Matt Walters ‘Breaking Point’

Matt Walters charcoal/graphite/airbrush portrait artist explores a “journey of self” for many in ‘BREAKING POINT’ at The Hive Gallery, June 2021.


Caught in the undertow, swept off my feet….

My vision blurs beneath the waves.

I struggle to breathe but this current is stronger than me,

Exhausted, I’m at breaking point, the surface fades as I slowly sink…..

In open water….



I like images that are intense and engaging, preferring to work in black and white as I find it striking. I draw from photographs, often taking the photo myself to capture the angles that I desire. Occasionally, I get people to send me their photo, which I find interesting as it gives me an insight into their perception of themselves, adding life and emotion to my drawings. I have also learnt how to look beyond the reference image and focus on areas that seemingly have little or no importance and ensure “every part counts in my art.”

I love the feel of graphite when drawing, it’s very delicate, however I prefer to work with charcoal as its matte quality creates depth. Large areas are covered with charcoal powder applied with soft watercolour brushes, then chunky charcoal blocks fill in black areas and charcoal pencils provide fine detail.

I use numerous types of erasers to create highlights, along-with white pastel or watercolour pencils.  Fixative seals the artwork, and allows me to add multiple layers for skin, texture and hair. I’m very rough with the paper and materials and for this reason I use hot pressed 300gsm water colour paper.

In 2018 I decided to start airbrushing again after dabbling in it as a teenager, learning from Tony Vowles of Airbrush Venturi. In a world where technology has taken over, it is refreshing to create free hand artworks that are super realistic with air and ink. An airbrush can create both hard and soft focus which I love. The ’out of focus’ areas are relatively easy with an airbrush, so I challenged myself and explored the use of charcoal to recreate this ‘out of focus’ look in some of my drawings. Having created a super detailed focus on the portrait, I then softly blur the surrounds, achieving this by drawing the detail in, then lightly erasing and smudging with cotton wool to achieve the blurred look. It actually takes longer than the fine detailed areas.

Matt Walters