Local artist Adrian Matthys, of Cedar Park, began creating unique wood-carved art pieces just four short years ago. A talent born out of a work retreat now acts as a stress reliever and even earns Matthys a little bit of extra spending money.
By day Matthys works as the Director of Annual Giving at the University of Texas at Austin, but by night he spends hours on his back porch studio creating one-of-a-kind art pieces out of reclaimed wood.
“All the stuff that I do is true to my own particular ethos,” Matthys said. “This allows me to express myself in a way that otherwise I’d just be sitting around, shooting the breeze with you. Putting some of these weird things down on wood. It’s kind of a fun thing to do.”
Matthys’ work features biological illustrations, ghost story illustrations, religious iconography, American tattoo art and pop culture --- sometimes meshed together in some form or other.
“I’m just doing weird stuff, that just occurs to me … weird song lyrics, or something from a movie or T.V. show I’m watching,” he said. “It depends a lot on what music I’m listening to, what T.V. I’m watching, what weird stuff just pops in my head when I’m out here hanging out.”
Not long ago, Matthys said he would have never imagined himself creating art, as he never thought of doing so. However, after attending a work retreat, where a book titled “The Creativity Cure” by Carrie and Alton Barron, was discussed, he knew he needed to do more with his time, more with his hands.
Matthys said the book is about the therapeutic nature of doing things with your hands.
“I started wondering what I could do with the rudimentary skills I learned out on the farm growing up, so I said, ‘I’m going to build a garden shed with reclaimed wood, out of wood pallets,’” he said. “After that retreat, I told my boss that I was going to start building some stuff and make my free time more therapeutic.”
Matthys did indeed build that garden shed out of 90 percent reclaimed wood, primarily wood pallets. He then went on to create tables, planters and even a nifty cooler before he stumbled upon his artistic talent.
Not long after building the shed and rickety tables, Matthys said he was fiddling around at his childhood home in Henderson when he found his old wood burning kit from Boy Scouts, which he was not even in for very long. When he got back home, he started messing around with cedar planks.
“I found a couple of cool, public domain pictures on the internet and printed those off,” he said. “I had some carbon paper in there already, and I traced them and did a few burns, burned my initials on a few things. And honestly, it’s rarely a weekend now that I don’t burn something, and it’s four years later.”
Matthys has since upgraded his wood burning kit to something more serious, but his process remains largely the same. He mocks up something on his computer, traces it, burns it, shades it, uses watercolors to liven it up and then finishes it with a semi-gloss spray lacquer.
“I honestly don’t do a whole lot of freehand,” he said. “I feel sort of like a sham sometimes. I’m not really an artist. I’m a curator of stuff a lot of the time.”
Though he has been creating these wood-carved pop-culture art pieces for four years, Matthys said it is still shocking to him when his projects turn out well.
“It’s always interesting to me that these always turn out, and they’re not all like 100 percent garbage,” he said. “Even though I’ve been doing this for so long, I’m always surprised by how well they turn out.”
Other than whatever weird stuff pops in his head, Matthys said he also welcomes commissions. He has done pet portraits, fleur-de-lis and even a mantel piece featuring dogwood flowers.
“It’s cool because I end up doing stuff that I probably wouldn’t otherwise do,” he said. “It is more challenging because nine times out of ten, I’m making something special for someone. I enjoy doing commissions because it’s not necessarily stuff that’s just in my own weird head.”
Matthys sells his work primarily, usually priced between $40-$110, through instagram @adriansworksonwood or by participating in local art events, such as the First Fridays art event at Cedar Park Pottery.
“Now I’ve got kind of an outlet with Rita and her pottery place, so I cycle stuff in and out of there,” Matthys said. “It’s good to get out there and get to know the local artist community. It’s an interesting thing. That’s not a group of folks that I would have necessarily been friends with or connected with, but it’s really awesome, we’ve all got the same ethos and it’s fun to do. It’s a good thing to be a part of.”
Selling his art is not something Matthys frets about, however.
“I’m real chill about it,” he said. “If I don’t sell anything for a long time, I don’t really care. The worst thing that’s going to happen is it’s going to go in the big box over here or hang up out here. It’s still interesting to me. If I don’t make something in a few days, I feel that itch to create something.”
Once an avid home-brewer, Matthys said his art has taken over his other hobbies at this point, and he still cannot believe he is doing this and even making a little money too.
“Find your thing and do it man,” he said. “If you would have asked me five years ago if I would be out on my back porch making art and selling some of it and having a little extra folding money to walk around with, making things for people that they love --- whether it’s relatives or pets or a cool thing that they saw that they wanted reproduced, I would have said, ‘Nah, I’ll be home-brewing or riding my motorcycle.’”
Matthys just turned 44 and has been a Cedar Park resident for 10 years with his wife Kristi of 22 years and his two daughters Mallory, 20, and Sophia, 17.