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Today I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Sirine Matta a.k.a Miss Chatz, a very talented artist from the UAE.
Firstly, I'd like to thank you for the interview. We'd like to understand how your interest for illustration started shaping up. Tell us a bit more about what made you go this route!
It all started in Disneyland & California, the two places in this world where imagination and artistic inspiration leave you in a golden state.
You know, when I was a a little girl - I was extremely shy, so I spent most my time indoors, popped in front of the TV, watching the old classics…Mickey Mouse, Popeye, and dubbed manga cartoons. Then came the provocative strutting, Jessica Rabbit, she inspired me to start drawing sexy ladies. It was then and there I was in love with pinups.
Soon after the world wide web came along, and opened doors to all sorts of visuals. I was introduced to pinup artists like Joyce Ballantyne Brand, Olivia De Berardinis, Pearl Frush, Bunny Yeager, Irene and Laurette Patten,etc…
My family traveled a lot, and we lived in many countries, so I just collected everything that I experienced or had the opportunity to see and blended it into my artwork.
Before I finished high school, I was approached by an ad agency to freelance for them and get paid for it! It was then that I learned that I was pretty good at what I do and can turn my hobby into a career.
Tell us a bit more about how you learned it all. What changed in the last few years in terms of ease of expanding your skills and knowledge?
Basically I learned everything on my own. At university of course we learned the basic fundamental material and software, but it seemed too basic for me, so I took it upon myself to learn much more, to satisfy my mental state.
I didn't need more than to surf the web and pick the waves I wanted to ride. I learned storyboarding, 2D animation, packaging design, business, fashion design, lettering, character design… oh and I studied law for 2 years for fun. It was easy, but nothing I wished to pursue for life.
Then I got offered a job at a 3D animation house, and took that as a challenge to learn intense 3D courses, and worked for about 7 years in different animation houses - it was mostly a lot of pressure and I felt it was rather a male oriented job post, so I moved into illustrating children’s books and educational material which was more joyful.
I even had the opportunity to tutor kids, drawing cartoons, on weekends and in the process, I myself learned how they saw objects and grasped the idea behind drawing. I discovered that their thought process was loaded with sparks of intelligence - it was such an enlightenment to work with kids.
Once I got several offers to work at ad agencies, I did full-time, part-time, and freelance with a lot of the the high profile agencies, I still work with many. I even had a job in TV, then I quit it after three years because it numbed my mind and killed my spirit.
Because something needed to change, I've quit this job and ventured on my own into the fashion world. I designed ready wear, accessories and handbags, only to realize very soon that the fashion world was cruel. 90% of it was like living in a shark tank, and the thrill of making decent amount of money out of it, was a mere illusion. Thereon I decided to go back to illustration, character designs, storyboarding, and game app design and of course, I took on being an author at Tuts+ which is a great learning experience itself.
My next move is heading towards the beverage business… but that’s top secret for now. Oh and I’m curious to try out toy design sometime in the future. It is only a natural state to be curious when you're an artist; curiosity and restlessness are good qualities unless you’re a cat!
My biggest lesson, so far, through my journey, is that most things run on luck, and who knows who.
What does your creative process look like?
My creative process isn’t much of a secret really. Couple years back it used to be the standard: research, sketch by pencil and paper, scan and upload the image, and finally color on Adobe Illustrator/Photoshop. Today I rarely ever sketch, unless the client requests it or the image has some detail I want to capture.
Instead, I move directly into Illustrator and Photoshop… roughly lay the grounds of the image by using my pen and tablet, and then I proceed with coloring and perfecting the line work to my liking - it’s quite spontaneous and I improvise a whole lot.
Do you have any recommendations in terms of good books, programs you use, or media choices you're willing to share with us?
I’m quite a visual person, so I really like to browse the shelves of the bookstores for something that might visually spike my interest. I don’t have any favorites. I like to read a lot and it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it captures my attention. Illustrator and Photoshop are my favorite software. I recommend artists learn to use new tools every once in a while. Know your tools and you will know how to achieve the result you want!
Do you have a special place or object that boosts your inspiration and helps your creative drive? What is it like and why does it have this effect on you?
My ultimate favorite place is my office space. I have everything there, that I need to keep my energy and inspiration going. All my art material, paintings, drawing table and tablet, sweets, incense and my loving pets surround me. I have two dobermans and two Persian cats, they keep me entertained. When I want to stretch out and rest my eyes - there is a beautiful lake side view and pool outside. It’s peaceful all day - it helps me focus on work.
Could you describe how a productive day would look like from your point of view? Which are the most important hours/stages/moments for you?
Everyday starts at about 8 a.m, with pet cuddling, a cup of coffee and answering emails, it’s the fundamental part of the day. I follow up on projects. Arrange meetings. Lunch is usually at 1 pm. Then it’s meetings if there are any planned, and loads of work till about 7 pm. I hit the gym for a heavy workout with my trainer, whenever I have free time during the day. Once the main work is out of the way, I spend quality time with my pets and family, and continue on with whatever projects are pending till about midnight.
I do like to cook, read books, ride a bike, go for massages/ facials, have bubble baths or go for walks, whenever I have time on my hands. It’s important to be relaxed and to make time for myself and my loved ones.
What is your stance on today's ever growing opportunities enabling artists to take on remote design work?
Remote work isn’t for everyone. It takes commitment and practice. People assume that remote work means you can spend a lot of time sleeping and working from your beach house, There is a speck of truth in it, but there’s a lot more to it. For example, you may have to turn around your timetable to a certain time zone to accommodate clients on the other side of the globe. You need to capture clients and projects on a regular basis in order to provide income. You face distractions from your surroundings, family or pets. If you have no discipline you may end up working night and day. Clients may be under the illusion that you work 24 hours, and you’d end up having clients contact you at awkward times.
There is also that lack of community when your on your own. However, you got the benefits of no traveling time, which leaves time for more productivity. Online meetings save time. There is cost savings on rental of office space, electricity, air-conditioning and equipment costs. Also there is flexibility in work hours and breaks, whenever the required work is completed. And you get to work under your very own rules.
What would you prefer: a steady, well paying job in a local agency, or the freedom and often stressful life of a freelancer? Why?
Freelance. Build your own name and business.
How would you describe "the ideal project"? Did you have any recent opportunities to come close to this?
The ideal project: I never had one. All projects are executed according to the client’s request, with moderate freedom of creation. It would be just fabulous if I were to get a funding for my very own project, execute it to my fullest vision and actually succeed in it as a business - that would be ideal, but then again that’s everyone else’s dream too.
To conclude this interview, if you had the opportunity to convince a novice to become an illustrator, would you do it? If yes, how?
Tough one. But my answer would be “Don’t do it” if you have a family and don’t do it for money. Do it, if you love it. Do it, if you have the support, a list of clientele, commitment and mind frame for it.
We'd like to thank Sirine for her time! Should you want to connect, or see some more of her amazing work, you can find her here: