Interview: Jeanette Morrow
Jeanette Morrow earned her B.F.A. from the Savannah College of Art and Design. After college, she worked in public relations for a number of years before eventually returning to her roots as a fine artist. She formally launched Morrow Studio in November 2016 and has been working out of her studio in Manhattan ever since. Her abstract paintings are hallmarked by larger scale color stories that are loose, gestural and emotional.
What inspired you to become an artist? Can you tell me about your background in art?
I was born with a draw to the arts, but it was my high school art teacher who was the first to nudge me towards exploring my work further. He, and an accumulation of other voices collected in my head saying, “Yes. This. Do this.” fueled my desire to become an artist. As a rising senior, I went to a summer art camp (nerd alert!) and decided to apply to an art college. By the fall I was accepted into the Savannah College of Art and Design.
How was it to break away from art for a period of time in your early career? What urged you to return to it?
Honestly, I was finding a lot of fulfillment in my career in the digital arts that I didn’t really miss the fine arts for the first few years of my corporate career. Once I had a family and knew I didn’t want to do the travel my job required, I decided to stay at-home with my daughter and freelance. It was then that it became less and less of a joy and more and more apparent that I missed painting and ceramics. At the time we were living on a small farm outside of Atlanta and converted our barn into a studio. The very early official works of Morrow Studio were born there!
Are you now painting full-time? What is your studio like?
I split my time in the studio between painting and ceramics. I thought to get traction or exposure, I had to choose one or the other, but the perk of being my own boss is that I can do whatever I want! I’ve had to wrestle with preconceived notions of what “success” was going to look like for me. Exposure is important to the survival of an art career, but so is genuineness.
We have the very rare luxury of space in Manhattan and have converted a spare room in our townhouse into my current studio. When I’m not in there, I’m hanging with my two toddlers.
How do you plan a day in your studio? Are there certain tasks that you always do?
Time management is crucial to my time in the studio, as I only get a few hours a day to create (thanks to the aforementioned toddlers). A gift I am thankful for is my ability to work quickly. It doesn’t help with my patience in day-to-day tasks, but I sure do appreciate it when I have to focus on a commission deadline! Studio must-haves are a huge cup of black coffee, my favorite music playing (playlists change depending on the mood of the piece) and bodega blooms.
Use a few words you think best describe the aesthetic of your abstract paintings. Is there a specific feeling or idea you wish to convey through your work?
Layered, moody, dramatic, loose. My favorite pieces are the ones that capture a feeling of movement and emotion. I have respect for the medium and let that play heavily in the process. I can’t control when the paint bleeds or how it sprays. As hokey as it may sound, it feels like a collaborative creation between myself and the medium.
Why don't you title your works?
Each piece most definitely has an intention or inspiration behind it, but I shy away from overtly sharing that with the observer. I don’t want to rob them of their imagination and thoughts of the piece by bulldozing over them with mine. Kind of like when a book gets turned into a movie.
What media do you use?
I use a variety of materials, but primarily acrylic paint and prisma colors. Since acrylic is water-based, I can achieve the fluidity and texture that I desire.
What is your painting process like? What do you do to generate new ideas?
To the disappointment of many art teachers, I have found the more methodical and planned I try to be before actually putting paint on the canvas, the unhappier I am with the end result. I can easily overthink and overwork and feel the first mark is the scariest, so I rip the bandaid off. If it’s a commission, then of course I’ll make sure the palette is correct and keep inspiration photos and notes nearby.
I find my environment the most fruitful to generating new ideas. I seek beauty in interiors and nature and when I’m immersed there, it’s the easiest to be inspired.
Which other artists interest you? In what ways do you find inspiration from their work?
Robert Rauschenberg was the artist who first lit the fire in me to create. I remember learning about his career in high school and couldn’t shake the urge to get my hands dirty after that. Currently, there’s so much talent out there that I find those who are unapologetic about their work to be the most interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good, safe and pretty floral piece, and have many in my home, but artists who seemingly don’t care what others think is the most appealing. Southern folk art has always inspired me in this way. Artists in that genre usually have little formal training, but cannot stop themselves from creating and their love and passion just pours out into their work.
How has your practice developed or changed since you first launched your studio?
I’ve learned so much in the infancy of studio. First, that comparison truly is the thief of joy. I check-in with myself often and if feelings of doubt outweigh my feelings of creativity then it’s time to log out of my social media and sit with myself so I don’t lose sight of my intentions. From a business perspective, I realized quickly that getting a thick skin was going to be as important as a good brush.