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My Favorite Illustrations

Every once in a while a project lands on my desk that just stands out from the rest.  Something happens where one illustration ends up better than the others.  These paintings are my favorite professional illustrations.

I like this painting better than any other professional illustration I have ever done.  The main visual themes from the story weave together with the carefully chosen colors, the tight composition built around the title, and the themes of adventure and tenderness all in one illustration.  It is not often that an artist gets the privilege to work on something so involved and rewarding.


I like this.  I could talk about why I like the composition or the interplay of colors, but in the end I just like it.  When I look at it, I can taste the hot dust in my mouth.  It is a dry year to be planting, but maybe after the plowing is finished, the rains will come.


I enjoyed working on Helen Keller.  She faced so many obstacles with her limited senses, but she overcame them through hard work and discipline.  The world around her is barely perceptible, as this picture illustrates, with her hands the least altered by the fog.  Her hands became her doorway back into reality.


For this illustration I distorted photographs to provide realistic texture and recolored them as color washes inside the lines.  As an illustration, I like it’s novelty.  And as an illustrator, I just think that it’s fun.


A poem in one of the A Beka readers needed a portrait of Pocahontas.  I chose a historically correct portrayal as far as age and ethnicity goes, but I had to remove all the facial piercings and body paint that she probably would have worn.  The poem made no mention of the practices, and many of the readers would have found the strict historical interpretation offensive.  As it is, it is my best digital imitation of an oil portrait.  And it’s a touching picture of a young woman coming to the age of decision.


This is one of my earlier computer paintings.  I took a sketch and colorized it.  The young man in the story is essentially sacrificing his chances to become the king’s son in order to protect a lost little girl and bring her home to her mother.  His coat, a gift from the king, is tattered and torn from his good deeds, while his rival sits inside and preens the matching coat.  I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t guessed the outcome, so I’ll just say you can read about it in A Beka Book’s reader, Open Skies.


Life can be complicated for missionary kids.  They deal with the trauma of extreme situations in foreign lands, many times with very little time from their parents who have gone to the field to minister to others.  Ofter the children feel isolated and lonely.  In this story the missionary boy befriends some Japanese boys through a makeshift basketball court.  The colors in this illustration especially appeal to me.


Edison experienced an accident on his first real job selling newspapers on a train.  He saved up for chemicals and would conduct experiments with chemicals he had bought.  Once the train hit a bump and a jar of phosphorus spilled and started a fire on the train.  The enraged conductor physically threw Edison and his chemicals out of the train onto the train tracks.  The tilt of the train car is shown visually with the strong diagonals and Edison’s contrasting corrective movement.


While this may not be the most captivating image I have ever created, but for those who have ever been lonely or those who have stared at fires, it may strike a familiar chord.  The illustration has just enough detail to make scene look stark.  The vibrant color contrasts with the mood, and the cool blues and magentas carry the lonely feeling.


This illustration started as a very textured colorized sketch, but I layered opaque color to cover up a lot of the texture.  The overpainting subdued the strong texture in the sketch.  I used the same colors as I used in the last illustration, but they are softer, more fitting to the mood of the story.  I found a bust of Beethoven and used it as a source for his head in the picture.  Believe it or not, the shadow on the wall is my favorite part of the painting.


I visited the Rockies only once, and Arizona once.  Someday I’d love to go to the badlands or travel the Oregon trail.  This cover is sort of an ode to all those dry and difficult places in life that can look so beautiful in the right light.


The Animals in the Great Outdoors reader was one of my most intense illustration experiences, and one of the most profitable.  I had just finished college, and still had that ignorance that made impossible deadlines seem feasible and the energy that compensated for my time miscalculations.  Frogs are wonderfully clumsy and beautiful creatures and I look back on this reader as some of the best creative work I have done to date.


One of the third-grade readers included a poem with a mock rendition of Robinson Crusoe.  I created this illustration, a tongue in cheek, as an almost "Wish You Were Here!" postcard depiction of Crusoe.  I like the sun hitting his left eye, the perfect shipwreck practically sitting on the water, and the sand castle peaking over the beach.  I laugh whenever I see this.


This is one of the first illustrations that I used the colorized black and white sketch style.  I had not refined the style yet, but it displays a raw intensity that convinced me of the technique's potential.  I still begin many of my illustration with variations of this technique.


This began as a joke in the publishing department, and provided a great deal of enjoyment for everyone involved.  I love the sheer variety in this painting—the cat breeds and the expressions on their faces.  I also enjoy the grouch of the bunch.


This final painting expresses an ideal that is too often absent in the modern conception of a father.  This father, as he checks his son in the night, provides a portrait of a loving, protective father.  One hand holds the lit match, the other shelters the flame, and both hands form a heart.


  1. Wow, I love all the work you've done. I know you've done a lot for A Becka, but do you do any work outside of that?

  2. Nice Symbolism, Matt! I also love the warm color harmony contrasting with his blue eyes. Great job!