Matt’s artistic training began as a boy in Missouri, when he met an old-time western artist named Bob Tommy, who just moved from Texas. Tommy encouraged Matt to try his hand at painting. When Tommy saw Matt’s “natural talent,” he became Matt’s mentor and taught him the technique he had amassed in his lifetime of work. In college, Matt studied painting. After graduation, he broadened his skills, painting everything from greeting cards to animation backgrounds. His career changed forever when Spielberg’s DreamWorks company found and hired him. Matt brought and his new bride, Michele, a Texas small-town girl, with him to Hollywood.
At DreamWorks, Matt rose through the ranks, painting concept art. When Steven Spielberg had an idea brewing about the Battle for Iwo Jima, Matt painted an “epic concept” for him that Spielberg used to pitch the film, Flags of Our Fathers. Soon, Matt was named Franchise Art Director for DreamWorks’ Medal of Honor video games series, one credited with generating interest in WWII history among young people.
There, Matt discovered that he, too, possessed a passion to tell the stories of America’s war heroes when DreamWorks had him create paintings for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Working from just a citation and a portrait of a long-deceased MOH recipient, Matt brought their stories back to life. There, he discovered his calling.
Then, in summer 2008, Matt underwent brain surgery to remove a growth behind his eye. "It was a wake-up call," Matt explained. "It got me thinking, 'What kind of legacy will my art leave? Will it tell a story of something important? Will it be something people will appreciate 50 or 100 years from now?' It was tough to look in mirror and say 'maybe not' since the art I was doing would be locked away in a vault once it served its purpose."
After Matt’s surgery, Valor Studios, a prominent publisher of military art came to Matt with an offer to publish him. Valor Studios had seen Matt’s work for DreamWorks and asked if he wanted to paint full time to honor the heroes of military past and present? Matt heartily agreed. "It was an epiphany on a lot of levels," he explained, "Spiritually, artistically, and career-wise. Like that leap of faith when I went to paint for Hollywood, I’ve now decided to follow my passion and paint the stories of men and women whose legacies need to be preserved."