Step into the life of local artist Matt Vardy and paint a picture of his story so far in the art scene here in Nottingham.
Written by Jude Winter | Twitter @JudeWinter02 | Images by Author
Nottingham lad Matt Vardy has artistic blood running through his veins. Both his father and grandfather were artists, he explains. “As early as three years old I was picking up pens and pencils when my dad was painting. Although this wasn’t the best idea as watercolour and berol don’t really mix.”
From a young age, his dad taught him the basic artistic principles and techniques which remain the foundations of his creative style. However, after the sudden and tragic loss of his father at 10 years old, Matt found that if he wanted to carry on the family tradition of being an artist, he was going to have to find his own path.
That same year, his passion for art took a new route when he discovered skateboarding, which in turn led to an interest in street art. “In my early teens I started experimenting with graffiti. I would do a few tags here and there and also do works on electric bins,” he says. From these humble beginnings, he has risen to be Nottingham’s – and arguably one of the country’s – most famous street artists.
During his transition into street art, Matt struggled to produce a tag he really liked and one that mirrored the type of artist he is. His first attempt wasn’t too successful, coming up with the tag “MAKE”. He decided he needed a new name in order for people to know who he is, so he changed his original, to his current tag that he is most famous for today.
“Scarce”. One the people of Nottingham will recognise in a heartbeat. “Scarce came about because its symmetrical written out and it looked better than my previous tag,” he said. The true meaning behind “Scarce” is “lack of”. Matt felt this was a true representation of himself and of his background growing up here in Nottingham. Coming from an underprivileged family life, Matt wanted to show in his art how tough times were for him. His work commonly shows the controversy of the word “scarce”, for example, scarce of money and water. He added that he “definitely wasn’t silver spooned growing up.”
A lot of Matt’s work can be seen around local areas Hockley and Sneinton. He classed these as a base for his work and associates them as home for him. He has a devotion to stay local and support his community by working with businesses such as fashion company MIMM. He says, “It’s vital we`re all entwined and working together to keep a nice little family.” He added, “I do a lot of work in local businesses which were building blocks for me, so I like to give help back.”
The diversity in Matt’s art is clearly visible. Street art on the side of buildings is only one piece of the puzzle. He also does smaller drawings and paintings for the local, world renowned company, The Art Of Football. His style is implanted in all of his work, which he describes as “surreal” so people know that certain pieces are his. His early works were very gruesome and dark, as his emotions back then were shown in his art after his father passed away. Now more lighthearted, he says, “There is a very dark side that’s still there, which explains all the sharp teeth in my recent work, but I’ll never lose that side of me.”
Matt’s love for his hometown is a theme which is seen in many of his pieces. He tries to include his roots of coming from Nottingham as much as possible, especially in pieces located outside of the city. “I try to keep a lot of Nottingham in my work, such as phrases like ‘ay up me duck’.” He added, “I want people to see where I came from and hype up Notts as much as I can.”
Matt’s work can also be seen at the Surface Gallery, a place where the true potential of Nottingham’s young artists are shown off to the public eye. “My work is trying to turn something small to something big, which I think this city is trying to do.” Now he is out the shadows and into the spotlight, he feels lot more young artists are going to do the same as him and he hopes he has inspired young people to do so.
Matt’s best piece of advice to the youngsters of Nottingham, who want to become an established artist, is to network as much as possible. “Coming from nothing, it’s really important to know the right people and branch out as much as possible.” He also added, “Never forget where you came from and the people who helped you get to the top. That`s why I`m still here, as I want to give back to local businesses who helped me out when I was much younger.”
Despite his father`s love for classic art, the journey Matt has taken on his own is something his father would be extremely proud of. “My dad wasn’t into graffiti so I would often do things he was doing when I was younger. I only really started to enjoy graffiti after his passing but I’m sure he’s proud of me whatever I`m doing.”