When Jacqui Morgan received her BFA from Pratt, she entered a world without any female illustrators. She with Barbara Nessim and Lorraine Fox who passed away very young, were the first and only working female illustrators. During the heyday of the psychedelic, she designed and illustrated the iconic Electric Circus Poster and went on to create more iconic images for the American Optometric Association, Sansui, Scott Printing, Celanese, Exxon, and 7 UP Billboards. Unique covers for American Artist Magazine, Mac Millan Books, Print Magazine and Cosmopolitan along with album covers for RCA, ads for DeBeers diamonds and animated commercials for Burlington Mills and General Mills were among her achievements. She always loved science fiction and illustrated a few anthologies for young readers.
Soon after Jacqui, with a partner, created Mag-Jacs and put her double image graphics on t-shirts, jeans, jackets and cotton jersey dresses with silkscreen and airbrush in a studio in the Meat Market District of Manhattan. These were featured in shop windows such as Bloomingdales in Manhattan. Clients were all over the US and Puerto Rico.
Seeking excitement and change, Morgan began to experiment with painting on found objects such as chairs, sofas, shovels and drawers. At one point her living room looked filled to capacity with beautiful amazons seated and reclining when the room was empty. This idea caught the fancy of Playboy Germany to commission a series of illustrations of sofas with celebrities’ seated in conversation such as one with Truman Capote, Jackie Kennedy Onassis and the Duchess of Windsor.
Almost simultaneously, unable to wear high heels any longer, but in love with the sculpture of shoes, she moved to include those otherwise useless shoes. Initially she painted the probable wearer on the innersoles and later added nails and other discomforts to the entire shoe. Ah! what women will go through for beauty. These became part of a travelling exhibition Die Verlassesen Schuhe in Germany and Austria as well as illustrations for album covers and magazines.
The hypothetical result of an urban anthropological dig were belt and necklace chains, false finger nails, false eyelashes and falsies labeled in archeological language. Examples such as Ceremonial Eye Pieces and In Preparation for the hunt. The addition of hardened and thorn painted brassieres and blouses made a full wardrobe. Thirty-two wig heads depicted how humanity worldwide decorates itself. It became the final part of a solo exhibition in Warsaw Poland during the 1978 Poster Biennale where her Joy of Seeing Poster received a special honors. One treated wig head decorated the cover of Swiss Graphis. Morgan went a step further sculpting heads of clay and creating cast paper dimensional forms of a Miss America series with an assemblage of curlers, sequins, zippers, glasses, and scarves, along with acryllic and metallic paint. These were shown at the Hansen-Feuerman Gallery NYC.
Jacqui admits that the motive for all these object paintings was not without a destructive urge. Or, was it an homage to make Da Vinci's Mona Lisa up to date with curled hair, a touch of plastic surgery and some weight loss? Then Botticelli's Birth of Venus seemed to require similar adjustments along with streaks in her hair and some generous makeup. Then a Raphael and a Vermeer were updated accordingly. These prompted a commission from VIVA Magazine to do exactly that on photographic prints from the original paintings and allow one half of the portraits to be left undone and thus the original well-known painting would be easily recognized.
After Morgan received her MA from Hunter College, CUNY, she studied realistic oil painting with Sharon Sprung a student of Harvey Dinnerstein and then applied these findings to watercolor. While far more difficult to handle than oils, watercolor is easier to control than dyes which stain the paper and cannot be lightened, only bleached. The comfort with dyes came when working for two years designing textile patterns right after Pratt graduation. Watercolor had the same seductive transparency. The first illustration of this no line, more painterly, approach was the poster for the Tap Dance Kid Broadway show.
Now bitten by the realistic painting bug, but having to learn and develop the skills and control to be able to paint anything, required some time and work.
Morgan saw all the abstract watery shapes in shiny metals. So began her series of metal paintings. Spoons, blades, paper clips, espresso machines, toasters and musical instruments were fuel for the challenge. She recalls the long days it took to draw a flute but the actual painting took only one day. Jacqui loved the reflections in the silver, gold and copper and made these increasingly complex and challenging. The reality of the paintings was rewarding and gave her courage to take on greater challenges.
The next was the more delicate glass where she learned to paint what she saw through them, but not paint the glass. And finally she undertook elephant sized paper and complex still lives with all those elements
plus pattern reflecting in all the forms. Finally she received commissions from New York magazine and an entire line of packaging for Cuisine Cubes backed by
Quaker Oats. Too bad markets refused freezer space for this beautiful packaging and delicious product.
Yes she had acquired the skill, was now teaching it at Pratt Institute and was asked to write a book on Watercolor for Illustration. This process added far more to her skills. Morgan had to do the step by step paintings as well as write the lessons. Instead of photographs she did paintings of all the watercolor supplies.
The book was published in 1986 and clients rushed in. Eddie Bauer, Land’s End, Lerners, Purina, NY Times, Aetna, American Express, New York Times Magazine, and the Wines of Spain were among the many clients that flooded her desk. She did many architectural commissions of as not yet built luxury developments, brochure scenes for insurance and investment firms and monthly cooking spots.
In 1991 she travelled to Japan and Thailand to do a billboard campaign for Dentsu Tokyo on Thai Airlines and Thailand as an ideal vacation destination for the Japanese. This kind of commission is currently rare indeed. They travelled to Bangkok and the Watermarket taking photos. Then to Phuket and finally to Phi Phi Island where they found tourists agreeable to model so that some of the painting could be done on the spot. The balance of the work had to be completed within two weeks of her return to NYC. This meant about fourteen images required to create two billboards. Afterward she was busy every year with some project from Japan primarily calendars, delightful commissions from Dai Nippon, Nisshin Co., Mikimoto, and Yukijirushi.
After Bangkok, needing another new challenge, having found the painting of translucent flowers not the easy traditional effort that she had expected, Jacqui started buying fresh flowers, taking photos of them, blowing each flower up to a two or three foot diameter and making a series of 30 x 40 inch paintings of luscious sensuous blooming flowers. These created two exhibitions: one at Marywood College Galleries in 1998 and the next at the Krannert Museum at the University of Illinois, Champaign.
When Jacqui Morgan began to teach at the Fashion Institute of Technology she again felt her excitement over making art was on the wane. So she began to simplify her painting process and make it more exciting by painting the figure from life within a maximum twenty to twenty-five minutes. Her product began to be less real and more exaggerated. More juicy and less rendered. The blurr of motion became as important as the third dimension, the drawing quality, and the exchange of negative and positive space.
After 2005 she produced two books: Jacqui Morgan’s Journey, a survey of her art works chronologically also shown at the Society of Illustrators. In 2010 she produced MOSTLY NUDE Watercolors from Life. The latter is a hard cover coffee table book of her most recent work. She does have an inkling of where lies her next inspiration. There is a sculpture gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC calling to her. There is also an animation in Flash about Eastern Europe Culture whose characters are being created. However her nudes from life are still her current love song.
It’s exciting for me to make art when there are challenges that I have grave doubts about achieving.
So, I found one that in spite of all the work I have done, is perhaps what I had been avoiding my whole life. That is painting from live people within a period of time short of torture, 20 to 30 minutes.
Drawing is one thing, but painting people in watercolor, that delightfully uncontrollable medium, definitely adds to the challenge. In addition I had to become more of a master of feet and hands to do them in that time frame. The process requires an amazing amount of concentration.
While in the zone, I am aiming for a drawing that captures the essence of the person’s gesture and attitude. Also I aim to capture the illusion of volume and make use of color to describe and exaggerate the third dimension. I also love the play between positive and negative space, making negative seen as positive and vice versa. And lastly when I can get the illusion of volume and also get it to dissolve into the negative space, I can thrill myself.
Linda Dirty Martina is a well-known contemporary Burlesque Performer who I get to paint between her bookings.
She appears to be an impressively large personality, but is in fact rather diminutive in size.
I've painted Niki since her arrival from Germany and before her two children were delivered. Beautiful slender or large, she is majestic.
Ryan arrived from Nebraska to make it in the NYC Dance world.
He is both a pleasure to paint and a challenge as he insists on taking impossible positions to challenge visual artists.
In this instance though I love to paint dancers, it was this sheet of old and alas discontinued Cotman paper that was the biggest inspiration.
Gee I wish they would continue to make it.
Amber is both a Burlesque performer and a costume designer and creator for her peers.
Her volume and distinctive proportions make her a very popular subject to draw and paint.
Rainbow is an actress, model, and health care worker.
It's the fact that Rainbow is almost entirely in shadow but still conveys volume.
This detail is to show the action between wet and dry washes.
Anastasia keeps herself in great and healthful shape.Whenever she is ready to pose, so am I to paint.
Trying to capture them in movement is an additional challenge,
But they are fun and energetic!