PROfile is a series of interviews with artists and creative souls who have built businesses around their craft and passion. We’ll dig deeper to try and find out everything you could want to know from seasoned pros who have experienced the full gamut of highs and lows that come with running a creative business.
This week we are interviewing artist Morgan Cole, whose bold paintings, with their vibrant layered look, are instantly recognisable. So, pour yourself a cuppa and scroll down to read what Morgan shares about her journey as a working artist.
What was your first ‘proper’ job and how did you land it? Was it what you intended to do as a career?
My first out of college job was working at a bank as a teller, but the ladies in HR didn’t appreciate my creative ideas for improving how the teller line was run, so it didn’t last long. It wasn’t quite what I originally had planned on doing, my background is in fashion merchandising. I thought I would go work for Nordstrom or Anthropologie.
Has art and design always been in your blood?
Yes! I have fond memories of my mother reading books to my siblings and me when we were little. We would colour on the floor as she read. Then, later on, growing up it developed into cooking, crafts and art. I’ve always had to ‘create' something whether it’s a new food recipe or art.
Do you see yourself as introverted or extroverted, and does being either affect the way you work?
Hmm… I feel like I see myself as both. It just depends on which friend group I’m with. Sometimes I become more introverted and other times I’m super extroverted. It just depends on the situation. I definitely love being around people and am always out and about in the evenings.
What is your favourite kind of commission, and why?
One where the client tells me what feeling they want and the colour palette – then lets me do my thing.
How did you know you were ready to have your own business?
I don’t know if one is really ever ‘ready' for anything. You prep and plan and then for me at least, you think you’re ready, and dive in with all ducks in a row, but then life has its own plan and spin on things. It’s all worked out, but not exactly how I planned it – but that’s not a bad thing!
How did you go about starting your own business?
My mother always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and she passed that along to me and my siblings. My dad also was creative in his own way – he taught me how to weld and tend to the land. I love having my own business and getting to make moves, sometimes its super hard, but in the end I think its all worth it.
How did you secure your first clients?
My first official wholesale client was Celadon Home in Mt. Pleasant, SC. Grace Toland and Rebecca Hawkins were so sweet to support me and purchase a bunch of paintings to sell at Celadon, and the owner of Celadon, Steve was super encouraging – he has great business advice.
What is your typical daily routine like?
I wake up slightly on the later side of morning time, make coffee and avocado toast at my townhouse on Queen Street (you can hear the church bells ring and the horse carriages pass by all day long. It is darling). I check email, Instagram, Facebook, plot out things that have to get done that day. Then I’ll go to the studio (I paint at Redux Contemporary Art Center, which is located right in the heart of downtown Charleston – it’s a cool non-profit!) and paint, pack and ship, organise, or socialise with fellow studio friends; Stephen Elliott Webb (painter) and Leah Thornley (owner of 3 Little Beads) are always encouraging and funny! Work / Life balance is important to me so in the evening I’ll workout at my local Pure Barre studio, then go out for happy hour drinks and dinner with friends! My social life informs and helps my studio life.
What traits do artists have that help with running a business?
Thinking outside of the box! Being a creative and having unique business propositions are helpful traits to have. Most people associate artists with not being the best at business and that’s partly true because it definitely is a challenge to make, market, and sell your work. I think that’s why most artists, once they reach that tipping point, hire someone to be their manager.
Do you have a favourite medium or technique?
I enjoy working with oil and acrylic paint. Right now I’m into working on the ‘Liquin Lines’ series which has a clear oil paint medium: liquin, metallic pigments, and oil paint. I load up this a steel blunt, blade and swipe it across a panel that I’ve prepped with gesso and oil ground. I blast my favourite Spotify playlist (right now its Kanye West’s new album ‘Life of Pablo’) but I also love Ellie Gouldling, Drake, and Coldplay! Check out what I’m currently creating on Instagram.
What’s been the most beneficial business decision you’ve made?
Having a studio at Redux Contemporary Art Center!
Artists and writers often describe the compulsion to work – do you experience an overwhelming desire to create something new?
Absolutely! For me its usually a feeling that I get when I listen to music, then I make abstracts, or sometimes it could be from a building’s colour palette that I pass by on a walk downtown, or a friend’s picture on Instagram.
Do you ever feel alone in your work?
Yep! Not all the time, but since I have my own studio at Redux I paint by myself in my own space, everyone here does, so sometimes it can get lonely, but when I feel that feeling I usually go walk into one of my friends studios and chat for a bit, then go back and paint.
How do you relax?
Bubble baths with lavender epsom salts, sitting on my couch at my apt and reading, shopping online (my guilty pleasure – Nordstrom is my favourite) or go for a walk downtown Charleston with a friend.
Where do you find inspiration?
In everything! Music really drives my inspiration when I’m in the studio about to paint. But I find inspiration in fashion, the lowcountry landscape, the always beautiful Charleston sunsets, nights out with friends, traveling, people’s street style, etc.
What advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?
Be more spontaneous, go with the flow! Don’t force everything. Enjoy the small moments in life and don’t be constantly looking to the future thinking that once you make it to (blank) then you’ll be happy. Be content right now.
What would you like to be remembered for?
Oh, what a great question! I’d have to say, a kind heart, being a sweet lady, a fabulous artist, someone who threw the loveliest house gatherings, a good and moral person with a steady and stable personality.
What’s been the best moment of your career so far?
The City Paper wrote an article about me and that was pretty cool.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Having people choose art to put in their home – how special! I’m always super flattered that people would purchase my art for their private space.
What have been the biggest challenges or obstacles you’ve faced in your business and how did you overcome them?
Usually it’s comparing. That’s my biggest struggle. Its super easy to look at other artists and what they’re doing and say hmm…I should be like them, why am I not where they are? But those thoughts are negative, so I try and take those thoughts captive and change my thinking.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I think it would be a quote, ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, either way you’re right.' It reminds me of the power of the mind / body connection.
If you could have dinner with any inspiring person (past or present), who would you choose?
Timothy Keller, Tory Burch, Dennis Prager and David Brooks
Want more? Head this way for more PROfile interviews.