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A Magazine for Sheffield

Kate Morgan: The Optimist's Illustrator

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In a today's climate of political turmoil and unrest, it's refreshing to come across an artist like Kate Morgan.

Kate's images are reminiscent of children's book illustrations, glowing with a kind of innocence and a distinct warmth. But that's not to say that her work is mere escapism. Rather she's a champion of optimism, reminding us of life's less rough edges and letting us know that it's not all doom and gloom, as some sources would suggest.

Some of your work explores Yorkshire as a whole, but you also have a series which focuses on Sheffield specifically. What is it about local geography and architecture that inspires you?

I'm from Sheffield and have lived here for most my life. My dad, his family and lots of my friends are from here too, so there's a lot of personal and shared memories linked to the city.

A few years ago, I found that the more time I spent in the centre, the more I was identifying with well-known places, like the Peace Gardens and Forgemasters, and thinking, 'Oh yeah, I can imagine that memory or story here', and then I wanted to see how well I could illustrate the scene.


You combine these real life locations with a style that's much more imaginative than naturalistic. Is this mixing of the creative and the commonplace something you enjoy playing with?

Definitely. I like to imagine being in the picture and I'm keen for others to feel the same. I think having the commonplace there as a recognisable feature and then having the creativity within the characters and scenery means that the piece becomes a scene that you can imagine being in. When I sell my art at local events, I find that people pick up my illustrations and show whoever they are with, identifying themselves or each other, and then spot some other details which they hadn't expected to see, which makes me happy.

Is creating bespoke work for individual customers an experience you find particularly enriching?

It's becoming one of my favourite things. I find it satisfying to be able to incorporate lots of details from someone's life into a picture and enjoy the challenge of compositionally making it work. The best part is the planning stage. I find that people either have a set idea of what they're after or need more help generating content. Either way, it ends up being a fun email conversation around their interests, and because you can have anything happen in an illustration, it can get really creative. The last one had a llama peering out over a garden wall in Australia.

Your work strikes me as very heartfelt and genuinely cheerful. Do you think these are feelings which are lacking from most contemporary art?

I'm not sure. I know that I had trouble accepting my style for a while, because I thought that my work should be more contemporary or fashionable. But then I think that I started to look around at other illustrators and artists that I loved, and they did have a positive feel to their work, which helped me to accept my own. Perhaps it's knowing where to look and not feel embarrassed, or care so much about what you think you should like.

What's next for you?

This year I'm giving my Etsy shop the attention it deserves, pushing my cards and A5 prints more. I'm also going to be brave and enter the Association of Illustrators' World Illustration Awards. I joined the AOI as a member a couple of years ago and think they are a great organisation.

I'm about to exhibit a selection of my framed work at Hagglers Corner and I'm continuing to run workshops through charities called Life With Art and Henpower. I'm sure I will be doing some more stalls and art markets later this year too, especially in the run-up to Christmas.

Liam Casey

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