Why I create: Matt K., Hallmark artist, maker, student, and teacher

Do you remember when you first thought, “I love making things?” Or what artists inspired you from a young age? Hallmark Artist Matt K. tells us who and what inspires him, and why creativity is in his bones. 

It pulled me right in.

In my earliest memory, I remember how my father showed me how to draw this long-necked dinosaur. I just kept going and I think that’s where it all started. Like any kid, I was validated hugely for my artistic ability. It fueled my excitement for it.

What originally intrigued me about art and drawing was that I could create this wonderful world be a part of it as I’m creating it. Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are was one of my favorite books as a child. It was a really big influence in becoming an artist because I could see how he had taken line, color, and form and created this whole environment. It just pulled me right in and I wanted to be in that place.

I would also spend a lot of time in my dad’s woodshop carving, shaping, sawing, sanding, filing, and cutting. I was a Cub Scout and my dad taught me how to build a car for the pinewood derby. But when Cub Scouts was over, I was still making cars because I wanted to keep making a better car.

I had to keep going.

My illustration education at Utah State was a really interesting time because of my professors. They would bring in the top notch illustrators of the day to speak to us, and we’d have workshops and paint together. Most of these illustrators were doing commercial art, whether it was for film, or editorial, or for books—a lot of film. We were told, “Build up a portfolio, go out to New York or LA, pound the streets, and eventually you’ll make it.”

I chose instead to take a full-time job at Hallmark.

Initially I was hired as an Associate Re-design Artist—that job doesn’t even exist anymore. Re-design was a department that took original artwork and repurposed it—like paint over top of it, or change the scene so could be reused.

I wanted to work with the Original Artists. In order to achieve that, I spent a couple of years submitting as many illustrated card concepts as I could. I failed pretty miserably for the first while, but I knew I had to keep going because I wasn’t going to be happy if I just settled for something else. My success rate began to improve, I started to build a reputation and the Art Directors started to notice.

Hallmark Artist Matt K.'s preliminary illustrations for his Nativity collection of cards and gifts

Work-in-progress sculptures from Hallmark Artist Matt K.'s Nativity collection

I get a kick out of helping.

My current role has evolved into Creative Resource Consultant. My job is to help teach and expose other artists to new materials and opportunities through workshops, to build new skills, and expand themselves creatively.

I get a kick out of helping a person find success after they initially felt pretty unsure of themselves, all the way through the process to the end of their project. And when we get to the end and I can see I’ve lifted them up in a way, that lifts me up too.

The collaborative spirit is much greater at Hallmark than it ever was, and when you collaborate you have much better ideas than just sitting at your desk trying to think of the best idea in the world.

Cardboard Costumes | thinkmakeshareblog.com

Why I create.

I think I’ve come to understand that you never fully arrive in your journey to artistic greatness; however, things have changed a bit in the fact that I am content with where I’m at right now.

It took about seven or eight years after getting hired at Hallmark for me to feel like I was really becoming my own artist. I think it came from maturing and just having experiences over and over that helped me evolve. I love that there is still the excitement of knowing there’s always something new around the corner that I haven’t tried yet, and I think I feel more confident now that I’ll succeed in it.

I recognize that my creativity permeates all aspects of my life. I think the creative spirit in myself kind of touches on everything I do. I create because I find great satisfaction and personal fulfillment in making, and that gives me joy and peace and meaning.

If I’m not creating, then I don’t feel like I’m being who I truly am.

Take a peek at some of Matt K.’s projects for work and for fun at work. And play along with his workshops: Make concrete vases or cardboard sculptures


Interviewed and edited by Maddie H.


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