Richard Morgan is an artist and art educator, who worked on famous Disney films like The Lion King, The Circle of Life, Pocahontas, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame; amongst others. He got accepted into the Disney Internship Program right during his junior year of college and was granted a permanent position later. Later, he switched to fine art and opened his own gallery in Montana.
Richard Morgan, is a fine artist, animator, digital artist, and art educator. He attended the Ringling College of Art and Design. He graduated to work full-time for over a decade with Walt Disney Animation, where his childhood dream of becoming an animator came true. Post a successful term, and many movies later, he went on to pursue another adventure of starting his own company Richard Morgan Fine Art, and has conducted many exhibitions and workshops. Now, he is back in the animation field to share his experiences and give back to the students as a Senior Lecturer at Digipen Institute of Technology.
Your gallery treads the line between texture-heavy representations to clearly defined scenes. How do you pick concepts and techniques?
Richard Morgan: My art is a form of creative expression, to work on my unique take on a subject matter. When it is for specific clients, their thoughts and direction matter, but regardless of the material, I also present my own research. This helps me deliver a bit more than what is always expected. The texture and heaviness of the paintings come from the thick quality of the oil paint itself. They generally have bee wax in the material, which builds up to give paintings a dimensional look.
Has teaching impacted your approach to creative work and storytelling?
Richard Morgan: Teaching has been a tremendous experience of sharing my professional career and giving back to the students. Especially with the students in Singapore – their drive and determination to learn are inspiring. Their country is also small, and with the expanding industry, they do push themselves hard to deliver the best.
What was your motivation to transition from an animator to a fine artist? How was the experience?
Richard Morgan: The transition from feature films to fine art and galleries has been quite interesting. I was prepared in terms of technique, as I had painted during my spare time at Disney.
One thing that you don’t get exposed to enough in Art school is learning the business side of art. I have learned the ropes since then for the betterment of both the client and the artist.
What attracted you to western landscapes?
Richard Morgan: I had always been in awe of Plein air painters going back to Claude Monet & John Singer Sargent. When we moved to Montana, I was able to work with and learn from some of the very best contemporary western artists such as Clyde Aspevig, Scott Christensen, Josh Elliott, & Brent Cotton. This really elevated my work.
You have been a part of the entertainment and media industry during arguably the largest trend changes. What are the biggest shifts that you see today?
Richard Morgan: I have played multiple roles, right from being a performer over the summers to deriving inspiration and working on my portfolio of drawings. I was close to the Walt Disney Feature Animation Tour and Studio. So, it was one of the best times of my life.
Now, I am very happy to see better care for artists in general. Most studios retain their existing talent and don’t excessively overwork their artists. This helps reduce burnout!
What do you think about the live-action remakes of classically animated Disney films?
Richard Morgan: Honestly, live-action remakes have their place. But, if it were up to me I wouldn’t attempt a remake unless there is a valid reason for a director to offer a different take on that idea. The Jungle Book Remake had some interesting scenes that were pushing scale which I quite enjoyed. But the Lion King Version was questionable. It is such a classic film and the first feature I worked on so, the remake is hard to watch.
How has your style changed over the years with technology? And how is the animation industry for current aspirants?
Richard Morgan: With my own art, I have been trying to bridge the gap between working digitally and traditionally. I try to creatively combine both together sometimes, like starting a painting in oil on location, later photographing it, and finishing it off digitally. Technology changes fast, so I think it is wise for students to have a solid foundation of figure drawing, design principles, film theory, and storytelling to then develop. So the biggest challenge for aspirants would be the need to be very diverse in their expression and have a solid base.
If you had an opportunity to rework a Disney movie in a modern style – which one would it be, and what would be the style?
Richard Morgan: I would most definitely say – “Rescuers”. In my vision, I would love to see in done in a live-action with a Tim Burton’s style animation. It would be very fascinating to see Glen Close as Medusa, and Johnny Depp as Snoops.