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Meet Morganne Kennel

Today we’d like to introduce you to Morganne Kennel.

Morganne, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
For me, becoming an Illustrator and Graphic Designer in LA has been a combination of a lot of hard work, curiosity and exploration, determination, rejection, and resilience.

I started college at CSUN as a music major but after realizing how incredibly talented and classically trained most the students were (and how I was only self-taught to play instruments and sing), I decided to switch majors to the other thing I loved: art. While taking classes, I discovered Illustration and Printmaking, fell in love with them and got my Bachelor of Arts in both. I loved how illustration had a commercial aspect to it, meaning that I could be hired by businesses to make art for them (as opposed to a fine artist who has art shows and maybe a person buys a painting). I also loved that illustration has so much freedom of expression…. there are no rules! Printmaking on the other hand, is very much about technique and precision. Methods I loved and used specifically were screenprinting, relief printing, and letterpress printing. I designed and printed t-shirts and tote bags, art prints, and printed several books which I learned to bind by hand.

All the while in college, I made an Instagram solely for my art and used it as a platform to sell my art, express how I was feeling through little illustrations, and make commentary art on trends happening in the world. At the same time, I began selling my art at small, local art walks in Reseda. I didn’t sell much, but it was still a blast and a great experience. Fast forward to my senior year of college before graduation- I knew I wanted to be an illustrator. However, that industry is primarily freelance, so I knew I had to find some kind of full-time job to pay the bills while I did illustration work on the side.

I applied to over 80 jobs all in illustration, graphic design, and basically any job that had the word “art” in it. My first job after college was a summer job teaching art to 1st graders in Culver City. The kids were adorable but my patience for teaching art to children was slim. After that ended, I lucked out and got hired as a Graphic Designer for a small apparel company in Downtown LA. Did I know graphic design? NOPE. But graphic design and illustration go hand in hand, so I was able to teach myself on the job. I was only there for three months, but in that time I had one of my t-shirt designs bought by Forever 21.

After that, I was hired as a Junior Graphic Designer for a bigger apparel company called Project Social T (oddly enough it was located just down the street from my prior job). The company and my coworkers were amazing, and I was designing graphic tees for Project Social T, as well as for their lines in Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom, Saks Off Fifth Avenue and more! Aside from working there full-time, I was finally starting to get some freelance illustration work. A few fun clients I worked with are Essie, House of Blues, and Sunglass Hut. After one year at Project Social T, I decided it was time for my next big move- out of the fashion industry and into entertainment.

I was then hired as a Graphic Designer for a commercial talent agency, which is my current job. I’m still doing my freelance work after my day job and it gets extremely exhausting, BUT I’m living in this amazing city doing what I love! So I can’t complain.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The road has certainly not been smooth for me. For starters, I grew up in a small agricultural town in Central California called Porterville (the population is smaller than Sherman Oaks for size reference). In high school, I knew I needed to move to LA if I ever wanted to a pursue a career in something creative. I had no idea what I was going to do but I knew I was going to do it. My parents were hesitant to let me move away because they had no idea how a career as an artist would be financially sustainable. I must have begged and cried enough, because they let me move after high school to attend CSU Northridge, and I am forever grateful for that.

College came with its own set of struggles. I went to school full time for four years, and my junior year I was juggling classes, art projects that required hours of work outside of class, two jobs, and being the president of my sorority. I didn’t even have time to breathe. Senior year was better because I could focus more on establishing my career after college. I put all the illustration projects I made in class into a portfolio and made a resume and began applying to nearly everything I found online.

I’ve been extremely fortunate to find full-time work as an artist in Los Angeles. I have a few friends who haven’t been so lucky because the industry is so oversaturated with so many talented creatives here. My advice to anyone struggling to find a job in art- keep creating. Always! Keep developing your portfolio and improving your craft so you at least have that to offer when you’re being interviewed. I also think interpersonal skills are so important and underrated. You gotta sell yourself as the valuable business you are.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I offer freelance illustration and graphic design for print and web projects. For graphic design, I specialize in apparel graphic design, email marketing design, presentation decks, logo and business card design, photo editing, flyers and posters, social media content design, and more. For illustration, I specialize in editorial and spot illustrations, animated GIF’s, hand lettering, greeting cards, album cover art, and digital and traditional painting.

My style as an illustrator is primarily digital painting with bright pastel color palettes, and themes of nature and beauty, femininity that goes against societies perception of it, my personal thoughts and feelings, and current events/trends.

What I’m most proud of is seeing my work come to life on the graphic tees I’ve designed for Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom, Saks Off Fifth Avenue, Forever 21, Project Social T, and more. It is the most rewarding thing to see total strangers walking down the street wearing my designs on their chest. Another thing I’m proud of is that people who know my work say I have a distinct style. Of course, I’ve tried to develop one that sets me apart from others, but that’s extremely difficult in LA with so many other talented illustrators competing against each other, so it is a huge compliment to me.

What were you like growing up?
Ever since I was a kid, I was creating. Drawing, painting, crocheting, singing, playing instruments, taking photos, sewing clothes to put on my dogs, etc. etc. I had A LOT of hobbies, so many that I didn’t spend my childhood doing any one thing and instead just doing them all. In high school, I played water polo and softball while also being in choir and yearbook, and raising sheep for FFA (something I’m very sad LA doesn’t have).

Growing up, and even today as an adult, I would classify myself as a people person and an experience seeker. My parents would probably call me a trouble maker when I was a kid as I spent most of my middle school and high school days grounded (for the usual sneaking out, etc.) But I think that all lends to my artistic style as all my work is symbolic of my experiences.

I know the stereotype for artists is somewhat reclusive, but I’m the complete opposite. I love collaborating with others and being surrounded by people who inspire me and have great energy because I feed off that. I think being a people person has certainly helped further my career as an artist because I’m always out meeting people and networking. Some of my work comes from my online presence, but some also comes from people I’ve met and friends of their friends.

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