Matt Zaremba’s Instagram account (@matthewzaremba) started as an outlet for the Bostonian to express himself following his father’s death. Today, the 32-year-old’s witty, weird, and intimate ink drawings have become a kind of inspiration for his nearly 12,000 followers.
Q. When did you start pursuing art?
A. That all started more seriously about three years ago, and was a direct result of my father’s [death]. I grew up painting murals and doing photography, working mostly in mixed media, but I started drawing simple designs as possible notes.
I had read something that said a lot of indigenous cultures would draw symbols like triangles and pyramids as representations for staircases to heaven. I would draw them on notes with updates on my life so my father could see what I was up to. And then the drawings just morphed into my life.
There was a drawing I did that said, “I miss you and there’s no app for that,” that was a breaking point for me, and it was when I realized that’s what I want to do. It’s hard for me to communicate sometimes, and I decided drawing was giving me the ability to put my most honest and genuine thoughts into a form that was accessible to people. I would say there’s noise, and then if I’m able to get a piece of that noise down on paper, it feels like it’s relieving something.
Q. How did you develop your style?
A. I just didn’t dig color. I didn’t want any subjective value to it. It’s like, this is what it is.
Q. Your style lends itself well to tattoos. Is it weird knowing people have had your work commissioned onto them?
A. There are definitely well over 100 people that I know of with tattoos [of my work]. People would hit me up on Instagram, and at first I wasn’t into it because it was personal to me, but then I thought, hey, you’re putting it out there, and who are you to tell someone “no” if they love it enough to put it on themselves?
Q. Does it bother you as an artist knowing someone out there is essentially re-creating your work?
A. I think that’s the part that gets me the most, but it’s almost like I have to project it back on myself. Like at this point, do I just learn how to tattoo? It might mean more if it’s coming from my hand doing it. Sometimes I’ll see someone else getting it and it’ll be altered just a little bit and I feel awful.
It’s weird when you know multiple people have gotten the same tattoo. Like just before we hopped on this call, I had two DMs on Instagram from people who got tattoos of my work. But I guess it’s out there, so it’s free rein.
Q. What medium do you usually work in to create your pieces?
A. I do everything in pen and ink. If I can’t do something in one or two takes, I shouldn’t be doing it. I grew up painting with spray paint so it lends itself to a mentality you have a lot more confidence in your lines, because you just go for it. With spray paint, it’s fast and messy — you have to commit to it.
Rachel Raczka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.