In the Studio with Odarley Morton
What would life be like without art?
I cannot image a day without having art involved. Art for me is anything and everything to do with creativity, music, dance, drawing, painting, theatre and film. I grew up in a very creative family, many members getting into photography, excellent storytelling skills and lots and lots of music! My happiest days and saddest days all included some form of creativity.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by so many things! After a walk in the woods behind my house I will create a piece that is process based, feeling based or maybe I will work on a bigger piece from a sketch that I stopped to draw. These images come in big bursts and I will spend time working in my sketchbook or making prints of the objects that I collected on my walk. Nature also gives me the chance to explore other sensations, sounds and smells will bring up images or memories.
Sometimes I get inspired by pure emotions. If I have fears or feelings over an event or some news, that will inspire me to create. Mixing materials gives me the freedom to make textures and mix colors that traditional drawing or painting practices can sometimes hinder. This freedom is also inspiring because I am not afraid to make mistakes.
Who would you most like to collaborate with? Why?
I am in collaboration with other artists at the moment as well as musicians and playwrights. I think it’s incredibly motivating to give each other prompts and little what if scenarios and try them out. We all seem to put ourselves into self made boxes, thinking that some things are unattainable. Collaboration breaks down these ideas and through those experiences new and better ideas grow.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
I’ve received a lot of good advice over the years. In my youth I had an amazing art teacher Lani Dillon who never gave up on me or my art practice. She told me to try everything and to trust my gut. When I started teaching and got my first job as a high school art teacher she sent me a care package and reminded me to continue making my own art. After moving abroad, another care package arrived, filled with ideas and supplies. Having one person is all it takes. She believed in me and I never forgot to continue my practice. She inspired me to stay in touch with my students and continue the tradition of giving moral support and checking in to see what they are up to now.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
I spent the past six years focusing on selling work to tourists. This was a very specific style and the image was very repetitive. I finally realized that I wasn’t making art for myself and threw down my brush.
Spending time with other artists and playing with other materials reopened my creative spirit. I spent a moment re exercising lost or dulled skills and returned to my love of mixed media! Whenever I get too stuck I will pull out my sketchbook and try new ideas or techniques. This always gets me back to feeling fearless and moving forward with the next piece.
How has personal experience influenced your creativity?
I think my most personal work is my favorite. Going through difficult moments and documenting the emotions has been enlightening as well as therapeutic. Heath issues that have come up in the past few years allows me to process the emotions and create some really special pieces. Sometimes they don’t make sense to everyone but when it’s personal, finding the common ground that anyone might connect with is a successful work to me.
I have always concentrated my work around image and identity, but more recently I have found it liberating to not focus so much on things so black and white. I like this new direction in my work and think it will open more opportunities to explore experiences I haven’t fully processed.
What do you wish to accomplish with your art?
I want to be able to live and work as a professional artist. I don’t need to be world famous, but I do need to be creative everyday!
I want to Collaborate with other artists, show my work in galleries and create amazing creative projects that incorporate all of my life experiences, including performance art, theatre and installation.
Im dreaming big so starting with small steps my goal by the end of this year Is to have a solo show in a gallery.
Cover photo: photo by Tracy Mackenna, The Museum of Loss and Renewal, 2022