With a pencil in his hand and a scrap of paper to fill, Matt Partridge grew up with a love of drawing that hinted at what his career would turn out to be. “Any scrap of paper my dad brought home from work, I would draw on it. Whether it was designing my own characters or trying to copy characters from some of my favourite cartoons and films,” he says, “It has definitely always been part of my life.”
Though Matt loved expressing himself through drawing, he also had a keen eye for visual mediums such as film and television. He says, “Without a doubt, my biggest passion was - and still is - film and TV. When I was a kid, my parents bought me a Halliwells Film Guide, which was basically a massive book with thousands and thousands of films listed alphabetically. It included production details, descriptions of the film and some critiques and I would look through that for hours!” Thankfully for Matt and his parents, when the internet came around, he was able to use that to further his passion, rather than having to purchase copious numbers of his beloved guide.
Much of Matt’s childhood was spent moving around, which gave him “a good sense of the people who make up this funny little island we live on.” His experience living in different places has given him a broader outlook on people's sensibilities and what makes them laugh.
Matt’s journey into the industry came with a few initial challenges, but he made it work. “I studied animation at a uni I won’t name. The course at that time was very badly run (our tutors were fired in my second year) so I don’t feel like I left with anything even close to an industry-ready reel.” Determined to make it work, Matt made sure to research and find courses that would further his skill and make him feel more industry-ready. He says, “After that, I applied and was accepted onto a three-month animation course in Bristol which was so much better. I learnt way more in those three months than I did in the three years at uni.”
When he graduated and completed his course, Matt applied for as many junior roles as he could to get his foot in the door. “Eventually, I managed to find a runners position at a small animation studio in London called Espresso Animation.” There, he learnt about the application and craft of animation, as the studio did its work on paper, “which was then scanned into computers to colour”, and gave him invaluable experience that would help shape his career in the future. He says, “During my time at Espresso I got the chance to learn Adobe Animate (or Adobe Flash as it was called then) which I really enjoyed using and still use to this day. I started creating my own work in my spare time and tried to improve and hone my animation skills by making little shorts and sketches.”
Having his start as a runner and junior animator at Espresso Animation meant that Matt learnt a great deal about the entirety of the production process. “Being a runner for such a small company meant I got to help out with everything from the storyboarding stage, through to the animatic and animation tests, production and comping, all the way through to delivery of the job.” While this was a great experience for other jobs, it also meant that planning his own projects became much easier, since he had the expertise and experience to do so.
Matt’s work has included shorts and idents but the piece that he feels changed his career the most is the animated music video he created for British comedians Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish, for their 20th Anniversary at the BFI. He says, “I had a lot of fun designing and animating that project. It was fantastic to get to see the final thing on the big screen at the event too.” His favourite part of the process always comes down to character design, which he gets a “huge amount of joy” from, as he relishes being able to “capture people’s personalities” in his own style – he says, “I find it really pleasing.”
Part of being in the creative industries involves being a bit of a perfectionist, getting elements just right to feel like everything is exactly as it’s supposed to be. Matt explains his challenges, “I think when it comes to design for projects, getting the colour palettes to a point where I’m happy always seem to take me the longest. I just have to keep tweaking them until it’s right.” But of course, getting those elements perfect is a reward in itself, “It’s a great feeling when you finally crack it though.” It’s his passion for the work he creates that makes Matt so keen to keep animating and illustrating. “Animation is such a special field,” he says, “The fact you can start from nothing and gradually work something up until it has all the aspects a live-action film might have, but so much more, is really incredible. I want to keep making things and pushing my sense of design and motion.”
Working at Somesense, Matt admires and takes inspiration from his colleagues who create innovative work. Apart from that, he says, “Other directors I’ve been enjoying work from recently are people like Nata Metlukh, Anna Mantzaris and Laura Jane Hodkin. Their comic timing is second to none.” Being in the company of other animators who prioritise humour is something that Matt can’t get enough of.
“Other than film and TV, I enjoy cooking and also going out to eat,” says Tom. Leaning into his understanding and fascination with different types of people, he continues, “I also like people-watching. We’re a fascinating bunch. I am forever frantically trying to memorise all details that make up someone I’ve seen out and about, ready to try and capture them in an illustration when I’m home.” Making sure he gets out and about to exercise and make the most of the canals and open spaces in East London’s Walthamstow, Matt listens to podcasts to inspire his creative direction. “Andy J Pizzas ‘Creative Pep Talk,’ Hailey Atkins’ ‘Motion Hatch’ and a recent addition Hannah Lau Walkers ‘She Drew That’ are all highly recommended if you’re looking to further your creative passions,” says Matt.
But most importantly, his inspiration boils down to all things humorous, “It’s probably as simple as wanting someone to have a laugh or at the very least a smile. The world is a pretty full-on experience sometimes, so if I can contribute in some way to someone having a moment of joy, then I’m happy.”