Kate Morgan is an illustrator who also run workshops for all ages. When asked to describe her work Kate said “I would say that my illustrations are colourful, friendly, detailed with a story usually attached. I have quite a range of themes too. I like to illustrate real places in Yorkshire, landmarks in Sheffield and the surrounding countryside but I also love to illustrate imaginary scenes too. They might be in response to a story I’ve read, a film or something that I have made up when I have been daydreaming”.
Kate sells her illustrations as prints at local stalls, on her etsy shop and also produces bespoke commissions for people too. Something she really enjoys!
Hi Kate, describe your average day.
I try and get up early as I think that I do work better in the morning. I also work well at night too but a lot of other people aren’t on emails late at night, so I choose the morning now over being a night owl. After a pint of tea I check my emails and social media and write a to do list. I feel a bit lost without a list and that’s when I do jobs in a really strange and illogical order.
I then work through my list throughout the day which can be invoicing for workshops, applying for stalls, sending my work to print and updating my website and etsy page. The best days are when I can illustrate and get lost in the making. The very best days are the ones where I get my paints out and go mad on painting papers a variety of colours, ready to scan into my computer for future illustrations.
What jobs have you done/do other than being an artist?
I would say I am a bit of a jack of all trades. When I was at Uni I worked in the local takeaway. I had never eaten or seen a donner kebab before (no idea why), so it was all new and I just loved it. I got to know the people who worked there and had a really varied friendship group. It tapped into my night owl tendencies and it somehow made me feel more inspired creatively.
I’ve worked at the Bear Factory before it closed down. It was like build a bear. So I would stuff and sew up the bears, I got really fast at sewing. I’ve also worked in many kitchens potwashing and helping prep food. For one summer I was a baker at a local hotel. Odd memories of baking giant quantities of apply crumbles and custard.
Not so long ago, I moved into working with vulnerable young people and adults using the arts as a means to help with people’s wellbeing. So I continue to do this on a freelance basis and also deliver promotional arts material to places around Sheffield.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
I think that when I do bespoke commissions for people I always get nervous that they won’t like it or I’ve got the wrong end of the stick but in actual fact, I get lovely feedback from people which makes me feel quite proud of myself.
I recently completed one for someone and the lady who it was for got in touch with me to say how much she liked it and she kept smiling when she looked at it. I thought that was great feedback!
Is the artistic life lonely?
I think that it can be. I’m based in a small village in North Sheffield and I can be very focused when I am working. So there has been times when I have realized that I haven’t been outside in about two days and not really spoken to anyone!
I don’t think I feel lonely but I know that I can be a quiet person and it’s important for my wellbeing to socialize and meet new people. It can be really inspiring and I have learnt a lot through working with others. It has also led to other opportunities. There is a really good thing in Sheffield at the moment called The Sheffield Guild. So I joined that as a way of meeting other creatives in the city and have really enjoyed being a part of something.
What research do you do?
Quite a lot about everything! When I am creating an illustration I will research that. For example, when I did my Hole in the Road piece, I did a lot of research into the landmarks past and read a lot about what it used to look like. That helped me get an accurate picture for my illustration.
I research into how to use etsy effectively and what titles work best. I look into help for running my own business and will contact the Association of Illustrators if I need advice. I research upcoming stalls and look for information on how to make a stall look fantastic and I look at other illustrators too to see what they are up too. I try not to compare myself too much though as that isn’t always a helpful thing to do!
How do you work and what media do you use?
When I sell at stalls I get asked if my illustrations are watercolours or acrylics and where is the original?
I don’t know if not having an original matters, it’s something that I am still considering and do worry about sometimes.
When I graduated, I used to love working in collage. I would either use found textures from magazines or make my own using paints. Then I would make a piece and then scan it into my computer and use photoshop to try and clean it up. I found this a really frustrating way of working as I could never make my piece look as clean as I wanted and also, I might change my mind about the composition or some details and it would be really tricky to change that. So I came up with another way which is similar but a lot clearer.
I now scan in my painted papers separately, I use acrylic, inks and watercolour to create them.
Sometimes I scan in drawings from my sketchbook too. I open photoshop and on separate layers work over the drawings using the scanned in papers. Sometimes I draw straight into the computer using my pen tablet. So I am basically making a collage on photoshop but all the pieces are separate, so I can move them around, playing around with size and scale. It’s also really handy because when a customer asks for changes, I can easily make them.
Instead of having an original, I have a lot of paper! I have now started to make little paper models out of the scraps as props for my etsy photos.
Do you rage against the machine or use computers to create your artwork?
I love the machine! I don’t have a very tech laptop though but it does the job. It’s also purple and I’ve covered it in cat stickers. I also have it attached to another screen, so I can listen and watch things in the background.
Which other artists/real-life situations inspire you?
I am in love with Shaun Tan and have some of his books. I love his colour and shading technique, I could get lost in his work. I’ve also always really liked Robert Rauschenberg because of all the textures within his pieces and the energy that comes from them.
I also love the illustrations of Jean Jacques Sempe, he is a French cartoonist and I have one of his books called Nicholas. I used to read them when I was younger and was fascinated at the scale of the people and was obsessed with the way that he drew noses.
What is your dream project?
To write and illustrate my own children’s book and then for it to get published! I will do this (I don’t know if it would get published), once I have decided on my story. I did have one but I decided that it wasn’t right, so I think about this when I go running at the moment.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
That it’s ok to say no and to not apply for everything!
I am a yes person and only recently have I been able to say no in an assertive way. I think that when you work for yourself, there is a fear that you won’t get any work and that can lead me to start applying for every opportunity under the sun. Which I am working on!
Professionally, what’s your goal?
I think to really get stuck into getting more commissions. I recently competed some illustrations for an educational book and it gave me more confidence in this area. So I would like to get a point where I sell my prints online fairly regularly and work on more commissions, building up my knowledge and experience.
I would also like to set up some kind of monthly meet up with other illustrators in the area to discuss and share experiences.
What superpower would you have and why?
When I was young, I wanted to be invisible so that I could look and draw people without them thinking I was being weird. But now I am happy to sit and draw in public spaces, so maybe I have achieved that?
I am a bit obsessed with Jessica Jones though, she is a superhero who is strong and can jump really high, I kind of want to be like her, as she is super cool and looks amazing. So I think being Jessica Jone’s and having her powers would really work for me too!
The jumping thing would be good as I could get some good view points for drawing, tops of buildings, sat in trees etc….
Links to shop: www.etsy.com/uk/shop/IllustratorKate