Interview with Rene Mattei – 2018 International Airbrush Competition

In the last of our 2018 International Airbrush Competition interviews, we have a doubleheader! Rene Mattei was joint 3rd place in the Fine Arts (Fantasy) category with his entry: “Beast and the Beauty”. An artist by profession, he runs his own studio and has a wealth of experience in the industry as a whole. Drawing on this, Rene gives a candid interview about his inspirations and journey, along with great advice to beginners. Check out more of his works and business with the links at the end of the interview!

Beast & the Beauty

Sparmax (S): Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, what is your background? When did you start airbrushing and what was the learning process was like for you?

Rene Mattei (RM): I have always been connected to art since I was a child and all through my time in school.

Shortly after High School I decided to attend the Art Institute of Colorado in Denver, and after a year soon found that I was intrigued with the designing aspects and classes, but the rest of the education was not stimulating me with the skill sets I knew I wanted to pursue.

My journey with the airbrush began about 15 years ago.  I was good with pen and ink, acrylic and oil paints.  Airbrushing was such a new dynamic tool to learn.  It took about 2 to 3 solid years to learn the essential control of painting, and I began playing with different setups of brushes, compressors, and colors.  After that, I began to dive into the multiple effects you can achieve with an airbrush.  I also really like the soft feel of the painting the airbrush can produce.

At this beginning stage, I was watching a lot of tutorial videos, which there weren’t many at the time, so I was pretty much pulling from any source that provided me with growing as an artist in this medium.

I worked for a tier 1 paint company for one of the more well-known motorcycle companies for 8 years as a graphic supervisor/ lead airbrush artist, providing paint schemes for the motorcycle industry.  From there I got to dig deep into the paint and graphics effects, and progressed into solid production techniques and skills, project deadlines, and working with others to get the finished product bikes out to the industry.

After 8 years I had enough confidence to break away from a very well paid supervisor position to pursue my personal goals as an independent artist.  Together with my wife’s, family, friends, and many others support; I made the decision to open up my own airbrush design and paint studio, located in Broomfield, Colorado.  Rival Airbrush Studios has been my passion for the last 5 years.  I am involved with every stage of the process of the business.  I Provide custom designs,…etc Most importantly it affords me the time and freedom to grow and progress with my personal creative interests; to further my personal development as an artist.


S: Can you tell us a bit more about your winning entry piece? How / why did you choose it? How long did it take, and what inspired you?

RM: The origin of the piece came from the tale of little red riding hood. I wanted to bring forth the beauty and usefulness of the female form, and play with the dynamic of Little Ride Riding hood as an empowered woman. The open wounds on the skin express the energy within, and the vibrant red cloak brings out her sexuality and warmth against the cold, dark blue and black surroundings.  The necklace ties the relationship between the two main portrayed characters.  It’s left to the viewer to decide what type of connection exists.

I chose this piece to play with many different values of designing a more fine art piece.  I had a vision of soft vs hard values, different textures, environmental settings, the straight forward ferocity of the wolf vs. the head turned away softness of the women.  I also knew I wanted it to be a night setting; cold and dark, mysterious, scary, clawing trees… the mysterious moon; the cool blue of the night.. these all served as a perfect background to really bring forward the soft, sensual, exotic nature of the women in vibrant red.


S: What does airbrushing mean to you and what drives your passion for airbrushing and creating art? Also, how do you find the ideas for your other works?

RM: Airbrushing means so many different things to me in my life. The most important of them is the joy I get when expressing my creativity, the visual language I put out into the world.  It’s a tool that allows me to express my creativity, to constantly achieve and define my artistic talents.  The Airbrush allows me to achieve certain results I could not get from other mediums.  There are so many elements that I can play with to achieve the finished artwork.  I like the colors, the fluency of the paint and the process of applying it…I like the finished look and feel of the art created with an airbrush.  I have over the years developed a style with this medium that fits my workflow.

I draw from a wide pool of inspiration.  From Magazines, Comicbooks, Digital art, movies, other artists, basically any media that has emotional and visual content.  The artist that have been most influential in my progression as an artist is HR. Giger, Salvador Dali, Frank Frazetta, Boris Vellos…Just to name a very few.


S: What are your goals / targets for airbrushing? What do you want to achieve?

RM: My goals are to continue progressing in my craft. I will continually strive to create value for my work and to grow Rival; my studio, business and brand.  Airbrushing has opened many paths for me to constantly explore, evolve my techniques, and to continue to evolve my style as an independent artist


S: Do you specialize or prefer to work on a specific surface?

RM: I have airbrushed on a multitude of surfaces and just depends on what a client brings to me. From Cars to Motorcycles, murals, helmets, flat surfaces ranging from wood, steel, aluminum, and cardboard.  My favorite surface is a nice flat, aluminum surface, but I am just as confident working on curved or multi-angled surfaces.


S: How would you describe your style(s) in airbrushing?

RM: Many have told me I have my own style. I like to use a lot of deep, rich, sometimes flashy colors schemes.  I do a lot of female forms, I really like horror and darker themes as well.


S: Any advice to beginners looking to start airbrushing?

RM: Advice for artist starting with airbrush, would be to be patient with developing your skills. Work on the fundamentals.  Go online and search for videos, there is now plenty of online tutorials that are great for continual references.  Be patient with what you can achieve.   It’s all about repetition of fundamentals in the beginning.


S: Do you have a website or blog? How can people reach you on social media?

RM: At this time I have two Facebook pages that I frequently update. They are Rival Airbrush Studio community, and Rival Airbrush Studio Business.  I have a website that is currently in the works, so to speak, but nothing that has been posted to the net.

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