Craig Lueck is a distinguished Hallmark artist in his own right, but today, he’s celebrating one of his famous co-workers. Craig introduces us to the peerless Mary Hamilton, who has graced Hallmark with her artistic presence for six decades.
For Hallmark Master Artist Mary Hamilton, art making is her life. This month we are celebrating Mary’s 60 years as an artist at Hallmark. This is a remarkable accomplishment, but Mary’s love of art began much earlier, at age 6.
“My mother used to tell me that I was always running around the house with crayons, coloring on things,” Mary says. “Drawing is something I’ve always loved.”
As a teenager, a scholarship took her to the Kansas City Art Institute. At age 19, Hallmark was quick to see her talent for telling charming visual stories and bringing beauty to everyday objects. So they gave her a job.
In the years that followed, consumers have loved her many cute characters and flowers, but none more than “Mary’s Bears.” She began receiving fan letters about these whimsical little teddy bears almost as soon as they went on the market over 20 years ago. As an artist who cares deeply for the people who buy her products, her fan letters have given her a great deal of insight and inspiration.
Mary is a quiet, serious artist and is seen as the “grand master” of a style we call “cutes.”
“They’re sweet little things,” Mary says. “They convey lots of love and emotions, and I never get tired of painting them. I just love it.”
Perhaps it’s this ability to visually capture the language of the heart that makes Mary’s appeal so universal. Her artwork has appeared on thousands of products that span the globe and are printed in many languages.
Many of her illustrations have a sketchbook look, appearing almost unfinished as if Mary had just begun to create them. Other styles look wet, as though the watercolors are still drying. Regardless of her approach, Mary is known as one of the few watercolorists who can judge wisely when to stop working on a painting, before it gets overworked.
Mary never actually planned her many illustration styles. “They just were discovered as I painted”, she says. She has mentored many others to do the same.
In addition to her own little bears, Mary collects Hummel figurines, decorative teapots and enjoys her flower garden. Her primary inspirational artists are Tasha Tudor, Cicely Mary Barker and Bessie Pease Gutmann.
Mary has no intention to ever retire from making art, but will forever keep her hands in the paints as well as the crayons.
As Jeannette Lee, a former creative leader from Hallmark, has said, “Mary can do it all. She can draw. She can paint. She can use color in very lovely ways. When an artist loves what she is doing as much as Mary does, it shows.”