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17 March 2014, writed by Yar

category: tshirt

Matt Lyon: T-Shirt Designer - Graphic Designer - Illustrator Interview

London, England -- Matt Lyon, aka C86, is a London-based t-shirt designer, graphic artist and illustrator. His work explores reoccurring motifs and themes laced with wild color combos.

He has produced works for names such as Nike, AOL, AT&T, Microsoft and other global clients, and his designs have been widely seen in books, magazines and exhibitions worldwide.

Matt took some time to answer some questions we had for him about his life and design style. Here's what he had to say...

When did you start creating art?

I’ve always been doodling, for as long as I can remember. As a child I liked sitting for hours creating pictures of my own little worlds.

Was there a point when you began to take art more seriously?

When I became a teenager, I realised that drawing was one of my strong points and something that I loved as my favourite hobby. I wanted to get better and learn more.

If you go by one, where did your nickname, or “nome de plume” come from?

My current pseudonym, C86, arrived with little thought when I was designing t-shirts for Threadless. At the time, I was subbing and had been printed under a different name, but in the meantime was secretly developing ideas in a new style. I soon started submitting these new designs under C86 to test the response, and fortunately they were favourably received. Since then I followed this direction of work and have been developing it ever since.

How would you best describe your style?

I prefer it when others describe my work – it gives me a clearer insight into how people see things. Here are a few popular descriptions: colourful, playful, psychedelic, retro, folksy, abstract, patterned...

At what age did you develop this style?

Style is always developing and evolving, but I suppose that the seeds of C86 began to emerge in 2005.

Who or what are your artistic influences?

There are so many, ranging from interests in art and illustration, to other things that inspire my approach to work or the creative process. These include the work of Paul Klee, Jim Flora, Heinz Edelmann, David Klein, East European folk art, etc.

When did you start designing t-shirts?

I think it was around 2004.

Do you look at this type of art as business or just a hobby?

T-shirt design is mostly a hobby for me, but it does form a wider part of my freelance business.

Do you have any business experience?

Not formally, though I’m now self-employed as a graphic artist / illustrator.

Have you ever been ripped off? If so, was it subtle or obvious?

Yes. I’ve been sent photographs and copies of my t-shirt designs manufactured in China. They were quite nice too, using alternative colour schemes and some nice fabrics.

Is there any particular design you are most proud of?

I’m still fond of my Threadless design SUBterrain (Make a Wish) as it was the first printed under my C86 moniker.

Is there a design that you didn't like, but received high acclaim?

Not really. There are designs I’m now less fond of, but at the time they reflected what I was doing and/or learning.

Do you have any formal training or schooling?

I studied Fine Art for 4 years at university.

Do you have a college degree?

BA Hons Fine Art / Media and post-graduate teaching qualifications.

What motivates you in life?


Are you single, married, or have a significant other?


Do you have a preference for screen printing or DTG (Direct-To-Garment) printing?

Whatever works best for the design.

Mac vs. PC?

Either, as long as it can do the job.

Do you engage in physical activity (work out, yoga, martial arts) ?

Sadly not.

Are you a fan of any sports?


Do you cook?

Only if it’s worth the effort, more often when cooking for others.

Are you a vegetarian or vegan?


What languages do you speak?


Do you play any instruments?


Who are your favorite music artists?

The Smiths, Autechre, Pixies, Dinosaur Jr., Venetian Snares, AFX, ?-Ziq, etc
I mostly listen to electronic music nowadays, mostly IDM, acid house, drum n bass / drumfunk, etc.

Do you have any favorite TV shows?

Ulysses 31.

What is your preferred method of transportation (motorcycles, bicycle, car, walk) ?

Walking and London buses.

What brands/models of cars do you like?

No preference really as I don’t drive. I’ve a fondness for VW Beetles as my dad used to drive one when I was a child.

Do you produce art in any other mediums?

I draw everyday and most of my formal education was in painting. It would be nice to get the paints out again.

If you watch or listen to the news, from what source(s)?

Everyday, mostly from the BBC on TV and radio.

What movies do you enjoy most?

Anything well-written and directed. My favourite directors are Michael Haneke, David Lynch, David Cronenberg, Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, along with classics from Stanley Kubrick and the irrepressible John Waters.

Do you have any favorite books, book series, or authors?

There are so many good books around – I don’t really have a favourite. I’m quite fond of Bret Easton Ellis.

Do you prefer smart-phones or not-so-smart phones?

I was given an iPhone a few months ago, though aside from Instagram I only still use it for texts and calls. I don’t understand people’s obsession with and constant use of their phones.

Do you have any political stances (left, right, middle) ?

I tend to agree with certain ideas from a variety of political parties. I’m not fond of right-wing Conservatism, and the consequences of Capitalism in terms of greed and selfish aspiration are distasteful.

What is something that you hate or absolutely enrages you?

Ignorance, prejudice, injustice and stupidity.

This interview took place on 13/11/2012.

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