By Simon Andrys
Joey Diaz, Jiu-Jitsu, Your Smith, Lo-Carb Monsters, abandoned building, storm chasing and death are a few of Punchgut’s favorite things. I wouldn’t consider these individual muses, they’re all part a greater thing — his obsession to create.
After arriving at Brewhalla, I spoke with Punchgut before his talk and we discussed having a disclaimer for it, “Listen, you came here to listen to me, so that’s on you.” Laughing about it, we knew that he didn’t need it, but it allowed him to shake off some jitters before he got up on stage. When he finally got there, he said,
“Making myself uncomfortable is something I like to do a few times a year, and this is one of them.”
Punchgut and I go back almost a decade, and getting to experience his muses firsthand helped me understand what a veteran artist goes through at every step of his creative process. His first slide was a picture of his original “speaking points” with scribbles of death, and the new Rocko’s Modern Life character puking on old Rocko’s head— nothing had changed from his note-taking abilities of my memory. Punchgut’s ideation phase is a creative’s dream to watch. The number of times that I walked into his office where I found him with his face inches from a sheet of paper were far greater than the times I found him sitting up at his computer designing. During his talk, he translated the word “muse”, into “obsession”; which, is clearly what art is to him.
He referenced a metaphor of an “old country farm dog” to his muse, or obsession, and never feeling like an art piece is ever done. In short, we all know that the dog never catches that truck coming down the road, but his heart is going to race, his vision is tunneled, and there’s nothing that’s going to stop him until it’s over, or there’s nothing left to chase.
“When I think about obsession in art the best example I can think of was a North Dakota farm dog. You know that farm dog that’s out and he’s going to chase that car no matter what. He just hears the tires on the gravel road and he starts cracking his back – maybe flicking off a few woodticks. He knows he’s going to go to battle and chase this car and he’s never going to catch it. He’s always chasing it and he gets left in the dust of the dirty old Honda Civic – and he walks back and does it again. And that’s really is what art is to me.”
A true artist’s ability to dedicate time to create is the best outlet for all of the things going through their mind. Punchgut spoke about the time where he would sit down at the light table with a Drekker label in front of him, about to start penciling out an idea — but he gets lost in cute puppy videos on Instagram. The left-brainers would see that as unproductive or distracting, but as a right-brainer and working with Punchgut, I know that’s all part of the process. He wasn’t ready to create. Part of a muse, or obsession, is identifying the process, and it’s not always linear.
Oftentimes, how Punchgut creates all depends on the medium. He mentioned that if he’s working on an illustration that he gets hung up in the linework (Exhibit A), but if he’s on his hands and knees spray painting a mural and gluing his fingers to the floor it allows him to harness the happy mistakes (Exhibit B) — because that’s what was meant to happen. Regardless, he’s still obsessing, still creating.
Lastly, someone asked, “How does one ‘find their muse’?”, and to me, it’s all a matter of perspective and awareness. When you find yourself doing something you can’t put down, or think about all day — that’s probably it! Whether it’s Candy Crush, making homemade pasta, or riding a motorcycle. Muses don’t have to be productive or generate money — muses are about you, just you. It’s okay to be a little obsessive.
About Matt Mastrud aka "Punchgut"
From the time he was a scribble-minded kid, Punchgut created provocative images, getting published in a national mainstream magazine, Seventeen, for the first time as a teenager. Finding any other career direction unimaginable, he’s worked exclusively in the field of art and design ever since. Art collectors around the world often find his contributions in The Art of Modern Rock, The Art of Electric Frankenstein, Rockin’ Down the Highway, and High Times, among a slew of other publications, magazines, and international art shows. He’s received mention in the Wall Street Journal and a Punchgut collaboration can be seen in the Walt Disney film, Sky High.
It has been said that Punchgut is not a North Dakota artist. Rather, he is an international artist who happens to live in North Dakota.