Danielle Morgan sees things most people don’t see, and turns them into art. Danielle lives in Stockholm, but she was born in a small town in Saskatchewan, Canada, and grew up in Victoria, British Columbia. Her attention to detail brings the light on small, everyday occurrences of beauty : the shape of a hair-tie, arms uncrossing, a fig. She was kind enough to discuss her work with us.
Who are you ?
I’m an illustrator and writer. When I was growing up, I wrote quite a few stories and poems. Most of them were depressing. Probably because I was obsessed with Lemony Snicket.
In university, I got a degree in English and started working at my university’s maker lab. It was a research-based lab and we recreated old technologies to better understand design decisions, popular usage, and current technologies. I spent a good deal of time combing through tiny details in patents and sketches to figure out how they might indicate broader cultural ideas. In a way, I still do this. I like thinking about how minutiae (like subtle shifts in body language or the notes in the margin of a library book) affect things at a more macro level. These things are so interesting to me.
What is your favorite example of one of these tiny things inspiring something you created?
I like a recent comic I did about wind. I forget where I was but I heard someone talking about the winds of change and it got stuck in my head. I started thinking about it in a literal sense and noticing the way things move in the wind and how some things don’t move at all. The comic was just about exploring how the wind literally affects the shape of things: a string, for example, moves differently if it’s positioned vertically or horizontally against the wind.
How would you describe your artistic style?
Who / what inspires you to create?
Who? Lorna Simpson, Maira Kalman, Jay Som, Louise Bourgeois, Cy Twombly, Ali Smith, the copywriters who work for Oatly, and erasure poets. I like people who play with words and challenge the relationship between word and image.
What? Secondhand mugs, bureaucracy, and the smell that comes out of laundry vents.
Can you tell me about your creative process?
Hm. Most of my creative process is geared toward convincing myself to actually sit down and create something. I go for walks, boil stuff on the stove because it makes me feel like a witch, call my mom, visit the cat that hangs out outside my building, listen to science podcasts.
Creative process gets romanticized (and maybe to some people it is romantic) but to me, the process of creation is a lot like going to the dentist. I can feel my teeth getting all grimy and I know I need to get them cleaned. I also know that it will feel good once the scraping and bleeding is over, but the process is pretty dreary. I write about process and illustrate things that foreground process so often because I hate it and want to understand my relationship to it better.
What are your thoughts on the myths that surround artistic creation?
Myths tend to expose a desire to explain something in a more magical way. For example, we often classify people as “artistic geniuses” rather than consider their success to be a product of their privilege, a lot of hard work, and/or the help (sometimes, uncredited or unpaid labour) they receive from others.
Did your past technological and scientific research influence your perception of art?
Maybe. I have looked at a very large amount of Victorian sketches and newspapers. I also tend to look at everything really closely and for far too long, which I guess could be considered a scientific-like approach to art. I’ve never really thought about it like that but I like it.
You wrote in your biography that you seek to “bring up questions rather than answer them”. What do you want people to see thanks to your work?
I don’t know if I can pinpoint what other people might see in my work but here are a few questions I’ve asked myself lately:
Why is hair beautiful on my head and gross on my shower wall?
How can understanding tangible changes help me make sense of intangible shifts in the world?
How do people hold their bodies while they wait and what does that tell me about waiting and about people?
Why are we so obsessed with full moons and new moons and rarely talk about waxing or waning moons?
Why is it hard to tell if something is moving/changing if I am also moving/changing?
Why are figs so weird?
What is a question you wish I had asked you?
How I take my coffee. How do you take yours?
(Danielle later revealed that she does a long-brew French press or a pour-over depending on her mood and takes her coffee with a whole lot of oat milk. Never sweetened.)
Danielle Morgan is an illustrator and writer (sometimes, writer and illustrator) from Victoria, BC. She is currently based in Stockholm. She creates comics, stories, logos, and editorial illustrations that bring up questions rather than answer them. At one point, she got a degree in English and researched historical technologies. This informs a lot of her work.