Living the Freelance Dream
Graphic designer and best-selling author Jenean Morrison recently turned her independent studio into a creative community.
When asked to describe her work in one word, Memphis-based artist Jenean Morrison simply said, “Happy.” All it takes is one look at her candy-colored patterns, vibrant floral arrangements and frolicking shapes, and you can’t help but feel a bit of joy. In her 15 years of craft, Jenean has made clothing, rugs, stationery, home decor, bestselling adult coloring books, and more. Like most freelancers, she started working from home while taking on client work and creating her own personal work on the side. Jenean’s freelance career shifted from her home to a studio space about five years ago, and just last year she moved her studio into a full brick-and-mortar storefront that has opened up a wealth of opportunities.
“While some dream of seeing their art in museums or fancy galleries, my earliest art fantasies involved seeing my art on paper towels and napkins in the grocery aisles,” Jenean said. Her passion for surface and textile design shows in her prolific retro-pop and nature-inspired creations, and Jenean continues to post her design process online. In addition to cultivating her online community, she has now taken the opportunity to engage with people in person at her space called the Cooper-Young Gallery. Jenean uses this gallery as a haven for unique artwork and gifts with a personal touch, but also finds fulfillment in connecting to fellow artists. “At first I started with showing my art, and now I’m reaching out to other artists, local and abroad, to fill out the space. I never thought of my shop as just ‘my shop.’”
And, for Jenean, it’s not just a shop, but an art installation. Her graphic design skills get put to use in a 3D way, like making window displays and signage for the Cooper-Young Gallery. As digital artists know, the chance to make physical things can be rewarding and a good challenge. One example of this analog play is when Jenean carved her own woodblock stamps. She created a simple leaf shape and made a few prints with it, then used Adobe Capture to bring it into a digital form. From there, she made a variety of leaf brushes that she then used in Photoshop Sketch.
Jenean’s usual tools of the trade are Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop Sketch, Illustrator Draw, and Adobe Capture. Switching to a mostly mobile workflow has meant more play and experimentation — and to wonderful effect. “Adobe Capture has opened up a whole new world for me in terms of creativity. There are times when I start with a very clear idea for a new design. Other times I have no idea what I want to create, and occasionally I get stuck trying to think of new directions for my work. Capture is the perfect remedy for creative block, and an amazing resource for coming up with new ideas. I can scroll through my photos, grab any of them, and use the photo to create a new brush, texture, or color palette. It is nice being able to just play and let the app lead me into new creative spaces. Capture helps me to create work that is unexpected, both to me and the viewer.” Jenean’s artwork now has viewers both online and in-person, and she stresses that her goal has always been about inclusivity. Recently, Jenean had the chance to feature a local artist in the Cooper-Young Gallery for their very own gallery opening.
“It’s fun to get to support someone like that and give them a show. It’s really important and exciting to get your own show, and to have someone to believe in you to show your work in their space.” When asked about what advice she’d give to freelance artists looking to grow their career, Jenean says that it’s best to “be present” in your local community. “Make yourself available when you can. You never know who you will meet and what can come from these chance encounters.”
Looking forward, Jenean wants to continue holding gallery shows for artists, collaborate both locally and globally to bring in unique artwork to her shop, and to start teaching.
“I want to teach people how to draw on an iPad and to make their own brushes. People don’t realize how easy it is, specifically with Adobe Capture. I want to start hosting workshops in my studio as a next step.”