Meet Taj Mattingly
Founder, Creative Director, and Artist of the Coldstream Tales. We talk about his love of art and storytelling, the devastating injury that dramatically impacted his career as a designer and illustrator, and his life as part of the Coldstream Tales.
With a laugh that’s larger than life and physical stature that could rival any high school linebacker, Taj doesn’t necessarily embody what you imagine when you think of an artist. Although he’s big and gregarious, once you see his art, you realize his injury has not impaired his creativity at all.
Let’s start way back – have you always been an artist?
Yeah, you could say that. I started taking private lessons with art instructors as a kid in the D.C. area and went to classes at universities and museums all through grade school. When I was in high school, I was accepted into the Visual Arts Center in Montgomery County, then eventually moved to Kansas City to attend KCAI. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Illustration and Design in 2003. While at KCAI, I attended the Illustration Academy in Richmond, Virginia in 2002 and 2003 where I got to learn from internationally renowned artists.
What’s the story about your injury?
I’ll leave out the gory details, but I crushed my dominant hand in a workplace accident in the summer of 2016. After that, I had to figure out how to manage the chronic pain that the injury created and had to adjust the way I made art.
How did you get started with Coldstream Tales as a project, and what inspired you to take it on?
Jesse reached out to me after seeing a video of my drawing process. He told me about the characters and we talked about the world – I was hooked immediately. I wanted to be a part of it and help bring a whole new universe to life. Especially in a time where our world is a little dark, the Coldstream Tales provided a light.
What do you think your experience brings to the project?
I’ve struggled with learning disabilities my whole life and as an artist, I think there can be a feeling of being an outsider at times. Coldstream is a place where outsiders are welcome. I try to bring a sense of wonder and care to the development of the characters who will inhabit our magical town.
What is your hope for the project?
I hope that everyone will feel like Coldstream is for them. I want to convey a feeling of acceptance and a sense of adventure.
What have been the biggest challenges with the project?
Developing a universe that has this many wonderful characters and special places is difficult. Everything needs careful consideration. It has to make sense.
Where do you see this company in five years?
I don’t see any limitations. Coldstream is so vast that in five years I believe we’ll be able to tell stories without boundaries.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Deep in the steam, exploring.
What’s the most rewarding part of working at Coldstream Tales?
The feeling that nothing is impossible.
If you had one thing for parents to know about Coldstream Tales, what would it be?
This is a place for your children to feel welcome. They’ll discover all of the magical possibilities that they have inside themselves and will help the Coldstream community flourish!
We’re so lucky to have Taj as part of the Coldstream Tales team. He adds his unique perspectives, artistic flair, and a knack for universe-building to every aspect of the project.
Do you have a question for Taj? Do you want to collaborate with him on a future project? Leave a comment or question below or submit a collaboration request.