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An optimist, a dreamer… meet Tad Carpenter

There is something so exuberant about Tad Carpenter’s work. When you see it, it feels like everything is going to be okay. Perhaps it’s his Kansas City roots or maybe it’s just his obvious love for the art and artistry of children’s picture books. Either way, we’re simply lucky to have his bold, joyful work on Poketo. Meet Tad Carpenter!

Tell me a bit about yourself without using the words illustrator, artist, designer.
I am a very disciplined person and love being active. I work out everyday and love that feeling. If it is running, weights, biking whatever I love to be active.

I am all about my family. I am an only child so I am very close with my mother and father. I also have the best wife in the world. Those 3 people mean a great deal to me.

I collect a lot of vintage goods like vintage advertising memorabilia, vintage toys, mid-century books and furniture, old globes and signage. I just love to dig and collect.

What words describe you best?
Disciplined, optimistic, softy, dreamer, glasses, structured.

Your work is full of bold colors and happy monsters. Could you share a few of your illustration inspirations?
I love color. I really try to work that is fun, whimsical and full of optimism. Growing up my favorite thing in the world was picture books. I feel so lucky to be working on my own books now. When I work I think back to some of how Bill Pete‘s drawings made me feel. Or Maurice Sendak, and try to captre a similr sentament.

When I was 5 or 6 years old I met Maurice Sendak and that always stuck with me. His ability to tell a story with made up creatures is amazing and something I try to do as well. Using a fictitious character makes it easy to get your own point across. All preconceived notions that a person or animal has are lost.

I think I slept with my signed Sendak doll for a month after I met him.

You have a diverse career working in illustration. What’s the biggest challenge you face at work?
Time management. When you run your own company you have to do it all. Take out the trash, write proposals, invoice and actually design and illustrate.

You really have to be able to multitask in a major way. But I would not change anything and am a bit of a control freak so having my hands in several things at once is fine with me.

What’s your philosophy on work?
If you don’t love it, don’t do it. Plain and simple.

What has been your favorite project so far?
That is so so hard to say.

I have been branding a restaurant out of Atlanta called Yeah! Burger which I am very proud of. Actually several of the restaurant brands I have created come to mind. I really love branding on that scale.

I am working on several children’s books right now that I am ecstatic about.
Also several smaller projects like the Zion snowboard line, my Holiday Homies and personal holiday cards each year…not sure I can ever pick one. I would say whatever piece is the newest tends to be one of my favorite.

You’ve always lived in Kansas City. Could you tell us a little bit more about Kansas City and share some of the reasons why it is home?
I actually live in Kansas City, Missouri. I love this city, I actually really love the Mid-West in general. Sometimes I feel like Kansas City is secret. A place that people have not tapped into yet.

What I love about Kansas City is pretty simple. Yes, it is obvious the Mid-West is a much lower cost of living than the coast. But, what is amazing about Kansas City is the high level of art and design. A city where Walt Disney lived and created what would eventually be Mickey Mouse, a school like the Kansas City Art Institute that had teachers and students like Robert Rauchenberg, Thomas Hart Benton and John Stuart Curry.

And most important for KC is this is the birth place of the greeting card and Hallmark Cards. Hallmark is still world head quartered here employing hundreds of artist, copywriters, designers, stylist and photographers from all over the world. Because of Hallmark alone a smaller city like Kansas City is loaded with talent.

Tell us a bit about your wallet design for Poketo.
It’s pretty simple. Sailing and boating is an amazingly fun hobby and something that seems like a great get away. This past summer it was so, so hot and all I wanted to do was just get away from the heat. In my mind the idea of a night boat ride under the moon and stars sounded like the perfect remedy for the awful Mid-West heat wave. The closest I came to that night boat ride was this wallet. And that’s just fine.

What do you wish you had the nerve to do?
Become a boxer, skydive or pick up and move to Europe for half the year. Any of those sound so fun to me and totally outside what tend to do.

Did we mention Tad also designed the blue version of the Artful Flyer?

What’s next for Tad Carpenter?
I mentioned several children’s books I am working on. So excited for those. I have a holiday based book I wrote and illustrated , a 4-book board book series I also wrote and illustrated a poetry book all releasing in 2012. I really hope people will like these. Have been so fun to work on.

We’ll be seeing more of you in the bookstores then! Thanks, Tad.

Check out Tad’s wallet at
Find more of Tad at

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