Colin Matthes

Essential Knowledge: Volume One

Colin Matthes

Essential Knowledge: Volume One



Edition Size



Acrylic, Colored Pencil, Gouache, Ink, Screenprint, Watercolor


25 × 19 × 2 in




Waukesha, WI

$ 3,000.00

6 in stock

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Harvard University, Houghton Library

Stanford University

University of Connecticut (UCONN)

University of Michigan

Essential Knowledge is an ongoing series of prints (and workshops!, see below) teaching skills for success in challenging situations.

This first volume of prints is about navigating external factors in the world. The prints include early works like Encoding Messages to recent works of Matthes’s like B-Nice and Shark Attack. Hopefully, by spending time with this work, we will all become a little more formidable when facing life’s challenges.

The portfolio features twenty screen prints. Seven of the prints include hand embellishments. The portfolio is presented in a red archival box with custom foil stamping and a perfect bound catalog of all the prints.

Volume One Prints:
1. Shock
2. When Guard Dogs Attack
3. Mobile Border Wall
4. Flying a Chopper
5. S.T.A.R.T.
6. Improvised Water Filters
7. Eating Insects
8. Lying
9. Black Bear Encounter
10. Fucking Ticks
11. Mass Exodus
12. Sinking Motor Vehicle
13. Shark Attack
14. Rip Tide
15. Making a Boat from the Ruins of a Gas Station
16. Active Shooter
17. Landing a Plane
18. B-NICE
19. Book Code
20. Survive a Nuke Attack

Artist’s Statement

“My walk to the studio on the rural West Coast of Ireland would take an hour each morning. This was no ordinary walk; I’d embrace the seemingly ever-present sideways rain and harsh Atlantic winds by laughing, yelling, screaming, and freezing. When I thought, it was about the generations who lived in this unforgiving stone-filled landscape, the Burren.

I was a visiting artist at the Burren College of Art. In the studio, I was making large-scale wet-on-wet landscape paintings influenced by the always-changing epic skies of the region and the industrial ruin of my home, Milwaukee.

When this work felt too daunting, I made drawings about the things necessary to know while living here. How do you catch a fish or make a fire with access to almost nothing? I would fill up a large page of drawing paper thinking through each question. They were not art, there were no rules to how they had to look, they were just thinking, thinking the way an obsessive drawer thinks. A year later I returned to the USA with my stack of drawings, tucked them away, and became all consumed with making a solar-powered remote-control car demolition derby, as well as continuing these landscape paintings.

In 2014, my partner got pregnant, and I was obsessively thinking again, this time about all the things you should know as a father and how to be prepared for this new life. How should I prepare for birth? How do you calm a newborn? How do you escape from a second-story window? I developed knowledge too, like making a diaper in an emergency. Essential Knowledge drawings have been a consistent part of my life since.

When I think back, they are a visualization of how I’ve always operated. Long before there was art, there was making do and figuring things out. On a gravel road, in an old farmhouse, the son of an electrician, I grew up around piles, piles of everything. These piles were clutter, but they were more than that. They were potential. We were always working, solving problems with what was on hand. Often the most simple and direct approach is necessary and the most beautiful. I learned this wiring temporary electric at small-town county fairs.

Once a side project when I wasn’t doing the important stuff, they are now the project. This growing collection of drawings (currently over 100) is how I navigate the world, how I learn, how I share experience, how I manage restlessness, prepare for new challenges, and tell stories.

The subjects range from building a row boat from an abandoned gas station to reading body language, from improvised coffee making on the road to constructing a mobile border wall. They expose more than I am comfortable with, might just belong tucked away somewhere, and have no signs of slowing down.”

Total Essential Knowledge Workshops
Drawing is a way of thinking. Like writing, drawing clarifies. It deepens our understanding. In Total Essential Knowledge workshops, we use drawing as a tool to visualize and share knowledge. When we draw, we choose. What is worth the time, and what is most important? What is the essence of what we are getting at?
TEK workshops are a fun, low-pressure environment. In our workshops we:
• Learn drawing is for everyone! It is for anyone who cares to think or communicate. That’s you.
• Find value in the ACT of drawing, the process.
• Use drawing to research, remember, communicate, and figure things out
• Learn to slow down and make decisions about what is most important
• Make our own instructional drawings!

These workshops are aimed at lifetime learners. I work with K-12 students, college students, professionals, and a general audience. Workshops are available in person and online. Our past TEK workshops have been at Het Bos Culture Center and an unnamed refugee center in Antwerp, Belgium. The Madison Museum of Modern Art, The Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, & Letters, and the Arts & Literature Laboratory, Madison,WI. The Charles Allis Museum and the Lynden Sculpture Garden, both in Milwaukee, WI. TEK workshops have also occurred in multiple Wisconsin schools including Brown Street School, Bruce Guadalupe School, Dousman Elementary, Escuela Verde, La Escuela Fratney, Milwaukee Montessori, Bay View High School, and United Community Center (UCC) – Acosta.

About me:
I have been making instructional drawings for the past thirteen years. This drawing process has drastically improved my remembering, storytelling, and creative thinking capabilities. Total Essential Knowledge Workshops are how I share and teach these creative breakthroughs with others.

In addition to workshops, I exhibit my work. Recent shows include Charles Allis Museum (Milwaukee, WI), Roots & Culture (Chicago), Mulherin (New York), The Queens Museum (Queens, NY), The Science Gallery, Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland), and the Royal Hibernian Academy (Dublin, Ireland). I have done residencies at Werkkamp (Belgium) and Cow House Studios (Ireland) and won the Mary Nohl Fellowship for Individual Artists (Established) grant.

Contact [email protected] for Total Essential Knowledge Workshop bookings