Meet Matt Brown

Matt Brown is a full-time artist from Cleveland Ohio, now living in Santa Barbara, CA. His lively and very contemporary work varies in subject matter, from portraits to urbanscapes.

His imagery is inspired by street art, urban decay, consumerism, and celebrity. Matt adds his own sense of color to these images allowing the viewer to see each subject in a new way.

By Lisa Salerno

According to Matt: “As an artist, I bounce around quite a bit. No subject is off limits. If I can conceive it in my mind, I’ll do my best to bring it to life on canvas. I like to think I’m versatile. I’ve done abstract, landscape, portrait, seascape, cityscape or urbanscape. Experimenting with colors is something I love to do!”


Matt is fearless with color. He seems to have developed a signature palette of earthy colors and contrasting bright jewel tones, as his most recent paintings suggest. Oftentimes in Matt’s portraits, he will brush an unexpected heavy splotch of green or blue right onto the subject’s face!

Sometimes his most colorful brushstrokes follow his subject’s natural contours, and sometimes the addition of color is more of a random surprise. Matt isn’t yet settled on a label or categorize his work, yet perhaps one could describe a number of his portraits as “Contemporary Fauvism”? Matt’s portrait, “Alicia”, certainly has some similarities to Matisse’s “The Green Stripe”…

“Urbanscapes” are another subject of Matt’s work. These strong, slice of life images make the viewer feel as though they are standing alone in these abandoned spaces. Seeing these images painted takes the popular subject of “ruin porn” often depicted in photography, and adds freshness and smoothness by expressing it in paint, Each of the paintings in this mini-series contain graffiti, however they are not a close up details. Each painting captures the entire space that surrounds it.

Brown’s painting, “Art Eternal”, lends the viewer a sense of discovery; of exploring these abandoned spaces where the eyes have adjusted to the grayness and decay, and suddenly brilliant color is found. However, the painting does not give the viewer a direct view, just a hint of the surprise…Matt’s perspective pulls the viewer in to investigate more.

Perhaps the title of the piece refers to a reflection on how all things are impermanent, yet art is always going to be there. The painting captures how all art, including street art is a way for an artist to leave his or her mark behind long after they are gone.

As for Matt’s process, it is more like stumbling through until he gets to where he wants to be. Things start to get muddy, and that’s when he knows when he needs to take a break and start a new piece. Working on multiple paintings at a time is beneficial as it keeps him going even after getting stuck. When Matt works on the next piece, he will get ideas to build on the last one. Here, Matt explains that there is always a point of chaos in each piece, but it seems to all work out in the end.

“However, the process of completing a piece… I go through the same emotions. First, I get excited, then depending on the subject, overwhelmed. After the first few layers, I hate it. This looks like shit! I tell myself. I take a break from the painting and start on another one. Usually I’m painting 3-5 pieces at the same time. By doing this, I began to formulate new ideas for each painting I’m working on, using colors that I didn’t envision from the start. After the 3rd and fourth layers I began to see light at the end of the tunnel. One would think after all these years I would have learned to trust myself, and the process… I’m beginning to, slowly but surely.”

Connect with Matt Brown

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