John Mattos began his career in his teenage years; he had always drawn pictures and was not ready to stop. This led him to pursue a degree from the Art Center College of Design in Southern California. Mattos knew he wanted to illustrate using airbrush; he was seeing it as a way to make pure photographs of ideas. Part of Mattos’ interest in working with airbrushes came from his comfort with the hardware surrounding the demanding craft; such as air regulators. Airbrush hardware reminded him of the hardware used on his family’s dairy farm in Empire, California.
Mattos says, “This was 1971 and all that Chrome palm-tree bubble-gum bent-knuckle realism did not exist…yet…,” Now, 49 years later, his medium of choice is Adobe Illustrator. He describes Illustrator as being cold, simplistic, and having a want to provide a sameness of edges and surfaces. Mattos feels that getting some humanity and a “touched by a human hand,” feeling into his artwork is now the most difficult and demanding part of his work.
Mattos’ drive to give his work a “touched by a human hand,” feeling is beautifully shown in his “Willie Mays Portrait.” Though much of the portrait has the cold, simplistic, and continuous edges that he is striving to get away from, the gradients used to simulate light refracting off of his subject create a depth and the human touch that he was looking for.