Youngster's Future May Be in the Cards

Hiro Yamagata is a well-known figure in the Los Angeles art community, noted for his portraits of celebrities, professional athletes and political figures.

But he's never had his artwork printed on a Hallmark greeting card--a distinction his 7-year-old son Aaron will be able to claim next month.

Aaron is one of the creators of the latest line of birthday cards from Expressions From Hallmark, the Kansas City-based subsidiary of Hallmark, which will be on sale beginning in July. He was one of 12 winners of the greeting card firm's first-ever Kid's Card Contest for children ages 5 to 12.

"I felt ecstatic," said Aaron, whose imaginative design consisting of a lighted candle and party balloons rising out of a red rose was chosen from about 35,000 entries nationwide. Aaron, who lives in Sherman Oaks with his mother, was the only winner from California.

Didi Yamagata, Aaron's mother, recalled screaming when she received the news from Expressions From Hallmark's corporate headquarters last month. "He's won local awards for his artwork before, but in this case it was a complete surprise because it's a national event," she said.

Company spokeswoman Michelle Buckley said Aaron's artwork was chosen for its beauty and its originality.

"How many times do you see a rose with a candle sticking out of it?" Buckley asked. "It's just really special."

The 12 winners will receive an expenses-paid trip to Kansas City for four beginning Friday, Buckley said. While there, the winners will spend a day at the Worlds of Fun amusement park, watch a Kansas City Royals baseball game and tour the Expressions From Hallmark facility.

A plaque containing the original artwork and 500 copies of the original cards will be given to the winners during a reception, Buckley said.

Aaron said he plans to take his mother and grandparents to the festivities in Kansas City.

When asked what he wanted to be when he grows up, Aaron's response was predictable: "I want to be a famous artist."

After a slight pause, he added, "more famous than my father."

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