressed and forgetting things. It’s good to just write it down and come back to it. I have like 5 or 6 projects I have to do but i’m really only thinking about 1 or 2. I will think of those other projects when the time comes.
Ai: Right. Your sanity is most important. Prioritizing projects in time is the real work.
Matt: Yeah, and figuring out how much mental energy to put into things. Sometimes your time is better put into spending time with friends and family.
Ai: What are some of the objects in your life that have had a special impact on you?
Matt: There are so many things that I’ve had for many years that I continue to keep. I have so many records; I have some books, I have a couple of bins of keepsake clothes: old band shirts, old skate shirts, shirts I made for people. I keep a lot of stuff. Any knick-knacks that I’ve gotten from certain people, I’ll keep to remember that person.
My dad has cancer, we just found out at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s not something that's going to totally get better. He’s going through chemo right now, and he’s not really worried about it as much as I am. He’s like, “I’ll be fine” or “This won't kill me”…now, the things related to him I’m more likely to keep.
In my studio, I have all these random things. So some stuff my dad had when he was a kid. Or old photos of me with old friends. It’s all very sentimental.
Ai: What about the rest of 2020? It seems like you’ve had a lot going on. How do you deal with all the new changes?
Matt: Masks and everything like that. When it first started, it felt insane. But I’m not the most social person. I usually just do the things I need to do, skate and make art. Those things haven’t been affected. Obviously, I can’t have an art show…. But I felt more affected by the George Floyd situation. Around that time, I felt like sharing stuff. “Does this matter?” you know? Are there not more important things to share or say? — [or] “Maybe this isn’t the best time to promote yourself.”
Ai: Was that hard to get used to since the platforms online are kind of built for promotion?
Matt: Yeah, and I slowly got back into it, but I thought much more about helping other people, and I took some time off to do stuff for other people. Giving people discounts on my work and encouraging people to donate to charities. A friend and I made a big skate fundraising campaign. We took all that money and donated it. We got everyone together, and we skated down to Breonna Square as apart of the campaign. Bringing posters for everyone.
Ai: What are you looking forward to in the future?
Matt: I enjoy now. Now is pretty cool. It's really easy to look back on time and think, “Oh, those were the good times.” “I should have appreciated that while it lasted.” I think from a young age, I caught onto that, so I’ve always been really good at appreciating things while it happens. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the future or what I want. I just think, “This is really cool right now,” my girlfriend and I are more or less just focusing on our art. This is a sweet time right now. If you’re always looking at the future…you’ll never be happy.
[Excerpt from full review]
Skateboarding as we know it today was popularized in the 1950s by surfers looking for a way to surf when the waves weren’t cooperating. This “land surfing” hinted at an early ingenuity that has become a pivotal aspect of skater culture. Daniel Pfalzgraf, the curator at the Carnegie Center for Art and History, tells me there is a connection between the creativity inherent in skating and making art. They share a poetic sensibility—that is, both activities require the user to see the materials available to them in a new way. This is part of the impetus for Blunt: Inspiration in Transition, the exhibition currently on display at the Carnegie Center for Art and History.
Other artists, who initially seem more traditional, toy with subverting expectations through their imagery. Louisville artist Matthew McDole reduces typical “bad boy” imagery to its fundamental components: bottles labeled poison, daggers, crosses, and portraits of cult leaders. Even here, however, subversion comes not from the use of crass imagery, but rather the pleasing ambiguity and humor that it fosters: one has to ask oneself how seriously to take the simple slope of a beautifully rendered backside.
7 Questions With … artist and illustrator Matthew McDole
By Sara Havens | May 10th, 2019
Chances are, you’ve seen an illustration, graphic or painting made by Matthew McDole and his fellow coworkers at Mperfect Design.
The company has been creating logos, posters, album covers and graphics for hundreds of Louisville companies since 2002, including Kentucky Peerless, Louisville Public Media, Silver Dollar, Rye, the Buy Local Fair, Please & Thank You, Decca and many, many more.
McDole also designs tattoos for friends, and himself, and on Friday, May 10, he’s showcasing some of his artwork in his first solo show at Revelry Boutique Gallery. “Strawberry Mansion” will feature more than 100 of McDole’s illustrations and designs, some of which could easily be made into a tattoo, and some you may just want to hang on the wall and admire.
The artist prefers to work with acrylic paint on paper and wood, and the images in the exhibit range the gamut from love to mystery and macabre. To McDole, it was like playing house in his head.
“I wanted the show to be about a place,” he tells Insider about the title “Strawberry Mansion.” “It was originally going to be a neighborhood, but then I switched to the idea of a smaller place — like a hotel or a trailer park. I always loved the word ‘mansion’ and remembered hearing ‘strawberry mansion’ a while ago, and it stuck with me.”
Just glancing at a handful of images from the exhibit, it resembles a catalogue of design suggestions you might find in a tattoo shop.
Simple yet creative sketches of one object — whether it’s Casper the ghost with a knife through his chest or a posh woman in a fur coat — that are both appealing and introspective.
For McDole, whether it goes on your skin or on your wall, it’s all just part of his wheelhouse.
“I wouldn’t say it’s on purpose, but (tattoo work) is definitely one of the many things that inspire me,” he explains. “I tattooed a bunch of stuff on my legs, and I’ve designed stuff for other people. I’ll design/draw anything anyone wants.”
“Strawberry Mansion” opens Friday with a free reception from 7 to 10 p.m. The exhibit continues through June 4. Revelry is located at 742 E. Market St.
Before McDole invites everyone into his “Strawberry Mansion,” we asked him some very important questions …
What was your first concert?
George Thorogood and the Destroyers.
What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?
Skateboarding, house plants, professional wrestling and a million other things. I’m obsessed with so many different things, and I could talk all day about any of them.
What job would you be terrible at?
Elevator operator or bellhop. Anything with elevators really.
What is your favorite restaurant or bar?
What is something you think everyone should do at least once?
Get a dog and fall in love.
Where would you direct a newcomer of Louisville to get a feel for the city?
NuLu on a day when the Flea Off Market is happening or the skatepark at 2 a.m. on a Friday or Saturday night.
What keeps you here?
I love my life right now. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
About the Author: Sara Havens
Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle (barbelleblog.com). She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."