Play at home, play at work, play as much as you can. When we are doing something we love we tend to do our best work.
Tad Carpenter considers himself lucky to have grown up the son of two artists. His mother is a textile artist and his father is an illustrator and art director who has worked with Hallmark for nearly 40 years. Tad says, “I literally grew up in the halls of Hallmark. I remember having interactions with some of the most talented artists in the world as a small kid.” In addition to his father, one of Tad’s most influential mentors was Gordon MacKenzie, who’s title at Hallmark was “Creative Paradox.” Tad told us, “He was basically a liaison between the chaos of creativity and the discipline of business.” Gordon once told Tad, “The only way to be original is by knowing yourself.”
Tad knows himself. Since childhood he has known that he wanted to illustrate. He told us, “My father really molded the way I see the world and the way I create within that world. He has illustrated dozens of children’s books. I got to grow up and watch him work and sit back and say, that is exactly what I want. I need to be a part of that.”
We asked him what it means to be an entrepreneur and about his upcoming personal work, a series of four children’s books and a picture book. “The ultimate test of entrepreneurship is being a designer who runs his own studio and maintains his own creative well-being each day.” Tad says. “I would never have it any other way. I think the hustle keeps you fresh, and it keeps you young. Making is truly my passion. If I had free time, I would be doing the exact same thing as I do day in and day out.”
He keeps a collection of Post-it notes and scraps with book ideas and big concepts—five of those ideas will be realized in the coming year as children’s books. “It can always be hard to balance client work and self-initiated projects,” he says. “But I have recognized the value and importance of self-initiated work for me. Small self-initiated projects (a print, or a poster) or larger more focused projects like a book proposal are what keep me hungry, these are what keep me always wanting to get better. It also allows you to explore and play without consequences.”
Tad’s love of storytelling and the spirit of play are evident in the whimsical worlds that he builds, and are qualities his mentors instilled in him. Tad told us, “Play is unbelievably important. Play at home, play at work, play as much as you can. When we are doing something we love we tend to do our best work. I try to never lose sight of why I do what I do. At my core, I loved to make as a child. That has never changed. At times we lose sight of why we got into the profession we did. We get stressed and forget to step back and look at what we are all doing. I love to make, first and foremost. Remembering that is important. If we ever lost sight or forget that we should love what we do, it may then be time to do something else. I live my life by a simple motto: love it, or leave it.”
On a final note, Tad left us with some words of wisdom. He said, “Don’t be in a hurry. When I was younger I wanted immediate success, but still to this day, goals take time. So rarely do they just appear. Good things are earned, not given.”
We think Tad has earned all of the acknowledgement he’s gained. Keep an eye out for his book releases in the coming year. The books’ details are under wraps, but we can tell you that the stories encourage kids to have fun, to overcome obstacles, and to play—all things that we advocate for in life, whether you’re five years old or 50. To learn more about Tad’s playful illustration work, be sure to check out his website, and this great video from Case-Mate.