- Hello, I'm Beth McMillan and welcome to Arteffects.
When artist Matt Kaufman of South Lake Tahoe creates artwork, it's more than just putting paint onto a canvas.
Each piece has a story and deep meaning behind it.
Sometimes that's creating a sense of awe and imagination with bright colors.
Other times, it's designing powerful children's storybook characters with big emotions.
Regardless of the subject, each one of Matt's pieces of art shares great creativity and colorful wonder.
My name is Matt Kauffman with Tree Fort Design, and I create art that transforms environments.
I would say that like my stuff is contemporary and modern.
It has a graffiti element to it.
Letters are really prominent and a lot of my work.
I think if you look closely, there'll be elements of letters woven throughout either like direct messages that is part of the piece or scripture, or just a lyric from a song.
That element of childlike wonder.
And the imagination is something that has been really strong.
in my creative process.
I've seen how important it is to tap into that imagination that honestly, I think society kind of scrubs out of us, that as we get older, we become less brave to be creative and tap into that imaginative spirit.
And I think it's really important that we not forget that exists in all of us.
The process for creating canvas work typically starts with just a random idea.
Inspiration can hit in the most random times.
I really enjoy cycling and so in the summer I've just been on my bike listening to music or just being present one with nature.
An idea will come out of nowhere if I'm listening to music at the time.
Sometimes a lyric will just resonate with me and I'll do a sketch based on some image that came out of nowhere in my mind's eye.
I like to work with reference images and so once I have a sketch, I then go back and begin an image search and I just start gathering images and I kind of create this digital collage.
I just arrange things very roughly, but not to create a polished piece of digital work, simply to get the proportions correct.
If I'm weaving and various elements, for example, flowers have come up in a lot of my work recently.
So if I've got a subject, sometimes I'll use one image for the face and I'll use another image for the pose of the body, and then I'll scale up flowers or a bird or some element, and from there I transfer it to the canvas or whatever medium I'm working on at the time.
I have two kids, a five year old and a nine year old.
We are a big reading family, so books have been a very big part of our daily lives and their childhood.
My wife and I noticed that so often children's books are not as imaginative as they could be.
And I had this idea on multiple occasions that, gosh, I could do better than I could write a children's book.
And so my son and I began working on sketches and ideas around a children's book.
I had the opportunity to participate in a solo exhibition this past December down in Palm Desert, and in creating work for that.
This idea was put on my heart to really explore this children's book concept and began creating works with the idea of the story of a series of characters that are gifted, unique superpowers by a spirit bird.
So some of the characters in the recent series that holds these unique superpowers include Mahina Moon, who is the overseer and protector of waters specifically in the ocean.
There's another character, Neon Knight, whose superpower is to inspire hope through song, through her gift of singing.
There is another character.
Her persona isn't necessarily a superpower.
It's more of just like a commentary and awareness on mental health and how we approach depression and cope with feelings of a lack of self-worth.
All of these characters are gifted, these unique powers, through this fictitious bird that lives in the story.
It's been a lot of fun.
I guess I'm going about it in kind of a backwards way in that I represented the characters as adults.
I do have many of the characters represented as children that will be used in the book, the first series.
It's just kind of interesting seeing the older representation of those characters and the little backstory that each one has and kind of the commentary on adult issues, but that you're all strong and not to forget that you're uniquely special.
Our mantra at tree fort is just to create art that sparks joy.
And so that is kind of the intention that I've tried to infuse in all of my work.
Hope is so powerful and important in life right now that processing things through creating something beautiful is really important for me, as well as if I can help in someone else reflecting or processing some experience in life.
And if it brings a smile to their face, then I'm mission accomplished.
- [Narrator] Funding for Arteffects is made possible by, Sandy Raffealli with Bill Pierce Motors, Meg and Dillard Myers.
Heidemarie Rochlin, in memory of Sue McDowell, and by the annual contributions of PBS Reno members.