A craving for pizza leads to an international opportunity for GFW artist

Wendy Morgan quit her day job to pursue a career in art. Two years later, she’s making a big impression.

Stephen Miller
Kicker

Wendy Morgan worked alongside John Pugh painting a larger-than-life mural for the Denver Zoo. Morgan worked on the project for three weeks in California.
Wendy Morgan worked alongside John Pugh painting a larger-than-life mural for the Denver Zoo. Morgan worked on the project for three weeks in California. (submitted photo)

Grand Falls-Windsor is a far cry from California, but hard work and talent can take you far if you’re willing to take risks.

When artist Wendy Morgan spoke to Kicker back in February 2018, she had recently decided to devote all her efforts into turning the art that helped her heal from an addiction into a viable business. Just one year later, she’s receiving recognition from far beyond the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador.

“It’s amazing what opportunities come at you when you surrender yourself to the universe and become available for what you are meant to be,” Morgan said.

Morgan credits serendipity for the biggest project of her career, a mural commissioned by the Denver Zoo. At 9.1 metres high and 61 metres long, the painting – like the opportunity – is enormous.

Crediting fate for a job opportunity might seem like a stretch. But, then again, this break did arise from a craving for pizza.

Last September, Morgan was back in her hometown of Grand Falls-Windsor working as a music promoter and manager. She was finalizing details for an event at a local nightclub. During her downtime, she decided to visit Botwood – just a half hour away. There was an arts conference taking place in the town.

“I was very ecstatic to be learning from a world class artist with so many accomplishments. What I gained in inspiration alone was priceless,” Morgan said.

Before ever setting foot in the conference, Morgan decided she’d head for pizza. But, on the street outside the restaurant, she had a bizarre but fortunate encounter.

A young Argentinian woman commented on how “positively Canadian” Morgan appeared.

The woman turned out to be an artist herself and went on to implore Morgan to attend her friend’s seminar.

Before Morgan could decide, the friend himself turned the corner and introduced himself. That was Morgan’s first encounter with John Pugh, one of the biggest names in mural art worldwide – and her future employer.

Pugh is an American artist best known for his large trompe-l’oeil (trick of the eye) murals – that is, murals that give the illusion of being three-dimensional. His work has been commissioned in countries across the globe from Mexico to New Zealand, with his work being featured on all continents except for Antarctica.

At 9.1 metres high and 61 metres long, the Denver Zoo mural required a lot of planning. Pictured here is concept art designed to guide the creation of the gigantic undertaking. (submitted photo)
At 9.1 metres high and 61 metres long, the Denver Zoo mural required a lot of planning. Pictured here is concept art designed to guide the creation of the gigantic undertaking. (Facebook photo)

Before meeting Morgan, Pugh had recently received a commission for a gigantic mural at the Denver Zoo in Colorado. After spending some time getting to know Morgan and seeing her work, Pugh offered her the chance to come work with him in his home state of California as part of the International Intern Program.

Morgan had to pay her own travel and worked without pay for three weeks in California, but Pugh provided accommodations at his home/studio with his wife and their dogs.

“I was very ecstatic to be learning from a world-class artist with so many accomplishments,” said Morgan. “What I gained in inspiration alone was priceless.”

Credit where credit is due

While Morgan hopes that some day she can credit working with Pugh for future successes, she also likes to give credit to the local artists who introduced her to the world of art. Morgan has done everything from pebble art to balloon twisting, being introduced to a plethora of media from various artists in the province.

“If it weren’t for local artists like Thomas Jordan putting face paint in front of me, I never would of realized my potential in the craft,” Morgan said.

And some local artists are speaking just as highly of Morgan herself. Lisa Mayo is a portrait artist and face painter also hailing from Grand Falls-Windsor. Mayo and Morgan have worked alongside each other as instructors at “art parties.” Mayo was excited but not surprised to see Morgan chosen by Pugh.

“Wendy has a very positive attitude. It’s very refreshing,” said Mayo. “I see big things in her future! She is a prime example that you can make art and make a living.”

So far, Morgan has been doing just that. With side projects in all manner of art, Morgan has enough work to do at any given moment to comfortably rely on art alone to support herself.

Morgan’s next project might be closer in scale to a small window-front painting in downtown Grand Falls-Windsor than a 9.1- X 61-metre mural in California, but as long as she can get by doing what she loves, she’s happy. It’s even better if she can help others do the same.

“I love finding success for others just as much as for myself; that’s just the way I am. The networking never stops, and I certainly can’t keep all these great opportunities to myself.”

 

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