The Many Moods of Matthew Mayes’ Layers of Meaning Series: An Interview

To Create. To Desire. To Grow. To Nurture. To Dream. To Inspire. These words are not a slogan; they are the titles of paintings, paintings that fluidly progress in color, brushstroke by brushstroke.

From July 9, 2015, to September 4, 2015, the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) will showcase the artwork of local artist Matthew Mayes at the Central Library’s Fourth Floor Gallery. Enjoy intricate acrylic paintings bold in color, texture, and depth. Together these works make up Mayes’ Layers of Meaning: Paintings by Matthew Mayes.

Come meet the artist at the opening reception from 2:30 to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, July 19, at the Central Library’s Fourth Floor Gallery and see why Matthew Mayes considers his work to be “studies in color perception, definition, and composition.”

Until then, check out Matthew Mayes’ take on art in a feature interview with staff member Bethany Mitchell of the Central Library’s Arts Literature Sports Department.

Bethany: You state on your website that you see color as one of three divisions: neutral, primary, and secondary. Your exhibit here at BPL consists of acrylic paintings. How does acrylic help you express these elements?

Matthew: Acrylics allow me to tap into the most pure and free space within. Because it dries so fast, you do not have much time to think or contemplate your moves. You just have to go with the flow, sort of speak, and allow what is inside you to be released. I attempt to bring out the child in me each and every time that I create. It is when we are vulnerable, innocent, and free that paint applied to canvas becomes more. It becomes ART!

Bethany: Lucian Freud states, “The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real.” How crucial is the interplay between perception and reality in your work?

Matthew: It is an important part of all my work. Art is a personal experience. The viewer’s reality is based on how my artwork makes them feel. Art should awaken your senses and test your boundaries between perception and reality. Either way, you are never wrong with what YOU see in art and how art makes YOU feel.

Bethany: I find thematic unity in your pieces. Your “Perception of…” series, for instance, examines the colors of black, brown, copper, and taupe respectively. Each piece stands on its own, yet all share what seems to me as an iris-like resemblance in their design. What is your process for starting a new piece, in compiling ideas into a whole?

Matthew: I start every piece by picking out all the colors (at once) that will be in the painting. I listen to all genres of music, which I use to create different moods while painting. Finally, I listen to my spirit and attempt to present on canvas the message(s) that I believe are flowing through me. There are multiple ways to "minister" to the public. Art is one of my gifts and callings.

Bethany: On your website you state, “Once, I believed that love, food, and music were the core passions that transcended all race, creed, and color. Now, I know that art encompasses all.” What do you believe is art’s greatest benefit?

Matthew: Art's greatest benefit is the artists who are constantly pushing and striving to perfect their craft, not allowing what sells to totally dictate what they produce. We are the creative class and have an obligation to knock down walls, stereotypes, and prejudices. We have the ability to change the world again and again and again.

Bethany: Michelangelo stated, “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all.” As a self-taught artist, perhaps you can relate to this idea. So I’m quite curious: What is the most important thing an artist must have to be successful?

Matthew: There is no proven formula for success in the art world. With so many variables, a combination is impossible to create. With that said, an artist is successful if he or she believes they are successful. Success doesn't always mean how many pieces you have sold, money made, or articles written about you. Success for me is when I have completed works that are inhabited—works that take on a life of their own. They tend to touch the soul.


Matthew Mayes

Born in Florence, Alabama, Matthew Mayes is a self-taught artist with over 12 years’ experience as a professional. He currently resides in Birmingham, Alabama, with his partner Brian and their son Noah.

Matthew began painting as a child after watching The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross. He had experienced a number of stints with hospitalization and home schooling due to illness and needed an outlet for his creativity. Art was his answer and savior.

Concerning the process of creating art, Matthew states, “I allow natural ability combined with a trained eye to create. Without both, my art could not exist."

Matthew’s exhibits have appeared at popular local events such as the Birmingham Art Crawl, as well as out-of-state, from Michigan to Arizona and beyond. You can find his work featured at all I.O Metro locations. Visit his website at to see samples of his artwork.

Thinking about trying acrylic painting? Check out these items from the Arts, Literature and Sports Department, and don’t forget to take a look at past, current, and future art exhibits at the Birmingham Public Library here.


Acrylic Secrets: 300 tips and techniques for painting the easy way

Paint Along with Jerry Yarnell

Acrylic Workbook: a complete course in ten lessons

Mix Your Own Acrylics: an artist's guide to successful color mixing

Acrylic Decorative Painting Techniques: discover the secrets of successful decorative painting

The New Acrylics: complete guide to the new generation of acrylic paints


Acrylic Techniques

Simply Painting: introduction to acrylics

Bethany Mitchell
Arts, Literature and Sports Department
Central Library