Marijuana Issue cover features pals partaking in cannabis products by Pittsburgh artist Morg Cunningham. Hailing from the North Hills and now a neighbor in Beechview, Cunningham works by day as a digital designer and an illustrator at night. Pittsburgh City Paper caught up with the artist after her Marijuana Issue cover hit stands this week.
How long have you lived in Pittsburgh?
My whole life! I grew up in the North Hills and left briefly for college at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Once I got my first job, I moved to Bloomfield, then to Beechview, where I just bought my first house with my partner. I’m pretty invested in my neighborhood’s community garden, so I’m staying put for a while!
How did you get into illustrating?
I was going to school for graphic design and took a digital illustration class over a summer and really enjoyed it. I dabbled a little with it throughout college, but I didn’t hone in on it like I wish I had looking back. Fine art drawing was definitely not my scene, and I wasn’t sure where my silly doodles were going to get me. I only really got back into illustration a couple years ago when my friend Alex asked me if I wanted to work on stuff to submit for the Pittsburgh Zine Fair with her. I really think that was a turning point for me and am so grateful because we got in! It was a hugely motivating and validating experience for me.
I’m a digital designer so a lot of the day to day isn’t exactly art, but there’s room to be creative and I like to raise my hand when illustrative assignments come around. There was a period after college where I hardly made anything in my free time. I felt drained at the end of the day and beat down. I’ve since realized it’s the passion projects I do after-hours that keep my creative spirit alive and well.
Your art features illustrations of colorful food, critters, and lettering, as well as zines and even some Sculpey! When you sit down to create, how do you decide what to work on? Do you work in series, or do you draw on your daily experience?
I am all over the place. Sometimes I like to have a plan, sometimes things happen spontaneously. Sometimes I work on drawings to build a skill; other times I’m working on a zine or bigger idea.
Last year changed a lot of creatives work and routine … how do you think 2020 impacted your work? Are there things that you want to carry on moving forward into 2021 and beyond or evolutions in your work because of this time?
I work from home now, so the lines between work life and real life have been difficult to separate. This year I’ve been instituting a “Morg Makes Stuff” night twice a week though to help set time aside. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my phone tells me "hey it’s 7:00, you’ve had dinner, now it’s time to go make something." I sometimes turn to my partner begrudgingly not knowing what to work on. I have a tendency to start too many projects and leave loose ends for months at a time. So, he usually tells me to finish one of those and then I play with clay instead. It’s not a perfect system yet!
What is your dream job?
I think a cookbook would be the big dream of a project to check off a bucket list. I just love cooking, baking, and eating so much and would love to be part of someone’s process of putting recipes to paper.
The City Paper cover! I’ve had the opportunity to do illustrative work for brands at my previous agency jobs and now in-house but I’ve never seen my name attached to something like that. Not to mention, it was for the Marijuana Issue, I mean it was just a lot of fun!
Do you have any big or exciting projects coming up?
I have been planning a “re-launch” of my Etsy shop for this summer. I have a “How to Drink” zine series that I’ve reworked as well as some other journals, zines and Sculpey creations! I have a few small things in my Etsy shop currently but the big restock will be coming in June. People can follow me on Instagram to peep the new stuff and know when it’s going to be in the shop!