INTERVIEW WITH STEVE MORRISON
I was born on a blizzardy Illinois morning on December 10, 1982 (I have the same birthday as Emily Dickinson). Since then, I've developed a love for art, married a wonderful wife, and been blessed with a beautiful daughter. I plan to be around for a while yet.
This is my real website (my best work goes here): http://stevemorrisonillustration.com/
This is my blog (pretty much all my work goes here—uncensored, for better or worse ¼): http://stevemorrisonsketch.blogspot.com/
And this is my other blog (with selections from my sketchbook): http://stevemorrisonillustration.blogspot.com/
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I'm married to a wonderful wife and am blessed with a beautiful baby girl. I love to make art, and to look at art. I also love reading literature (my favorite is Don Quixote), listening to music (my favorites are Mozart and Bach), and watching movies (my favorites are the Marx Brothers).
How have you managed to develop such a great style for yourself?
My style has just sort of come about as I've attempted to make pictures. I spend a lot of time looking at other artists (some of my favorites are Sendak, Dürer, Tiepolo, Giotto, Klee, Etienne Delessert, William Blake, and Peter Sis). When I spend a lot of time looking at something that fascinates me, part of it ends up in my work. I think a careful study of great artists is essential to finding your own way. In the end, I think a style comes as a natural result of looking at and creating art. I try to learn all I can from others and follow my own aesthetic instincts. Most of all I just try to make pictures that are moving to me, and hopefully they will be to others as well.
What sort of places have you worked for?
I did lots of illustrations for independent study course manuals while I was in school; also T-shirts, brochures, CD covers, posters, portrait commissions, and even children's playmats. After I graduated, I started working for the Core Knowledge Foundation as an in-house illustrator. Core Knowledge is a small, independent company that produces educational materials for children. I do lots of cover art, some story illustrations, a few coloring book-style worksheets, and even some graphic design. It's a good job, and I'm lucky to have stumbled upon it.
What are your favorite kind of jobs to do?
I love making art for children. I would love to do picture books someday---once I can get a publisher to like my books. Pretty much anything that pays, though. I'm not terribly picky.
How did you get into illustration?
I've always loved art and books, so illustration seemed like a natural conjunction of the two. I drew ferociously as a child, and I've wanted to be an artist of some kind since I was able to hold a crayon. I like suggesting a story through images.
What do you think of Monday Artday?
I think it's great to have a sense of community among artists, because making art is so often a solitary profession. Monday Artday is a perfect way for people to share work and influence one another. I think it's cool. And anyone who wants to interview me must be pretty cool, right?
Describe your work setting:
At work, I have a computer desk for design and an art desk for illustration. Needless to say, I prefer the art desk. At home I have a little desk in the living room with an exercise ball for a chair. It's a bouncy delight.
Describe your usual day:
Usually I go to work (in car or on bike) around 8, work on various illustration/design projects for Core Knowledge, and go home around 4. After baby goes to sleep around 8 or 9 pm, I occasionally get some other work done. I do very few exciting things, and would be perfectly content to never leave my apartment (I have the same birthday as Emily Dickinson).
What do you do when you encounter a creative block?
Sketching (or doodling) is a great way to work my way out of a block, but sometimes I need to step away from art for awhile and read, go for a walk, listen to some music, or hang out with my family. The world is so crammed full of fascinating things that ideas usually are available. Sometimes I like to pull out my sketchbook and just draw a couple of random things, then see what their juxtaposition reveals. Creativity is about finding the hidden connections between things, so just looking around helps. Blocks are just part of the process sometimes, so I try not to stress out too much.
What has been the most important thing you have learned when it comes to illustrating? What about the business side of illustrating?
I think it's important to have some personal projects that you're passionate about, to keep yourself excited and involved in the creative process. Meeting deadlines and being reliable is very important...I wish I knew more about the business side of things; if you have any insights, please tell me!
What is the best thing about your job?
Being able to support my family by making pictures—something I LOVE to do. I feel like I'm tricking society ¼work should not be this enjoyable.
How have you promoted yourself through your career and has it payed off?
So far, all of my jobs have come through word of mouth, friend-of-a-friend type of stuff. I have been sending out mailers periodically for the last year or so, but have yet to see any results ¼I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
Give us some tips!
Draw all the time! Look at other artists' work! Read a lot! Eat lots of ice cream!
What is your favorite illustration you have made? What's the story behind it?
I don't know that I really have a favorite, but this is one I've been happy with. It's a picture of a fragmented Minotaur, painted for a little series about Greek mythology. It was influenced by my study of the works of Peter Sis...I like the little labyrinth with his lost limbs, and the way his tail winds through it (meant to be reminiscent of Ariadne's thread).
Tell us about "the shivers in the fridge" animation that you helped your friend create?
Last summer I was introduced to Paul Zelinsky, who is a fantastic picture-book illustrator, and a wonderful person. He has created many classics like Rapunzel, Rumpelstilstkin, and Swamp Angel, and has won multiple Caldecotts and other prestigious awards. He had just finished a new book, The Shivers in the Fridge (written by Fran Manushkin), and wanted to create some animations using characters from the book. I helped him all summer, and we both learned a lot (neither of us had done much animation before). It was a blast.
What is your favorite medium to work with?
I do most of my work in gouache ¼it acts a lot like watercolor, but can be used opaque as well. This makes it very handy for building up layers.
Do you have a picture of some of your old work so we can see how much you have progressed?
Unfortunately it's all in my mother's basement. If you're ever at her house, feel free to have a look around.
Thanks so much for the interview!
No, Thank YOU!!