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  • Annette Dawm

Mixing Art and Motherhood with Morgan Casey

Morgan Casey is an artist who lives in Phoenix, Arizona. She has made a name for herself by drawing her followers on social media with random things her children choose. With this experiment, Morgan has amassed over 10 000 followers on Instagram and more than 754 000 followers on TikTok!

In the beginning, Morgan would set certain art supplies on the floor for her children to choose from such as markers, gel pens and construction paper, but once she started taking suggestions online, the mediums became more complex. Morgan took each suggestion and wrote it on a piece of paper for her kids to pick out of a container. She said that each piece has been has been a challenge so far: “They’re all hard in their own way! The nail polish one was pretty difficult, and I think it’s the most difficult ones that people gravitate towards. The nail polish and the glitter were definitely the most difficult—also the quilting one. I don’t know how to sew!"

Morgan uploaded her first TikTok video on March 11, 2020 and her first “follower” video on August 14, 2020. She said she joined the app/website because, as a family, they “literally didn’t have anything else to do” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had started TikTok just like everyone else, just because we were bored and it was so entertaining. It felt like such a great community. I was doing a lot of funny ‘mom content’. Then I had all of these art supplies in my studio because I had just graduated from art school three years ago. I still had a ton of product…. I had found someone on TikTok [who drew their followers] in crayon. They’re hilariously disproportionate and they look like children drew them. His commentary is what was funny. I thought that would be such a great idea if we did it because it would help people feel seen and everyone loves having a picture of them. I think up to that point, we were at 30 000 followers and then after the first episode it was like, ‘Pop! Pop! Pop!’ The first one to go viral was the nail polish one. That had a couple million views and then it was a gradual climb until the glitter one. The glitter one just exploded, as glitter does. The glitter one really catapulted us into a new world of painting, which is crazy! Who would have thought? Seriously!”

For the most part, Morgan tries to mail each portrait to its likeness. Early on, there were a few people who didn’t respond when asked for their address or there were others who passed on the opportunity to own an original piece of art. However, when the videos started to go viral, an enthusiastic fan reached out and received a custom-made, glow in the dark pumpkin: “That was fun! That girl actually started a campaign and was posting every day, like, ‘This is day six of me asking Morgan Casey to choose me!’ That was the first time someone started campaigning. So I couldn’t say no. You know what I mean? I wanted to reward it!” That being said, Morgan’s commissions are currently closed, but she does have an apprentice who would be willing to work on custom pieces!

The amount of time that goes into each video can be deceiving. As Morgan explained, “They’re only a few seconds, but they take up an entire day! You have to record everything! You can’t just record the beginning and then the end. You have the process, so it takes a lot. I think if I didn’t have kids I could probably whip it out in like, two hours. But because I have children and they’re always like, ‘I want this! I’m hungry!’ it takes that two hours and lengthens it into an entire day. I used to be really good at posting ‘Drawing One of My Followers’ per week, but then recently, my husband’s business has been really taking off. So, I’ve had to pull back just a smidge.…” Currently, Morgan posts her drawings twice a month, but she hopes to do more during the summer when her children have finished their school year.

“My family is everything,” she continued. “They are my inspiration for anything I do. In fact, I did a lot of art before I got married and before I started having kids, but when I had kids, I was like, ‘Oh, this is who I am now!’ Like, ‘I’m a mom, so that’s it. Period. I’m done being an artist.’ Then, as I had my three daughters and my one son, I realized it was really important for them to see me achieving my goals and my dreams. So, getting back into art was highly inspired by them. So when I say that they’re my inspiration, they really are. It’s no coincidence to me that my platform started taking off after I included them more. I think that was always meant to be. I was always meant to include them in my art, seeing as they were the reason I got started back up in the first place…. I truly believe that everyone is an artist. As you can see with children, they are so naturally artistic and that’s something that is kind of taught out of them as they grow older. All kids love to colour and draw….”

Morgan recently launched her “Mama” collection for Mother’s Day (May 9). The four new pieces were inspired by her “decade-long, motherhood experience” that she has had “the privilege” to have. “I wasn’t going to release them and then Earth Day happened and everyone was like, ‘Thank you, Mother Earth!’ and I was like, ‘Oh! The mother vibes are just too strong!’ I hope that people find themselves in the hardest part of motherhood in some of the pieces, but also the most beautiful part of motherhood, and the most important part of motherhood.”

Speaking of mothers, like many people, Morgan has not seen her own mother in over a year. The artist was cautious about sharing what she was looking forward to, due to the disappointing nature of the pandemic. However, being able to see her mom again in person is one of her “big bucket list things”.

“This past year, it’s been hard to look forward to things because everything’s gotten cancelled. The good thing in that is that it teaches me to stay completely present, right? So I enjoy every day as it comes, and to make plans, but to be okay with it if they fall through. So this is a really hard question for me because I try hard not to look forward to anything…. It could be bad, but it could also have a lot of beauty because you’re just really grateful for the day, you know? I struggle with living in my present or in my past with anxiety or depression. It’s been a nice exercise for me to just be present…. Right before COVID hit… I was supposed to go to New Zealand to go participate in a ceremony of my mom receiving Moko Kauae which is the Maori tattoos that she has now. Literally the night before our flight, their Prime Minister closed the borders in April 2020…. I’m excited for things to start returning to normal so I can go home to her.”

As a way to pivot during this time, Morgan sells her art on face masks and various other items. When asked about how she determines the price of her work, she replied, “The traditional way to price your work is by square inch. So when I first got out of school, I was charging $1.50 per square inch, which would range anywhere between $500 to $5000, depending on the size….” She added that it used to be common for galleries to help artists pinpoint their price range, but now—especially in the digital age—artists have more control over how they sell things.

“I had this question on my Instagram that asked art buyers, ‘Why don’t you buy art?’ and a lot of them say it’s because it’s too expensive—which is true! It’s crazy! As an artist on the other side, I’m like, ‘Well, I only sell two original paintings a month. So that’s only like, $3000, which is great. However, with the amount of time and money spent, it balances out. So I was trying to find where a happy bridge or medium could be, and prints are it. I encourage artists to sell prints and base the price of the original piece on how popular the print is.” (Her prints usually sell for $20-$60 USD.)

Finally, Morgan Casey also encouraged artists to trust their instincts and realize that there is no clear cut path to success when it comes to creativity. She recalled that when she was doing her “mom content”, she had a feeling that she wanted to make more art content instead. She decided to do a live video on TikTok for the first time and only 12 people were watching. She asked them if she should pursue art on the platform. Surprisingly, she was met with a resounding, “No!” She then asked her Instagram followers and they gave her the same response: “It was an overwhelming, ‘No! Just stick with the mom stuff!’ I was like, ‘I’m going to do it anyway!’ My intuition—my gut—was like, ‘Do the art thing!’ The business is taking off. Prior to that, I don’t know how far the mom content could have taken me, because as much as I love TikTok, they don’t pay my bills!”

“What’s funny is, in the art world, I thought that there was a career path, and if there’s a piece of advice that I could give to any young artist, just know that it’s not even ‘make your own path’. It’s not a path! It’s an ocean! There is no one way to do anything! It’s just wide open! You have to make your own rules. There are guidelines, I guess, but ultimately, the art world is such a creative and expansive place that you’ve just got to follow your intuition. Learn the voice of your intuition as soon as you possibly can and follow it. There is no path. There is just wherever you want to go and it might turn left and right. It’s more like an ocean in that you might go back and you might go forward, but if you have the gift of your intuition—especially your artistic intuition—to follow, you know that any decision you make will be the right one.”

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Photo courtesy of Morgan Casey.

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