Field Outrider: Art Illustration Finalist/Modern Huntsman Field Outrider Contest
Heidi: I know you are self taught, when did you first start painting?
Morgan: I started painting five years ago. I was 23 years old and had moved to Bozeman, Montana that year. I grew up in Idaho without much access to galleries or artists, so it wasn’t until I started meeting them here in Bozeman that I realized it was an option. I quickly left my ‘real job’ at the hospital and devoted everything to learning how to paint. I did this mostly by looking at master paintings closely (via the internet and books in a rural cabin in Montana), studying the history of art, and cataloging the ones that I was drawn to. That catalog became my North Star, and narrowed my focus to the type of art I wanted to create. I’ve made many bad paintings over the last five years, but have had enough moments of ‘I might be onto something’ that I keep trying.
How does the pace of painting transcend into your life?
I am a very slow painter. There are no shortcuts to the type of painting I do. It requires a lot of drying time, and many layers of paint. Because of this, my time in the studio is important to me to be able to create enough paintings to meet show demands. My lifestyle is built around protecting that, I live rurally and prioritize time alone. Technology is sparse up here, and can feel disconnecting when I spend a good amount of time working with my hands on creating an object in real life.
Why did you submit that particular painting to the contest?
The painting I submitted is a family history painting, of a great uncle that ranches sheep in Idaho. They lost a herd of 50 to a lightning strike on the high desert plain. In the painting I feel a sense of stewardship, of care and responsibility over the animals. I think that question is asked often in stories told by Modern Huntsman, “What is our responsibility?”.
What are you working on these days?
I am working on works for my next solo show in June at Old Main Gallery in Bozeman, as well as a grouping of new works for Sugarlift Gallery in NYC. I am trying to balance giving myself time to explore and be curious, while still meeting deadlines. I have a few large scale works that I’ve been tinkering with for many months now, which has been a very enjoyable way to work.
What inspires you?
I think mostly I look to old master painters for what they were trying to convey, stories that we keep telling each other. As a figurative painter, I like to think a lot about archetypes, what each figure represents, what does this agrarian landscape represent in these changing times, what are the eternal truths here? Visually I get a lot of inspiration from a mediation process I use, visualizing the scenes I have created and wondering what might I see around the corner…etc.
When you do your figurative work, what is your process?
When I compose a new painting, I will have a general idea in my head and on paper, large shapes, then go out into the field with model(s). We will spend time arranging that scene, collaborating together on new ideas, and taking lots of photos and video. In my ideal world, when weather and model cooperation permits, I also get time on site to do little painting studies of color notes specifically. Then I take all of this reference back to the studio, take parts of scenes and put them together on a usually imagined landscape. I look for specifics of posture of the figure, universality of their shape and archetype, expression, etc., and arrange things specifically to be most effective and efficient for the human eye and brain. This is one of my favorite parts of the process.
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