Name: Matthew Woods
From: New York City
Matthew is the amazing artist behind the famous character Pumpkinhead aka @hallowwoods!
What made you love Halloween so strongly?
I have always loved spooky stuff, gross stuff, the thrill of being scared, and dressing up in costume. It is the perfect holiday for me. Halloween encompasses all the things I enjoy. As a kid it was always my favorite and has continued into adulthood.
How did you get into Halloween?
My family owns and operates a funeral parlor so death was a constant topic of conversation when I was growing up. My mother used to decorate the house for Halloween including tying a white sheet around the light post in the front yard to make a ghost. The sheet was one that was used to cover bodies at the funeral parlor just days before it was hung out in the yard. It added a weird sense of humor combined with the macabre, and that made me love celebrating.
What is your favorite things to do on/around Halloween?
I can remember walking down the horror aisle at the local video store and staring at the VHS covers wide-eyed. I gave myself nightmares on more than one occasion but I ended up more fascinated than put off. I now love horror movies and every Monday for the month of October I host “Monster Movie Monday,” which is a double feature movie night at my apartment attended by friends and family.
Can you remember which Halloween costume was your favorite one?
I was notorious for making up my own, sometimes nonsensical, costumes. I was a character I called “Rat Boy” one year. Mostly, I wanted an excuse to cover myself in rubber rats. I loved being “Rat Boy.”
What does Halloween mean to you?
I like the common notion that Halloween night is when the barrier between worlds is thinnest and the dead and living walk together for one day. Across cultures Halloween has been a night to remember and honor those who are gone while simultaneously celebrating life. It is a whole day devoted to the notion of “Momento Mori” (Latin for “remember that you have to die”) encouraging people to enjoy the time they have. While Christmas reminds you to give, Halloween reminds you to live.
Of all the amazing Halloween candy you can get nowadays, what is your favourite? (Old Classics/ New style candy, etc.)
My favorite is Reese’s Peanut butter Cups. I also buy candy corn every year but, truth be told, I think it tastes gross. I only buy it because it’s a classic!
What Halloween food and drinks are you most excited about?
In my family, it’s a tradition for my mom to make a big pot of chili on Halloween night so it would be ready to feed whoever came by the house, whenever they wanted to eat. I have started doing the same thing, Halloween night is chili night!
When do you start shopping for Halloween?
Pssshhh- when do you stop?
What about Halloween makes it your favorite holiday?
All my life I desperately wanted to fit in, to be one of the cool kids. It took a long time for me to realize that just being myself, doing the things I like to do with the people I like is what cool is. Not trying, just being authentic. So while some may consider me dark or morbid I have found a crowd that appreciates me for those uncommon interests and eccentricities. On Halloween, us weirdos are celebrated rather that criticized. It is our time to shine.
Do you think it has any negative sides to it?
I think some people can take it too far. I disagree with some of the extreme haunted houses out there that push the limits of safety. Some people also use Halloween as an excuse to vandalize neighborhoods. When I was ten my grandfather and I built a scarecrow for the front step. In the night somebody tore him apart, spread his leaves everywhere, and stole his head. I remember being very upset about it and vowed never to be that person.
What is the Favorite Halloween item you have?
I have a ceramic skull made by my late grandmother, Nana. It is lit from within by a small orange lightbulb. It stays out year round on the shelf in my studio. When I stay up late working on projects I like to turn it on to keep me company.
Do you still go trick or treating?
I don’t. Living in NYC on the top floor of a residential apartment building, I almost never even get trick-or-treaters at my door. I’m always ready though! One year I got one trick-or-treater and I was so excited I gave her the whole bucket!
Can you remember your first Halloween memory?
I have lots of distant memories but they come in fragments and little pieces. The tail of my homemade dinosaur costume seeming so big I could hardly walk. Being afraid of the neighborhood witches. Feeling grumpy because I was told I had to wear a coat over my costume. I can’t discern which of these came first or how old I was.
Do you keep all your Halloween decorations out all year or do you start decorating at a certain time?
I have some things that are creepy decorations on display year-round, but I really enjoy taking out “The Box” and transforming my apartment. I follow my mother’s guidelines: decorations out only from October 1st to November 1st. It makes it feel more special that way.
Where do you buy your Halloween items?
I make a lot of them. I am a huge believer that homemade is always better. Otherwise I do a lot of shopping at Michael’s, Halloween Adventure near Union Square, and Pottery Barn. Spookylittlehalloween.com is an incredible resource for all your shopping needs.
Whats your favourite halloween movie/series?
Hmmmm… as an avid horror fan, this is a tough one. John Carpenter‘s Halloween franchise is just so good. The first one is a masterpiece. But I love all the 70’s and 80’s movie maniacs: Jason, Freddy, and Leatherface. Wes Craven’s SCREAM films are really what hooked me when I was a teenager in the 90’s.
How is Halloween celebrated where you live?
Big time. NYC has the biggest Halloween celebration in the world! The parade in the West Village is legendary! I haven’t been for years because it can be really overwhelming, so I usually host my own party.
Is it difficult finding Halloween decorations in your town/city?
Nope- there is a store that is open all year called Halloween Adventure. Spirit Halloween stores pop up in temporary locations all over the city. Plus, the internet will deliver just about anything you want.
What made you want to start the @hallowwoods Pumpkinhead character?
I was feeling a little blue from Halloween withdrawal and drew him to help myself feel better. From there he took on a life of his own. Like him, I sometimes struggle with getting into the spirit of other holidays and seasons. I always want to inject a little spooky into everything. It’s no surprise that most of Pumpkinhead is based on my life, but he isn’t a perfect representation of myself. For example, Pumpkinhead hates Mondays and is constantly trying to kill them off. I quite like Mondays! They are a day when everyone else goes to work and I get to spend time drawing in my studio.
What themes do you use when you draw?
I keep a meticulous calendar filled with things like National Bat Appreciation Day (April 17), National Monster Day (August 14), Bella Lugosi’s birthday (August 16), Sarah Michelle Gellar’s birthday (April 14), and a daily Halloween countdown. I try and make an occasion out of the ordinary. I find a simple daily activity and see how Pumpkinhead can make it weird, or do it just a little bit wrong.
How much time do you spend of your day/week on drawing the hallowwoods series?
I do everything by hand with quill pens, brushes, and inks. Each layer has to dry completely and cure before I can go back in otherwise the inks will run together, so I usually have several going at a time. I also do other work besides Pumpkinhead; illustrations for authors, pieces for exhibitions, gifts for family and friends, commissions, random things that pop into my head… I always feel like I’m behind, like there is so much story to tell and not enough time to do it in. Striking a balance between art, my “day job,” and life is a constant challenge. I try to keep the scale from tipping too far in one direction. I’d say I get to draw 20-30 hours a week depending on the week and each drawing takes me several hours.
Any plans on making it into a comic book series?
I think about that all the time. I have an idea for a children’s book, a comic book, and more! I would love to make them come true!
Can it sometimes be difficult for you to handle the fame by being a known Halloween persona?
I am hardly famous! I’ve found the Halloween community on Instagram and at conventions is always so kind and supportive. It’s a weird thing that we all love and it feels like being on a campaign all together to build and celebrate this holiday.
Clothing / Style / Accessories
Where do you usually buy your clothes?
Mostly online. I’m on a forever quest to find the perfect pair of black jeans.
What style of clothing do you like to buy?
I unsurprisingly wear a lot of black. It’s both very NYC and very metal to wear black all the time. There are some punk stores in downtown NYC that I love: I Need More on Orchard Street and Trash & Vaudeville on East 7th Street. I like clothes that are witchy and I like clothes that are rock n roll.
Do you have any tips on where to find awesome Halloween clothing for the rest of us Halloween addicts?
Yes! There are so many incredible designers and artists out there that put their work on clothing. One of my favorites is Local Boogeyman. He has a great old school horror vibe. I also love Bill Crisafi, Cavity Colors, Terror Threads, Pentagram Peter Pan Clothing, and Wolf Skull Jack. Don’t be afraid to go down the virtual rabbit hole and discover lots of new stuff to love!
Do you wear Halloween/Horror styled clothes all year?
I have a black t-shirt addiction. More especially, black t-shirts with white print. Most of them are of bands, horror movies, or artists’ designs. The older and more beat up the t-shirt, the more sacred.
What’s your favourite Halloween clothing, accessories (pins/jewelry), bags, shoes, scarfs, etc?
I almost always have a Pumpkinhead pin on (you can get one at matthewwoodsart.com/shop). If I’m not going to wear my own work, how can I expect anyone else to? Besides that, I just got a new jack-o-lantern ring from I Need More that I’m in love with. Everyday I wear a metal cast of a wolf tooth. It is my own personal totem. My friends are my wolf pack and they each have one.
Have you worked hard on your style?
Not really, I just buy what I like. It’s constantly evolving. I try to buy from other small companies as much as I can. It’s hard to avoid giant retailers like H&M, but I think it’s important to support the David instead of the Goliath.
Follow Matthew on Instagram:Www.instagram.com/Hallowwoods
And be sure to stop by his web shop! Www.matthewwoodsart.com/shop