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ONU Alumna Captures Her Mind’s Eye at Hallmark

Karen Sargent“I have never been around a body of such beautiful work,” Karen Sisung Sargent, BFA ’79 says in reference to Hallmark Cards, Inc. in Kansas City, KS.

Sargent’s dreams came true in 1999 when she was offered a position with Hallmark Cards, Inc., America’s top greeting card company. She is an illustrator commissioned to sit in a studio throughout the day and do what she loves—paint. Sargent corresponds with the art director on various designs, mostly focusing on animals.

“There are a lot of peoples’ ideas that go into everything I do,” she says of her designs. “It is a collaborative effort, therefore extremely important to have a good rapport with all involved.”

Sargent feels fortunate that she is doing exactly what she wants to do. Many in the art field aren’t getting to do what they want to do because everything is digital.

“As an illustrator,” she explains, I love to draw and now that everything is digitized, many of the positions, even within Hallmark, have converted the technology.

At this point, Sargent feels confident she will remain an illustrator, however realizes there is no such thing as job safety. Hallmark sends her along with other illustrators on trips to see what is happening in the ‘ever-changing’ society of the U.S.

“They (Hallmark) really want to keep us keep in touch with the trends… they want to know the pulse of the consumer.”

Although it has become her expertise, painting wasn’t always Sargent’s passion.

“I enjoyed drawing and pencils in high school,” she explains, “never did I think about painting, and to be honest I wasn’t seriously considering college.”

It was her art teacher in Gibralter, MI, an ONU graduate, who pushed for her to look into Ohio Northern’s art and design department. And so she did.

“Ohio Northern is where I learned to paint,” states Sargent, “and now it is what I do with my life.”

It was Ohio Northern that gave her the skills and confidence to head into the job market, initially as an illustrator with Gibson Greeting Cards, which she worked for five years.

Freelancing consumed the next fifteen years of her life. This allowed her to accept and turn down jobs as she pleased. More importantly, it allowed her to raise her family. Sargent’s two daughters make it a game to pick out their mom’s designs in the store. “I give them a quarter for each one they pick out,” she laughs.

Although freelancing seemed ideal, it had its drawbacks as well. “My studio was my living room,” Sargent says, “so I would never leave my work. I would find myself working on the project night and day until I got it right. That is the most difficult part of my job—not being able to walk away until I capture what my mind’s eye is seeing.”

Apparently Hallmark doesn’t think she has any problem getting it right.