Balancing life as a student and as a professional artist can be difficult, but by using the knowledge she has gained during her years in college, soon-to-be-graduate Morgan Gray is establishing her individuality in the art world.
Originally from Berwick, Louisiana, Gray is currently an LSU studio art senior with concentrations in painting and drawing. Gray held an interest in art as early as elementary school but didn’t think she had real talent. That all changed when she started painting her junior year of high school, and it snowballed from a hobby into a career path.
“I didn’t take any art classes until I got to college, and I started off as a [mass communication] major,” Gray said. “As I painted more, I saw that it was more than just a hobby, and I wanted to pursue it. So, I changed my major to painting and drawing my sophomore year, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Even though she decided to make the switch, Gray did have her doubts.
“At first when I wanted to switch I was kind of nervous because there are negative connotations, like ‘oh you’ll be poor or a starving artist,’” Gray said. “So, I was worried about that but the way I saw it was I would rather do something I like every day than waking up and going to this job I hated just to make a lot of money.”
The initial nervousness quickly ebbed for Gray. With the use and influence of social media, Gray believes it is easier to live as an artist than ever before.
“I always think about, back in the day you couldn’t just post a picture of your art and people would see it and react to it,” Gray said. “I feel like now it’s not as hard. I feel like if you promote yourself and reach people who would be interested in your art, you don’t have to worry about being a starving artist.”
Gray’s style is primarily in the avenue of psychedelic abstract paintings using acrylics or oils. Her aesthetic can be described as very pretty, colorful female portraits, but with a hint of something weird.
Gray’s art goes through phases more than having one particular style, and she prefers to change things up and try something new. She does a lot of abstract work, but also figurative, and currently, her work combines abstract with portraiture. She’s currently working on a few portraits and is making use of gold elements.
“I don’t usually paint super hyper-realistically because I still want to incorporate more abstraction with my work, so it’s a mix of portraiture with abstraction to make it more pleasing to the eye,” Gray said.
Right now, Gray is really into surrealism and cites Van Gogh’s brushstroke techniques as something she is moved by. Inspiration for Gray comes from her everyday life, be it things that she’s interested in or what catches her eye. Sometimes, she’ll come up with an idea through her daydreams.
This past July, Gray completed a series of work for her summer class, which all have a common denomintor: elements of gold. Gray was pleased that her professor approved her use of the gold aspects because gold in art can often appear as crafty. Since taking the class, Gray has said her technique has improved, and she can complete her portraits faster now.
“It’s cool watching it all come together and see how it all looks,” Gray said. “I had a vision of what I wanted them all to look like and seeing them come to life was exciting.”
Recently, Gray participated in the New Orleans art show RAW, has done commission work for Tin Roof Brewing Company and has had her work displayed in Magpie Café as its artist of the month, along with gallery shows at LSU. Right now, Gray is working on gaining more exposure by reaching out to galleries to show her work so more people will see her work in public rather than on social media.
Gray plans on moving to New Orleans and would like to get to the point of just selling her art, participating in shows, working on commissions and owning a gallery where she can display and work.
“That’s where I would like to be, but I know at the beginning it’s going to be a little harder to get a job and work out how to get to that point,” Gray said. “But that’s where I’m hoping I’ll be five or 10 years from now. Being able to support myself solely by making art.”
While she’s excited to dive into the New Orleans art world, Gray applauds Baton Rouge for the different ways artists can get involved, such as Art Melt, Surreal Salon and the Baton Rouge Painters League.
“I think there are a lot of ways to get involved,” Gray said. “I feel like the art scene can maybe be a little bit bigger. That’s what I like so much about New Orleans. I feel like everywhere in New Orleans you see art. I feel like Baton Rouge needs to step up its game a little bit, but I still think there are a lot of places that you can go and see art and meet artists, especially for being a college town.”
To see more of Gray’s work or request a commission, find her on Instagram.