We spoke with Canadian artist, Angela Morgan, about jewellery, colour, inspiration, her creative process, and her recent collaboration with H&B. Morgan comments on how she gets intense joy from human interactions, and then paints that joy. At H&B, we feel connected to the boldness, confidence, and vibrancy of Angela’s art, and were excited to work with her on the design of Debut Sparkle. Above all, we hope this new Debut Collection brightens your day.
“There can be a lot of dark days for people and if we can bring something into the world that makes people happy or brings some joy—that’s what I’m trying to do with my work. I love beautiful things. That’s what I endeavour to paint.”
If you could pick one work to describe yourself, what would it be and why?
The painting we did to complement the collection is 100% me. My inner goddess definitely has fiery orange hair and a big hat. I think I missed my century. I belong in an era where you dress up for dinner and wear gloves. That painting captures how I often feel. I might not always look that fabulous, but I aspire to exude that type of energy.
Tell us about your creative process. Do you have a daily routine?
When I’m at home and in my studio in Fernie, it’s rare for me to take a day off. I’m very fortunate to have a career that doesn’t feel like work. Most days I try to paint in 3 hour blocks—one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and, if I can, an evening session. I’m usually working on 20 to 30 paintings at any given time. My favourite part of the creative process is the beginning—that initial mark-making, the gestures, and brushstrokes that get onto the canvas. It’s exciting. There’s no mistakes. You’re free with your ideas and not married to any one outcome. But beginning a painting often requires a lot of energy so that’s usually a morning session. Evenings are reserved for more thoughtful work—now I’m done 90% of this painting and I’m trying to give it the focussed attention it needs.
How long does it take you to paint a piece?
A 3x3 foot painting takes me between 8-10 hours. But that 8-10 hours varies depending on the composition. A painting with a single figure in it is simpler. You’re not working through as many problems as you are with a painting that has a group of people. When I first started painting, a 3x3 foot painting would have taken about 25 hours. I’ve been painting full-time for 20 years now and you start to get better technically with colour mixing. You get a better eye and you know a bit more about your own vision. What’s in my head comes out a lot quicker than it did 20 years ago.
What advice would you give to your younger self? Or any young women starting their professional or artistic career?
Don’t despair and be kind to yourself. It’s really easy to be disappointed with yourself. I had moments where I thought “Oh, this painting is no good,” but there was always something good in it. You just had to look harder sometimes. I was probably overly dramatic about what I perceived to be failures. Those “failures” were never the huge setbacks I thought they were at the time. I take comfort in knowing that creating art and putting it out into the world is hopefully a lifelong pursuit. At twenty I thought, “Oh, I’m never going to make it,” but eventually if you do enough of something you’re going to get it right. So just keep going. I hope when I’m 80 or 90 I’m going to be producing my best work. And why not? At that time I’ll have a lifetime of experiences behind me. Don’t despair. Keep going. Drink more wine, relax, and just enjoy what you do (laughs).
"So just keep going. I hope when I’m 80 or 90 I’m going to be producing my best work. And why not? At that time I’ll have a lifetime of experiences behind me. Don’t despair. Keep going. Drink more wine, relax, and just enjoy what you do."
Why did you want to collaborate with H&B?
I grew up in Saskatchewan and have known of Rachel for quite a while because she was a collector of my works. So that was very fortunate. Hillberg and Berk is a jewelry company but it’s also so much more. H&B aligns itself with a really positive existence. There can be a lot of dark days for people and if we can bring something into the world that makes people happy or brings some joy—that’s what I’m trying to do with my work. I love beautiful things. That’s what I endeavour to paint. When Rachel first approached me, she said, “Can we work a painting into a collection?” And I was like “Yeah! What colours are you thinking?” Having her team lay out what their colour vision was and using it as a jumping off point to create something—that was incredibly exciting for me. The whole experience felt aligned with my creative process.
Tell us about the painting you’ve done for this H&B collection?
There was a lot of thought that went into the composition and ideology around this debut. We chose one woman to be front and center with the idea that she was sort of coming out of the canvas and stepping into the real world.
What do you hope our customers will feel wearing this Debut collection?
I hope they feel...I might say fabulous, and like the world is a great place. With the exception of everything going on, I hope they find they can put on these gorgeous colours and be like, “I’m wearing this piece because it reminds me I’m a vibrant person, and I deserve things that make me feel wonderful.”
“I hope they find they can put on these gorgeous colours and be like, “I’m wearing this piece because it reminds me I’m a vibrant person, and I deserve things that make me feel wonderful.”
Can you talk about why it’s important for you to have joy as a central theme in your art? And how figurative painting allows you to do this?
What’s important in my life is my connections with people—my family, my children, my friends. I get intense joy from human interactions. I try to paint that joy. It’s not as if my garden isn’t inspiring. But I’ll paint my garden and then I’ll look at the painting and say: “I love how the geraniums melded in with the petunias, and then I’m like “ehh, this is kinda boring. This needs a person!” 99.9% of my work is grounded in some physical form. I would like to be a lot more brooding and contemporary and edgy. But then I’m like, “Well maybe just one more polka dot, maybe a pink polka dot, maybe some yellow, and oh we need blue now!” And I’ll get up in the morning and be like, “That’s just another happy painting.” And then I’m like “Screw it. I guess this is just what I do.” When I look at a painting or art I generally just want to feel good, and that’s what I’ve tried to generate in my work for 20 years. A positive emotion that just makes me happy.
Do you find yourself considering the inner lives of these figures you paint?
Sometimes. I might get a painting with four or five women and I’m like “Oh my god, she’s the bossy one. Look at her gestures! There’s a small narrative that goes on in my head, which makes painting fun. I’m trying to capture a moment in time. While I paint, I’ll often find myself reflecting on memories. I’ll be like “Oh wasn’t that a wonderful moment at my friend’s wedding when the groom looked back at his mom and his mom was like “Yes! Get on with it. Say I do.” I’m not necessarily painting specific people, but these kinds of memories fuel my inspiration. But I do want to leave it up to the viewer. Most people usually identify with a character in the work because it reminds them of their aunt, their grandma, or themselves when they were little. So I don’t try to be too specific and go, “Hey, this is mom and daughter.” Hopefully when people view my work it triggers a memory for them that’s different from mine but just as meaningful.
Do you have a favourite Hillberg & Berk jewellery piece?
I probably have about eight pairs of Sparkle Balls™. They’re just iconic. Six of the pairs have been given to me as gifts. People will say, “I just saw this colour and it made me think of you, which I think is really interesting.” I also have a gorgeous necklace with these beautiful jewel tones with gold in it, and it’s very special. I throw a lot of dinner parties and like to have a small dress code when you’re invited to my house. Obviously, I’m not going to impose, but I have a great closet and some gorgeous jewels, and that necklace is one piece that is always a go-to if my friends come over and want to bump up their outfit.
Often the faces of the people (or figures) in your work are obscured by large, fun hats. Can you talk about why this is a recurring theme for you?
I started to struggle painting eyes in my work maybe 11 or 12 years ago, and I just didn’t like them anymore. And I thought, “Well, what if I just tilted that hat a little bit?” So I did a couple of paintings and realized that obscuring the eyes wasn’t taking anything away from the painting for me. I started to put them out there and the feedback was interesting because most people didn’t notice. Maybe there was a presence in the figure that stood true, even without the eyes. And my sense with the eyes was—if I didn’t get them right—the painting was ruined. Hiding the eyes got to be really fun. It’s just something that I was technically having trouble with so I found a different solution that I really enjoyed. And, now I’m painting a few more eyes too, so, here we go. (laughs).
"What’s important in my life is my connections with people—my family, my children, my friends. I get intense joy from human interactions. I try to paint that joy."
Tell us about a woman who has inspired you or does inspire you?
I guess I always look close to home for my inspiration. Personal interaction is very important to me. I’ve been blessed with many wise people that I consider mentors, or inspirations. Off the top of my head, my grandma. She lived to be 100 years old—and I might cry here—but she was just such a lovely woman. She was the matriarch of our family. She gave love every day. She created beautiful things in her kitchen and did these beautiful little landscape paintings. She was steadfast in her creation of community and love.
Writing: Carter SelingerClick here to enter to win Angela's original painting, Designed to Dazzle, and shop the Debut Sparkle collaboration.