Hallmark Illustrator Matt Kesler artfully interprets the story of the Nativity and celebrates the hope that was born on Christmas with his stunning collection available at Gold Crown stores and on Hallmark.com now. Today he is sharing his process and the inspiration behind these meaningful pieces.
Several years ago I began creating religious Christmas illustrations. To me, most traditional Madonna and Child imagery feels cold and impersonal. As a father who lived the experience of childbirth by my wife’s side, I feel strongly that this is one of life’s most intimate and richly emotional moments.
The births of our children were amazing, sacred experiences for us, so I wanted to create something that captured the awe and wonder of a newborn babe and the sacredness of Christ’s birth. I wanted to make the story of the Nativity and the birth of Jesus more accessible.
Just as the people of Jerusalem struggled each day to live with faith, hope, determination, and commitment, we, too, face similar challenges in our daily lives. To understand and celebrate Christ’s birth, we must connect with it through our own experiences…our own humanness. Light, drama, gesture, point of view, and a cinematic approach are my humble tools in bringing this ancient story to life in a contemporary way—and in bringing more peace, joy, and love into the world.
This collection is very personal. By filtering the story through my own point of view, I’m not trying to rewrite or change the event itself, but rather to help fill in what it must have felt like. My goal is to help others draw closer to the sacred experience of the birth of Christ. That’s the whole meaning behind our celebration of Christmas.
Matt’s friend and fellow artist Sam L. got her hands on the collection and displayed it in her home in the loveliest way. Here she shares her approach to Christmas and her love for Matt’s collection.
As the holidays approach, I always reassure myself that I will be cool, calm, and collected, and that I’ll spend time contemplating the true meaning of Christmas. Then that crazy time warp happens where we go from Halloween to New Years, and I find myself scrambling to find gifts, decorate the house, visit family, make all the holiday parties, and wrap up year-end work stuff. Before I know it the holidays have passed, it’s my mid-January birthday, and I’m another year older.
That’s why I love Matt’s Nativity collection. The beautifully crafted sculptures, prints, and tiles are helping me tell the story of Christmas before it whizzes by—but also without looking like I’m jumping the gun on Christmas decorations. The warm images help me stay grounded, and I love being able to tell the Nativity story in vignettes around our home instead of cramming it all into one tiny manger scene on our mantel.
This collection is especially poignant for me since I’m due to have a baby on December 24th, Christmas Eve. I sometimes look at my favorite sculpture in the collection, Joseph leading pregnant Mary on the donkey, and try to imagine what it was like for her. This collection is a timeless take on the Christmas story, and I love the idea of taking these pieces out every year and telling that story to my kids. Matt has given us a beautiful reminder of where to keep our focus when the season gets inevitably crazy.