Jeremy Morgan interview
by Pete Alander
Hi Jeremy, nice to have you here at the Steel Mill. First of all could you tell us how and why you started to work as a graphic designer/illustrator?
Growing up I really enjoyed Cartoon Network showing old Hannah
Barbera cartoons all day like Bird Man and Johnny Quest, and in 3rd
grade I got my first Superman comic. My dad, being a teenager in the
70’s had a collection of over 3,000 records. I used to sit all day
after school and rummage through his stuff and just stare at the album
covers. There would be really cool ones like Styx’s Crystal Ball
album. When I used to read Nintendo Power, I started paying close
attention to the design and layout. One day my dad started writing a
book, and told me all about publishing. From that point on I knew what
I wanted to do. In school, I drew little comics, and everyone
including the teachers really supported me on it. It became who I was,
and my thing. Two of my uncles were excellent illustrators, and I
looked up to them and tried to draw like them. So when I got old
enough to go to either a normal high school or a vocational one to
learn a trade, I was fortunate to start at Voc-Tech and earn my trade
and my style.
What was the first commercial design you did?
Man… my first professional paycheck came from Spinner
Publications on some drawings for a Portuguese Language text book.
It’s one of the Bom Dia books, I can’t remember which one, I think it
was the second. That was back in 2004, I think. I still work with
You graduated in 2004 from Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational
Technical High School. How did you feel about studying for 4 years?
What do you think is the quality on today’s art schools?
Studying commercial art in a vocational school were the happiest years of my life. If you can get any professional training, by all means go for it. I graduated four years ago, and my curriculum was half old school and half computer. All the old school stuff I learned
really made a difference. Design is craftsmanship, there is no “creative button” on the keyboard. Getting on Photoshop doesn’t make you a good artist. In today’s time there are so many methods, styles, and tools that if you don’t have the solid training, you’re just lost.
I was blessed to have a teacher who really cared about my work, and went out of her way to show me stuff outside the curriculum. Things have boomed in the last four years. I went to school using Photoshop 6 and a mouse, now all the cool kids have CS4 and wacom tablets. I’m
jealous! Quality? It really depends on the school you choose and if you get the right teacher, it also depends how willing you are to learn and draw your ass off. It all boils down to YOU. I watch tutorials and buy books still to this day to stay ahead, and I’m certified! But seriously, even great artists I follow, like Adam Hughes wished he could go to art school. I’m going to the Air Force to hopefully go back. Don’t scoff it.
You have also been teaching illustration. Could you tell us something about your methods and your style?
Every artist has a home, a base to begin to help a student build an understanding. My base is cartooning and comics. So I start with the three geometric shapes, then I explain organic and geometric shapes, turning those shapes into form, the design elements and principles, line quality, point perspective, anatomy, facial expressions, all that stuff. They’ll get to shading if they’re lucky. I try to teach on the level the person can understand, instead of making them feel alienated. Some kids catch on, some don’t.
What kind of software or equipment do you use when you design?
Damn the machines! What happened to good ol’ pencil and paper? Isn’t that rock ‘n’ roll enough?!! Well, things have changed since
2004, so I gotta stay on top of things. I use Adobe CS3 products, Toon Boom Studio 4.5, a bit of Corel if I’m feeling saucy, and a Wacom
Intuos3 Special Edition 6×8. My current computer is a Mac 10.4 with a 1920×1200 resolution monitor. I still use a light box, t-square, and triangle if the project needs it. I’m not buying anything new until my shit breaks!
You have done the artwork for Beyond Fear’s album and it’s really good. How did you get the job?
My favorite band was Judas Priest, and still is (Nostradamus was killer!). Ripper Owens sang on two of my favorite albums, and when he was let go I got curious. I went on Google and found his website. It was so under the radar I barely found it. It wasn’t designed by a professional either. He didn’t have a record label or management at the time, so I guess my timing was perfect. He put up his email address for advice from fans on his new solo album; He didn’t even have a name for his new band yet. Most of the guestbook comments were rude things like “Halford is GOD, FUCK RIPPER!” or “You sucked anyway” and a bunch of stuff like that. I like ol’ Rob, but I’m also a Ripper fan, so I said nice things. Being positive is a good professional career perk. I sent him nice drawings of my ideas. I worked a lot for free before we actually sealed a deal. He not only ended up being my
best client for that year, he became my friend! I was in the album booklet twice, and the first successful design he agreed on was the t-shirt before Beyond Fear was even signed!
Could you tell us about the creative process on that one?
Yeah. I drew a bunch of duds until Ripper saw one he liked. Then,
I edited the living crap out of it in Photoshop. The skull wasn’t
presketched, it was luck. I just fooled around with digital ink and it
came out heavy. I thought to myself “well… damn.” He really liked
it. I guess the ingredients for that were prayer and Pantera. But
seriously, the skull was luck. Then I colored/shaded it, made a layer
behind it using a color scheme he really liked. The background was a
mix of painting and photo manipulation. The logo was a bunch of layers
on its own. Its a tweaked version of a font called Pirate Keg that Lou
St. Paul found, that Ripper really liked. I just pulled here and
snipped there until it was perfected into an original logo. Oh, more
knowledge for the Ripper fans, the Beyond Fear logo on the first set
of printed shirts with my skull was designed by Bill Dawson of
Any particular band or musician you’d like to work for in the future?
Right now I’m doing some really rewarding work for a band called
Mercury Wings. But man, I get the pins and needles thinking about it.
Its hard to get work for a band, because the label usually has an
artist in mind, or that band is already close to one. See I could say
Judas Priest, but then Mark Wilkinson would outdraw me and make me
look like a sissy! I think The Misfits would be fun, or maybe if Dio
gave me a chance. I liked the cover of Yngwie’s album with him
fighting the dragon with a laser beam from his guitar, I’d love to
take a spin on that. I get nervous thinking about working with anybody
too big, though. Matter of fact, aside from the previously mentioned
band I haven’t done a massive CD cover in a while. I’m almost done
with some drawings for Night of the Living Dead: ReAnimated though!
In your opinion, what is the state of graphic design in the Music
Business nowadays? How much will the industry change within 10 years
Dammit it’s scary, and it’s a part of why I’m making the decisions
I’m making. Everybody is downloading albums now from iTunes, and
really nobody cares about album art like they used to. With technology
happening and everybody pushing the “Go Green” thing I imagine a
packaged CD will eventually become obsolete. Give it time. They’ll be
out like vinyl records. Websites are one thing, but its not like every
band wants one, or people visit everyone. I’m either listening to the
Power Metal station on AOL radio or Rue Morgue’s station while I’m
working, and I see a lot of bands I want to check out, but I’m so busy
I never have time to surf all their sites and buy their stuff. It
might be desired, but the pay involved may end up becoming just an
Is there a piece of work you are particularly proud of?
I’m a growing boy, and I get better after I draw something I’m proud of. There was this assignment back in Junior Year where I drew Santa Claus and colored it all day with a mouse. I skipped lunch. Yes that’s right. Santa Claus. That picture still makes me smile. I didn’t even know how to use Multiply in Photoshop yet.
What do you enjoy most as a designer?
When or if the artwork looks awesome when it’s done, then seeing it on the shelf, printed in a book, or on TV. Seeing my name in the credits and knowing I might work with that client again. I also love fan mail. My work doesn’t get that commercial most the time. I would say because I can just sit and draw all day, but I’ve learned its much more involving than that. I gaze out the window during a sunny day and sometimes despise my Mac, wishing I was outside grilling or hiking. A friend of mine said that cartoonists get more groupies than rock stars. He’s a damned liar!
What’s the most challenging part of your work?
Everything. Because the next thing has to be different from the
last. At the core I’m a cartoonist. I have my own style and a system
of doing things. I have to break that system so “Uncle Joe’s” project
doesn’t look like a rip off of “Cousin Phil’s”. Being a graphic
designer is a love/hate relationship for me. I enjoy the challenge of
doing stuff beyond my set skills, but I hate not getting to just draw
and just accepting that in its own greatness. Last but not least, I
always got a boss telling me my great ideas need to be edited. One
time I had to design an anti-violence shirt for some youth, and my
initial sketch was a crate of knives, bullets, and grenades being
poured into a toilet bowl with the shirt saying “FLUSH THE VIOLENCE!”.
Nope, I got stuck drawing a bunch of people holding books and stuff.
Have you had any exhibitions?
When I was in school I had some stuff up at Gallery X, when I
lived in Mooresville I had access to their artists guild, but I never
took advantage of it. I was in the newspaper a few times for different
things, that’s exhibition enough for me. Maybe when my artwork becomes
so good people’s eyes melt I’ll exhibit.
Right now you work as an Art Director for Brick By Brick. What
does your work include?
Everything I guess. I embrace my flaws all day. Promotional work,
commercial work, publication stuff, teaching youth, and lots of
paperwork with deadlines. I clean the bathroom sometimes. I have a
great boss and coworkers. It’s a neat job because you meet all sorts
of interesting people, observe politics, and get freebies for things
in the city.
You are about to join United States Air Force. What is the story
I’m so happy you asked this question. I want every artist reading
this out there to know that I came from nothing. I was poor and
without any skills, whatsoever. When I was 17 I told myself that I was
either going to be a professional artist or join the Marines. Well,
I’ve changed a lot since I first embarked on my career. I’ve learned a
great deal about what I do, and I’ve made some great accomplishments.
However, I’m not satisfied with the quality of my living, or the
quality of myself. I’m an Art Director, getting paid alright and all,
but I emphasize that I’m not satisfied. I’ve done some serious
meditating, and I’ll be the first artist to tell you I’m not the best,
and my work used to look REALLY BAD! I got into the whole mess because
I wanted to do my own thing, I want my own comic book label, to design
my own video games, to direct my own cartoons, make something huge.
Not start out like a little indie thing and flop like many do, this is
something I must save tons tons of money for and build. There is a
George Lucas quality I envision when I work on my material, and my
career doing “professional” work is an obstacle. Lets face it, I have
to go back to school and hide in the shadows to refine my skills. I
need to go back to a regular day job to focus my creative energies.
I’m glad I led a clean and healthy life, and was mentally prepared
enough to join the Air Force. Unlike other branches, the United States
Air Force prides itself on education and having better technology than
the enemy, not just “kill, kill, kill.” Its the hardest branch to
join, and swearing the Oath of Enlistment was the manliest thing I’ve
ever done in my life. This new day job is going to be the groundwork
for me building what I really want out of life. Sometimes in order to
be Batman, you have to be Bruce Wayne. I know I’m blabbing a lot, but
I also have always been intrigued by the military. I’ve always been
allured by the challenge of whether or not I can get through boot
camp. Something else I want every artist to know reading this, you can
pay me a $1,000 an hour to work at NickelodeDisnePixarsaurus X and it
will not change my mind about what I’m doing!!! I’m prouder of myself
now more than ever. I’d like to see a lot of nay-sayers get through
the challenges I’m about to face!
What are your other main hobbies when you’re not designing?
Video games and cartoons ranging from the beginning of time up to
the 90’s. I have just about every game SquareSoft has ever made for
the Super Nintendo, not emulated. I veg out on a lot of Mega Man and
classic Mario too. I read comics and eat pizza like a 12 year old. I
love eating, thank goodness I’m not fat. My favorite restaurant is No
Problemo. I go places when the weather is nice, I’m loving the beach
up here in Massachusetts. When I’m in my hometown back in Georgia I go
hiking and fishing during the summer. I sing power metal when I have
the right friends around. I wanna learn to play bass, but I never have
time. I have an awesome girlfriend who can really color artwork! Life
Thanks for the interview and all the best in the future!
Thank you for having me around!