Story & photos by Madeleine Ahlborn |

WELCOME to Episode 7 of The Unexpected Artist! I had the chance to meet with Matt Scavezze who is the artist behind the beer labels of Three Barrel Brewing Company in Del Norte.

I’ve known of the Scavezze family for a few years now, mainly Matt’s wife Amy who is an active citizen here in Alamosa. I really met Matt at a birthday party of a mutual friend and we started talking. I mentioned that I was working on this podcast series of “Unexpected Artists” and Amy almost dropped her plate and pointed to Matt; “You know who is ‘Unexpected’? THIS GUY!” So Matt and I exchanged information and planned a time to meet to look over his portfolio. 

You might know Matt from the Housing Department at Adams State University, his full-time job. If you’re a local beer lover and often eat fantastic pizza at Three Barrel Brewing Company, you will see Matt’s illustrations on the beer labels and the logo itself.  

< Listen to episode 7

I was familiar with Three Barrel and its beer but I was so unfamiliar with Matt’s work as an artist. Not only are the original prints beautifully crafted but the stories and “pictorial riddles” that jump from the characters specific to Del Norte are filled with humor. The level of wit and “Matt-isms” laced in the clean lines within the mixed-media drawings are astounding, and now that I know Matt a little better as an artist, I can see his sense of humor scream through each piece. 

Here are some of the images he talks about in Episode 7 of “The Unexpected Artist” 


AS an artist who went to art school I feel there can sometimes be this elevated pressure to “make it” or I have this voice dance in my head “I went to school for this, I should know how to do it!” especially when it comes to marketing and selling works of art. This is not always how it goes. Just because you went to school for something does not mean it is going to be any easier putting your knowledge and skills to work in the “real world” (as a non-student). There are a number of factors to take into consideration as an artist: knowing the market and/or demographic you are selling to; the scale, time, and environment; original piece or numbered series; and the biggest of all, STAYING TRUE TO YOUR VOICE AS A CREATOR. I cannot amplify this enough, I’ve seen so many artists compromise their style and artistic voice to “fit” the wants and needs of the buyer. Granted, this is part of being an artist, too – finding the balance between making work to just make work or making work for other people. Some artists will have different takes on this matter, which is totally valid and I welcome your opinion (to whoever is reading out there) send me an email with your experience. 

Says Scavesse: “It’s hard marketing, I’m just not very good at it. I used to say in college, I had friends that were in the same classes that could talk up anything about their work and it would be nothing, but they could talk about it. … We used to call it getting a BS in BS’ing. Because you just talk and try to sell it, and I’m not good at that. … I wanted to draw a picture of a burnt forest, here’s a burnt forest, then leave it up to the viewer to figure out what they want to get out of it.”

We talk about marketing, and as the world and technology advance every day (so it seems) there are also ways that art has made digital advancements. Not to say that digital work is any better than handmade paintings, drawings, or illustrations. The two are simply different. Matt continues to make his mixed media drawings by hand but he uses technology to make prints, send images to Three Barrel, and then also just as a way to create an archive of his works, also known as a digital portfolio. 

The digital world is nothing new by any means, even me explaining it is probably overkill. This is the game though, right? Continue to make work, take a picture or a scan, upload it to a website, BUT WAIT, what do you mean people don’t “really” look at artists’ websites anymore? Social media platforms can be a successful way to share, hashtag, post, go live, and then have a customer DM (direct message) you to inquire about the work. Does this really work? Like anything in the world, there are many MANY ways to do anything and everything. The social media platform, whichever one you fancy, is a place to put your work out there. Also, it is free. Websites and domain names are hard to capture and yearly fees can stack up, especially if you’re not getting any hits on your site. 

Pros and Cons
to Social Media Platforms

Pro: User-friendly, broad audience, gain followers, view statistics of what you post, frequently checked by consumers…

Con: Small viewing space (screen), upkeep, must be frequent with posts, security, oversaturated – it is that feeling of a small fish in a big pond…

However you shake it out for yourself, this is very much the society we live in today, and the online world is growing at a rate we probably can’t keep up with unless it is in fact, your full time job. 

Let’s go back to Matt because making art is not ALL about the marketing aspect. It is about wit and humor and thoughtful storytelling.

APART from his illustrations for beer labels I am awe struck by Matt’s social commentary prints that he created when he was a student. Inspired by Edward Hopper and Calvin and Hobbs, Matt compiled and created appropriated images that tell an entirely different story than the original works tell on their own. Shortly after these were made, the bombing of the World Trade Center occured in 2001. All art to some degree is social commentary. No matter what you are making, everyone lives in society at this specific time. As history repeats itself, society and commentary can change around a piece of art that was made 10, 20, 50, 100 years ago, or we can find similarities to the time we are living in now. When talking about art, “it should always be written in the present tense for it is timeless.” (This is the best advice I’ve received from my editor MaryAnne Talbott). 

Doodles cover Matt's wall

AFTER perusing Matt’s portfolio of beer labels and the digital archive from his social commentary works, we migrated to his office where I entered into the mind of Matt Scavezze. If you are a doodler at all, either in a sketchbook or in the margins of your school notebook, you will enjoy Matt’s doodle board consisting of hundreds of drawings made in ballpoint pen. Behind his desk, Matt has a corkboard that many of his drawings are pinned to.

COVID drawing

He never takes anything down; he just keeps adding without overlapping images. Most likely he will need to get more pieces of cork board to continue the mural of doodles. In a way, he is still making work as a reflection on society. He has doodles that animate the COVID19 Virus, and he has a “plushy” COVID19 sitting on his desk, a beanie-baby-like stuffed toy resembling the virus. Why would someone have this on their desk? Humor is a fairly common way to process stress, anxiety or even fear in different situations. Matt works with and sees many different people in his job as resident director at Adams State University, and using this strange yet “cute” toy and animation is a way to have sensitive conversations without the anxiety bubble. There is a lot of curiosity and fascination about his drawings on the board and also on random sheets of paper, “ballpoint pen what?” 

Art can be made with anything on any surface at any time. Even on a handout your teacher gives you. (A note to all the teachers out there – you may know this already – but if you have a student who seems like they are not paying attention because they are doodling in the margin of their notes, this may be a good sign that they retain information in a different way. It’s not that they aren’t listening, it means they learn differently.) 

Matt is currently working on his artist website where you will be able to see all of the beer labels from Three Barrel Brewing Company along with many of his prints and paintings,and maybe even get a sneak peak of the doodle book he wants to make up.

Matt has not done commissions in the past but he is not opposed to making them, so reach out! Have a children’s story that has been rolling around in your head that you need illustrated? Reach out! Have an idea for a whimsical sign for your kitchen but don’t know how to draw it? Reach out! Love the beer labels from Three Barrel? He has originals for sale!

A big thanks to Matt for participating in Episode 7 of “The Unexpected Artist” Can’t wait to see more of your work around the San Luis Valley! 

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