Matt is an artist, educator, and founder of TheVirtualInstructor.com. He uses his expertise in a variety of art media and his 12 years of experience in art education to share with students from around the world. His goal is to provide the highest quality of art instruction to as many people as possible. He believes that anyone is capable of mastering drawing and painting and that it is his mission is to help them to achieve their goals.
Carrie: Welcome to Artist Strong! When did you first realize your passion for the arts?
I was fortunate to be raised in a family that was supportive of my creative adventures. I have been drawing and painting, playing music, and acting for as long as I can remember and was always encouraged to do so. So, it wasn’t necessarily a moment when I realized that I had the passion. Instead, it has always been a part of who I am.
Of course, overtime that passion has grown and has shifted a bit. While I still am very passionate about creating art, my true passion lies in teaching others and watching them grow.
Carrie: What motivated your desire to create The Virtual Instructor?
Years ago I started creating videos for my students so that they could see full-length demonstrations. As you know, many works of art take many hours to complete. With videos, I could show my students the entire process, edited down into a few minutes.
I had the idea to create a place for the videos online, so that I could access them easily. YouTube was not as “mainstream” at the time, so I didn’t consider it at the start.
I began to teach myself how to code and I built TheVirtualInstructor.com.
Overtime, I noticed that other people were finding my site and using the videos. I realized that I could potentially help lots of people through the site.
It was so much fun to watch the visitors come to the site and comment on how helpful it was to them. I continued to make videos and tutorials and started adding additional resources for teachers as well. Courses followed after that and the site has just continued to grow from there.
Carrie: How do you get ideas for content?
I get ideas from different places. Many of my users and members email me and suggest what they would like to see. I also consider what issues or roadblocks I have encountered on my own personal artistic journey and offer strategies for how I overcame them.
I try to prioritize ideas and produce content that will help the most people as possible. It can be overwhelming at times because I cover so many different mediums. I also try to cover everything I can on each subject, so I’m continually going back to older pages and updating the material and the videos.
Sometimes the ideas themselves can be overwhelming. I try to write down everything when it comes to me, so I have huge lists of things that I want to add, improve, etc.
Carrie: What has been something that has surprised you about this project?
What has surprised me most is the power of the internet. We are truly living in remarkable times. The internet has made it possible for anyone, anywhere, to learn whatever they would like. I am so fortunate to be able to share with so many everyday. I feel like I have found my life’s purpose helping people learn from around the world.
Carrie: What’s one piece of advice or practice on your website that you find indispensable for your own artist practice?
After spending a little time on my site, it becomes clear that I believe that anyone can be successful with drawing and painting. I think many of us have limited ourselves by believing that people who have “talent” are the only ones capable of mastering art. In these people’s minds, “talent” becomes an excuse for why they “can’t.” They suppress their passion and live life wishing they had the talent to create art when all they need is instruction and practice.
Like with any skill, it takes knowledge and practice. Once you have accepted that you can be successful. You are open to instruction. Practice follows and you get better.
Removing the misconception of “talent” is really the first step. With it removed, “breakthroughs” happen frequently and artistic growth flourishes.
Carrie: How do you think vulnerability affects artists/creatives?
I think that being vulnerable is part of being an artist. You have to take risks and you have to be authentic. If you are not willing to do so, your journey of becoming an artist will be a short one.
Carrie: Advice for people who are learning a new skill?
Growth hurts. If you are in the gym and working out, your muscles will hurt as they grow. Learning a new skill is the same. You will be frustrated at times, but remember this is growth. You are becoming stronger. Accept that this is part of the process and keep going.
Don’t put so much pressure on yourself and allow yourself to develop slowly, one drawing at a time.
“Growth hurts. If you are in the gym and working out, your muscles will hurt as they grow. Learning a new skill is the same.” (Click to Tweet)
Carrie: I’ve found that working to resolution in an artwork (for students, or for myself) can be a challenge. It’s a tricky place, that “just enough” versus “too much.” How do you know when an artwork is finished?
Think of your work as you would a conversation. What are trying to communicate? How much do you need to say to communicate your objective. I think I good approach is to try to say what you want without saying any more.
Some works will require more, while others will require less.
Each artist has a different voice so it’s a personal decision as to when it’s time to stop. I think problems arise when artists try to “make” instead of “speak.” They feel that a work needs to look a certain way or have a certain style, so they keep working it.
You need to to be true your style, your voice.
I think problems arise when artists try to “make” instead of “speak.” (Click to Tweet)
Carrie: How do you balance your own creative interests with the work that comes from The Virtual Instructor?
Carrie: Who/what inspires you?
My students inspire me. It’s a strange dynamic that happens between students and teachers. Teachers inspire their students, and good teachers are inspired by their students. When teachers pour themselves into their student’s success, it becomes their motivation and inspiration.
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
To me, creativity is the propensity to create. It is anything that involves producing something that didn’t exist before. Creative people are found in every profession in the world.
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Do you accept the growing pains that come with developing your creative practice? How do you move through them? I want to know! Talk to me in the comments below.
What a fantastic idea! Matt your work is amazing. Not only do you inspire but, you show people how.
Thank you for your responsiveness to your community, and building work that will benefit the most people. I heard you on that one! Looking forward to digging into Virtual Instructor!
Hi Mandy! I’m glad you enjoyed Matt’s interview. He’s got great things he offers to his readership and students. I often refer to his resources for some adult art tutoring I’m doing!
Matt Fussell!! It’s Ashton from Reynolds. Renee said she ran into you today at Michael’s!!! You changed my life. Thank you.