Creating California


My first Spotlight Interview features Susan Morales, a California native whom I utterly respect and admire. Her drive to remain true to herself, and the creative path that she has chosen, is an continuous inspiration for me.

I sat down with Susan with the goal of learning something about her that I hadn’t already known. That quest resulted in the following Q&A.

1. So, tell us, who is Susan Morales? What’s your story?

I grew up in South Central Los Angeles California where I lived with my parents a dog and no siblings. I focused on school, getting out of the “hood” and making something out of myself. I don’t know where the “artist” in me came from. The desire and need to create has always been a part of me. At a young age I started drawing cartoon characters, then I became a punk rocker and wanted to show how “hard core” I was by illustrating skulls and rock monsters. I knew pretty early on in my life that I needed to be involved in the arts one way or another. I originally entered college as art history major. Then I came across the field of graphic design and thought how awesome is this gig, getting paid to create! I’ve been fortunate to have a successful career in design and now am focusing more on my personal artwork. I’ve let most of my young career be dictated by what I have to do instead of what I want to do. Now I am definitely moving in the Me direction and starting to feel my real voice come out. I’m very excited to see what I will come up with next.

2. Are you a classically trained artist or were you taught by way of life experience?

I’ve taken a few drawing classes through out my life but never seriously trained. When I was in high school I was selected to be apart of Otis Art College young artist program (my first ever and only life drawing class). In college I mainly focused on communication design classes. A few years ago I decided to take my first serious painting class where I picked up some well needed techniques.

3. Your work has a Central American flavor. How has your Guatemalan heritage influenced your art?

The Guatemalan influence is new in my art. One day I realized I didn’t know very much about my own heritage and started to do research and came across the Mayan Symbols. The more I learned about the hieroglyphs the more I wanted to illustrate them. When I combine glyphs into my art I make sure the definition of the symbol matches what I want to represent. In a way it makes me believe I keep the representation of the symbols alive and I feel more apart of my own people.

4. Who or what are your other influences? Do you have a Muse?

EVERYTHING is my influence. I am so utterly distracted by life and interested in so much (politics, history, emotions, social commentary, etc…) and just about anything can spark an idea. I would say my muse is breaking free from everyday routine. I sometimes go to the museum to remind myself it is okay to break free and just put what I want out. Other times when I get out for a bike trip or away to a new place I am reenergized and ready to start something new.

5. Who are you favorite artists and what about them attract you?

Favorite artist is a tough question. I love the classics (Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Carravaggio beautiful lighting, and so many more), for their traditional mastery and beauty. I would have to say though my major influence is from the surrealist. I love Salvador Dali and Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Rene Magritte. I’m inspired by their thought provoking images and their witty twist.

6. You work a number of mediums, both traditional and digital, which do you prefer and why?

The medium I work in is very much influenced by what I want to communicate. My absolute favorite is working in oils because they allow me to take my time and I feel it moves with the art piece. I’m very much an instant gratification type of person and oils forces me to step back and review what I’m working on. Plus I love the rich quality and feel of the medium.

7. What would be your ideal artistic gig and why?

I somewhat have the gig I want. I create graphics for others and its great. I would like to build on creating more of my own illustrations/paintings which people would like to incorporate into their business (art for products) or home. I’ve had my artwork in friends’ homes and next year will have my art as a sticker kit for one of Black Markets’ bike. It’s a real honor to have people want your artwork in their poss.

8. Where would you like to go with your art moving forward? Where will Susan Morales be in 10 years?

I would love for my art to have a real voice of its own in the future. Right now I tend to create when I have time and it is always random pieces. My goal is to create more social commentary type of pieces and have one of my series really evolve into a “real” collection.

Thank you, Susan!

Greg Coutu – Circle One One

Here is a sampling of Susan’s work! Click images to see larger view.

See more of Susan’s work at