EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –If Matt Engstrom isn't watching a Vikings game, there's a good chance you'll find him drawing. Or maybe, he'll be doing both.
Vikings fans might recognize some of Engstrom's work, as he's contributed weekly Vikings game illustrations throughout the 2016 season. The unique takes on each matchup have been liked, favorited and retweeted by countless Vikings fans.
As a resident of Los Angeles, Engstrom said he appreciates the connection with fellow fans all over the country.
"I've loved interacting with other fans via social media because being a Vikings fan in California can be kind of lonely," Engstrom said. "There's not a lot of us out here. So, I love and appreciate the people I've met through social media. It gives me the camaraderie and community that I lack here on the West Coast."
Although Engstrom didn't call Minnesota "home" past the age of 5, he was immersed in the purple and gold early on and never looked back.
Some of his earliest memories revolve around his family's love for the Vikings. Engstrom was a child of the Purple People Eaters era, and he still remembers a framed poster of the 1974 team hanging in the family's basement near the pool table.
"My grandma would sit on her porch and listen to the games on her radio, and my dad would watch them on our TV," Engstrom said. "There was a lot of excitement around the team when I was young."
As Engstrom grew up, his love for the Vikings grew along with a passion for art and humor.
He recalled drawing pictures of a PAC-MAN character in elementary school that made his classmates laugh, and the correlation stuck with him.
"In high school, I spent hours doodling and making flip books during algebra," Engstrom said before adding with a laugh: "I didn't do so well in that class, but I definitely fell in love with animating."
After graduating, Engstrom began pursuing possible careers in the animation field and, as he puts it, "knocking down doors" for opportunities. The creative world is a difficult one to break in to, but Engstrom was determined.
In 1996, Engstrom landed an internship with Disney. Soon after, he worked on King of the Hill *from 1998-2006 before starting with Nickelodeon Studios in 2007. Over the past 10 years, Engstrom has been employed with Nickelodeon, FOX and DreamWorks Animation Studios. Engstrom is currently a supervising producer at the latter, where he is leading a project based off of *Boss Baby, a movie that will be released in March.
While he draws for a living, Engstrom doesn't tire of creating new art. Prior to joining the Vikings, Engstrom often illustrated scenes related to his favorite team.
View the illustrations created by DreamWorks producer and longtime Vikings fan Matt Engstrom for each game this season.
"It gave me an avenue to express myself if I'm frustrated about a game or [a loss] or [excited] about an upcoming game, or a win, or something," Engstrom said. "It gives me the ability to express my thoughts and feelings in my own way, so it's kind of fun."
His work drew the attention of Scott Kegley, Vikings Executive Director of Digital & Innovation.
"Matt's illustrations have a lot of personality to them," Kegley said. "They resonate with fans as they draw on emotion and humor leading up to each matchup during the season. The content stands out in our social feeds, and I think Vikings fans have really enjoyed Matt's work this season."
When Engstrom was approached about contributing illustrations for the Vikings during the 2016 season, he jumped aboard. In addition to his full-time job, Engstrom now looks forward to coming up with a new idea for each Vikings game.
He said inspiration typically comes from the season's current situation.
"If a team is intimidating, then a lot of times I'll put the Viking in a position where it's a big obstacle to have to surmount," Engstrom explained. "Or sometimes just other things that might strike me funny or unique about the matchup."
After he decides on a general idea, Engstrom does a rough drawing of the concept on a digital pad, as he said paper and pencil has become nearly obsolete in the animation world.
"It has the same feel as paper [and drawing with a pencil – it's pressure-sensitive, and you can erase with the back of the pen," Engstrom said.
He carefully creates the illustration piece by piece, first using inexact lines and shapes and gradually adding color and detail until he has a polished, complete drawing. The finished illustrations are then posted through the Vikings social media channels for thousands of fans to enjoy.
For Engstrom, it captures the best of both worlds.
"What I've found with doing illustrations about the Vikings is that I'm able to combine two lives," Engstrom said. "I can draw about something I'm passionate about and hopefully bring laughter to people as well."