Pot, Politics, Pets, and Paint: A Profile Of Artist Matthew Morris
Heady Vermont recently issued an RFP for visual creatives to decorate a tall, skinny wall in our new office space, and thanks to a plethora of fantastic responses, we realized it was a great opportunity to profile a whole slate of local artists.
One of our favorite respondents was pet-portraitist, Bernie-enthusiast, and cannabis-lover Matthew Morris whose work has appeared in Seven Days and shops around Burlington.
Heady Vermont: What is your personal background?
Matthew Morris: I was born in Minnesota and raised in Texas. I got my BFA in Illustration from the Ringling College of Art & Design in Florida, and my MFA in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts in NYC.
I’ve illustrated for clients ranging from the LA Times to MakerBot 3D Printers, and my paintings can be found in collections across the globe. This past year I’ve shifted my painting focus to pet portraits, which has been incredibly rewarding.
HVT: What’s the source of your artistic inspiration?
MM: It depends. On a day-to-day basis, it can be a single flower in a bouquet I buy my wife; a certain cloud formation; the political climate; the work of former classmates; the list goes on. I’m also very inspired by European paintings from 1400 to 1930.
Art is an emotional outlet for me and expresses the emotions I can’t put into words. The better I get, the easier it is for me to express my feelings. I love the challenge of it all.
Art making can be very solitary, so it’s also important that I find inspiration in the process of honing my technical and conceptual skills. Art is an emotional outlet for me and expresses the emotions I can’t put into words. The better I get, the easier it is for me to express my feelings. I love the challenge of it all.
HVT: What’s your personal and artistic relationship to Vermont?
MM: My wife is a 5th generation Vermonter. She and I met in Brooklyn, NY, and spent five years together there before moving to Winooski, VT, in 2011.
Since moving to Vermont, I’ve maintained regular commission and illustration gigs. My art has appeared in Seven Days since 2012, and my portrait-stickers are sold in a few shops around Burlington.
I often sketch landscapes, whether along the Winooski River or Lake Champlain, or an interesting tree in the woods. I love the shapes of this place.
HVT: What’s your relationship with cannabis?
MM: I had a rebellious youth, and started smoking pot at age 13. At 17, I took what would become a six-year hiatus from all substances.
When I resumed smoking cannabis, I was in my senior year of art school and in a much different place in life. I rediscovered the plant and found it was just what I needed to push my art to the next level. To this day it still gives me that same focus, mental clarity, and out-of-the-box thinking that it did day one. I am grateful for all its medicinal and spiritual benefits.
My harvest has allowed me to utilize cannabis in different ways — as flower, as hash, as infused coconut oil, as a tincture, as a salve — and I’ve learned so much in the process.
HVT: What’s your vision for cannabis in Vermont?
MM: I grew for the first time this year and it was a huge success. My harvest has allowed me to utilize cannabis in different ways — as flower, as hash, as infused coconut oil, as a tincture, as a salve — and I’ve learned so much in the process.
In the coming years, I’d like for myself and other Vermonters to be able to grow more plants per person, so as to truly explore all this plant has to offer.
I think this is an exciting time in Vermont, and nationally, as the dialogue about cannabis is slowly shifting. We are moving from stigmatizing it to embracing its potential.
Vermont understands ‘buy-local’ better than any other state I’ve been in.
I’d also like for some local shops to open up (I definitely don’t want corporate cannabis to take over the state). Fortunately, Vermont understands ‘buy-local’ better than any other state I’ve been in.
HVT: Where are you based, how can people see your work, and what’s the best way for folks to contact you?MM: I’m based in Winooski, VT, and I have Bernie Sanders portrait stickers for sale at Birdfolk Collective and Full Tank.
Find me on Instagram at: @coolvader and @the_regal_beast Online: mattmorrisart.com and regalbeastportaits.com.