We had the good fortune of connecting with Morgan Richardson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Morgan, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I don’t think I had any other choice, to be honest. Regardless of how the work manifested, I was always going to be doing something creative. My brain is wired that way and my soul is tuned to whatever frequency transmits creativity. I believe just about everyone can be creative but people tend to confuse artistic with creative. Non-artistic people can be and often are very creative. Obviously I’m an artistic guy and I know how to get things built, that mix of traits led me to work as a professional artist and then eventually to the themed entertainment industry. And if I never ended up in an artistic role, I’d still be doing something creative…solving problems in nature, something with animals. Who knows, but I’d find a way to fulfill my creative impulses.
I suspect some of my creative tendencies were inherited too. My mom is very creative, so was my dad…although I’m not sure he ever realized it. Dad was an engineer and an inventor…and despite never acting on it, he had an entrepreneurial spirit, which is where I think I caught the bug that led me to start my own company.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’ve been told my art is like a “kick in the face”. I’m not exactly sure that’s what I’d use to describe it, but it certainly packs a punch. I’ve always been a colorful guy and that is manifested through my work. I create vibrant pieces that range from completely absurdist to representative of wildlife’s constant struggle to survive. I speak the language of color and I wield that color to inspire and galvanize a new generation of conservationists. My hope is that by relating to my artwork, people can become aware of endangered creatures and man-made issues which negatively impact the environment. As an artist, I came to this moment after a gauntlet of stylistic shifts, exploration of different mediums, and bouts with imposter syndrome.
My work has changed. My early work is fun but different than what I’m doing now as an artist and that’s ok. I’ve realized it’s ok to evolve and to find new inspirations. I’ve also had to struggle with how to build a recognizable visual identity as an artist. Especially when my personal work is so drastically different from the concept artwork, sculpting, and design work I produce for themed entertainment projects. It’s all still ME…but how do I market that? It’s something I’m still figuring out.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
A week in Los Angeles is like Thanksgiving dinner, there is a lot to eat and its hard to fit all of your sides onto a single plate. No visit to LA is complete without a day hike, a night hike, and a sunset on the beach. Burritos are a multi-day must but you can’t pass up bomb Indian food and ramen either. Record shopping at the PCC Flea Market, and visits to Two Bit Circus, Bob Baker Marionette Theater, and the Museum of Jurassic Technology are perfect ways to show off LA’s quirkier side. And of course, I’m a theme park designer, so Disneyland is a no-brainer…plus I can point out things I worked on like Avengers Campus and Galaxy’s Edge. I’m also a wealth of useless knowledge, so just driving around the city, pointing out weird buildings, bridges, lamp posts, etc… Everything has a story behind its design.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
No one ever finds success alone. Behind every outwardly successful person there is a conga line of mentors, friends, and supporters who have propelled their success. I’m no exception…
I am, however, one of those people who is always surprised to find that someone is in my corner. It’s something I’ve had to acclimate to over many years, that I can’t tackle the world alone and there are amazing people out there who genuinely want to help. I believe wholeheartedly in everything I set out to do and I guess some folks can sense that. I’ve been told it’s infectious.
I had sold sketches and drawings to classmates in grade school but never realized I could make a living as an artist until I met Jeff Albrecht. He was my teacher and the first working professional artist I had ever met. He was also the first person to give me a professional commission, creating a linoleum floor tile design at my high school. I spent the earnings on Magic the Gathering cards.
The conga line just gets longer from there. Patrick Naylon and Greg Zillmer are both guys I worked for, who recognized that I had creative potential outside of my job description. Their support helped me find creative fulfillment and propel me forward. At SCAD I was taught by the late George Head, who was a powerhouse Disney Imagineer and an incredibly supportive and well-connected mentor. Justin Hirose, my creative partner, has done more to inspire me in the past few years than anyone. Jason Jacobs and Rick Biddle have sparked a monumental swing in my career, introducing my company and I to people and projects that have since furthered my business and fulfilled creative goals. And years after we both stopped working for Walt Disney Imagineering, the legendary Joe Rohde reached out to ask if I’d join his team on a truly life-changing project.
But if I had to choose one person to dedicate this shoutout to it would be Zsolt Hormay. He is a literal master of his craft. I’m not exaggerating, the guy has won awards of recognition for being the legitimate master of themed finishes. For the uninitiated, that is sculpted rockwork, character facade, concrete, etc. The incredible sculpted landscapes you see at Disney theme parks…he’s the guy. And he doesn’t do it alone, he’s a people collector. He sees talent in someone and then collects them, directing their potential in the way a conductor directs an orchestra. Aside from the abundance of hard skills he taught me, he taught me a lot about being a working professional. I have never seen anyone else greet every person on a construction, regardless of their role. What a great dude.
I’ve received a ton of support and advice. In turn, I do everything I can to help people who are seeking advice, especially young folks. I had a lot of false starts and failures before I ever got a taste of success. I try to share the kind of advice I wish I had when I was starting out.