Here at #TeamCoco, the whole team identify as multi-hyphenates. Not content with just one path, we pursue many; creating a rich and varied (work) life for ourselves. We love interviewing fellow multi-faceted entrepreneurs and our chat today, with artist Amanda Morie is no exception.
The entrepreneur wrote a book, competed in Miss Universe, was creating artworks for galleries around the world…and teaching in an arts based school all in the same year… Read on to find out more about the wonderful Amanda Morie.
HOC: Great to meet you, Amanda! Can you tell us a little about your journey to being an artist?
Amanda: I started doing art when I was really young; I actually sketched from a really young age. I would literally just lie in bed and look at the roof and see all the shadows from my window. When I was little, I found it really hard to sleep at night. Anywhere I moved in the house when I couldn’t sleep – from the couch in the living room or even the floor, I would just look at the shadows from the light streaming in through the windows from the night and sketch them.
I started to take art classes in grade 7 and when I was 12 I actually won best artist of the year for my school! Then I had a travelling exhibition when I was 14 and my artworks travelled across Alberta, Canada. My pieces went to different galleries and museums and I couldn’t believe it that something I didn’t know very well (art) could be something I was successful at!
However, over the next few years at school I pursued music and didn’t keep up with my art classes. I got back into art again later on in high school and a painting of mine won an award from Red Cross Canada and again travelled across Canada. Again, I was amazed but didn’t really start to focus on art until I got to university.
HOC: An amazing origin story! What happened when you got to university?
Amanda: At the time, I really did see myself as a musician and that’s what I went to university for. I’d played in the symphony since I was very young and then when I got to university and started taking music classes, I had to take the other classes as well. I took classes in Art, Music, Drama, Dance… and when I took my first Art 101 class, the professor was like, ‘ holy crap, you’re amazing! Why don’t you go into art?’
I’d never really thought about it as something for me to do seriously as I’d always considered myself as a musician but I thought okay, why not give it a chance. My professor submitted my portfolio for an Art degree and I got in! I ended up with a combined degree in Music and Fine Arts painting and a degree in Elementary Education as well. I also have a degree in event planning which I feel has really helped me with my Art eg. setting up exhibitions and curating artwork for myself for different exhibitions internationally.
HOC: And how did you turn that knowledge into your career as an artist today?
Amanda: After university I started to apply some knowledge from my classes and my professors around what I should paint / how I should paint. This has got to be the worst part of university; you do what you are told to do so that you can get good grades but in the end you should really become the voice that you want to become! I was finding it hard to find that voice as Amanda Morie…
So I started to paint. I painted just anything really and tried different mediums and techniques. I started to challenge my own thoughts. For instance, in my mind, a painting wasn’t good unless it was super detailed and hyper realistic. I also felt that a painting could be magnificent if it was abstract and unique to its own.
After university I started applying to different galleries in Canada, as I was living in Alberta at the time. All the galleries turned me down! They said, ‘okay, yes you had your first solo exhibit travel around Canada when you were 15 but we need something more’. They wanted artists of a higher calibre and this really bothered me as just because I just graduated didn’t mean that I wasn’t a good artist! I started doubting myself and thinking what I’d do next. Even thinking whether I should just give up…
Really at that time, I didn’t have any support from people around me and I stopped painting for a little while. But one day, I said ‘screw it! I’m going to make my own website!’ So I started my site in 2011 and it’s not long now until that was a decade ago! My company has been running since then and I’m so glad that I built my website and also that I learnt all the tricks on how to create a gorgeous website from scratch – including doing all the coding myself!
HOC: And it all went from there?
Amanda: Yes! In 2012 I had my first sold out solo exhibition in NY and NY started to take hold of my artworks. The galleries there saw something in my art that I couldn’t see or understand just yet . I was getting a lot of requests to go to NYC and do shows – it was just amazing!
In 2012 I also published my first book – Along The Lines Of My Thoughts by Amanda Morie. The book travelled to different galleries, museums and creative spaces. For me, it was such an achievement to create a book that showcased the youth of our generation and showed them that you can be something even if you don’t feel like you can.
It doesn’t matter where you start, it matters that you believe in yourself. That’s the initial point – the initial flame – you have to believe in yourself and trust that what you have is precious, beautiful and so unique and that the world needs to see it!
In 2015 I started painting for Saatchi Art and I started showing internationally ; Hong Kong, Paris, London. I even showed at the Eiffel Tower, at the Louvre… I was nominated for a German design award in 2017 and I also did art for Armani for the Burj Khalifa in 2017.
Last year I didn’t do quite as much! I focused more on the Artist Lane Gallery, the main gallery representing me. It’s been incredible so far; I just take it day by day!
HOC: But you aren’t solely a painter and author, are you?
Amanda: Haha, no! Alongside my book tour I was also running for Miss Universe, in the Canada pageant and became a finalist. It was absolutely incredible, especially the experience of working with different charities.
I created a computer lab for SOS children charity in Nicaragua and we raised over $84,000 to create a computer lab for kids who didn’t have any source of technology whatsoever in their lives. At this time I had already graduated with my Elementary Teaching degree and I was working in a school as well as modelling, doing Miss Universe and painting…and writing my book! It was a very stressful time but I ended up creating this connection between the kids in Nicaragua and the kids that I had in my classroom.
It was so cool to see the creativity flow between Canada and Nicaragua. Even though the kids’ lifestyle and energy of their respective lives were completely different, they had the same feelings, the same appreciation for life and for being a creative being.
The school that I was working in was an art based school so each subject was taught around art. So, if you were teaching math, you had to essentially teach addition using some art form: music, dance drama . It was really interesting, as an artist, to be teaching kids these basic necessities of life but through art. It was really life changing for me and I used this experience as my inspiration to become a better artist myself. Through everyday means and matters, I grow and see art in a different way.
HOC: And it’s art and specifically, painting that has your heart?
Amanda: Absolutely! The heart is like a paintbrush when it swipes across a crisp white canvas. Every single emotion that you are feeling comes onto that canvas. Painting is so organic and so becoming of you; that’s why abstract painting in particular for me is so important and so interesting.
Being an artist doesn’t start when you are 12, it starts from the day you were born because you are growing, you are developing your taste and your style. I feel like a lot of people feel that art is easy to do but a true artist is not just developing their style when they are 20, 30, 40 , 50; they are developing it since the day they were born!
There’s this story about Picasso; he was eating in a restaurant and did a quick sketch while he was there. When he left, the waitress asked, ‘Pablo, can I keep this?’.
Do you know what he said?
‘Of course, as long as you pay me $20,000’, or whatever the amount was.
She was shocked and asked why it would cost so much when it hadn’t taken him long.
‘My dear, it didn’t take me 5 seconds to draw. It took me my whole lifetime’.
HOC: How do you balance the varying demands on your time and still manage to be creative?
Amanda: A lot of time, we as humans, have excuses for everything. Not enough time for this or that, excuse upon excuse! For me, I’m not saying that I’m not victim to the cycle of excuses, however I try to live my life to the fullest extent possible!
Every single moment not living is a moment wasted. We choose how we want to spend our time. It is our choice! I think a lot of people try too hard to make other people happy and they don’t do enough to make themselves happy, to light that fire within them. And this is a mistake. There is a saying “you only live once but, if you do it right, once is enough.”
Even though you could say I have been successful since a young age, I suppressed my dreams for years – it was exhausting! Slowly, over time, I started to listen to that little fire within me. I started to create a list of things that wanted, that I dreamed would happen. Being a musician and playing on a stage, modelling and doing commercials and publishing my own book were all paths that helped me develop a tough skin but it wasn’t until I was a finalist for Miss Universe that I truly developed a very tough skin.
Millions of people watching your every move, social media, photos, skin, the way you walk- everything. Everyone was trying to tell me what to do and how to do it. I said ‘enough!’ and created another list.
I loved to paint, travel, and I loved my business. I couldn’t give any of them up. It wasn’t a question. I loved meeting new people, learning and growing, pushing myself to the limit.
So I did three things:
- I let go of all my excuses that kept me stuck
- I adopted great habits and behaviours that set me up for success
- Lastly, I acquired the skills necessary to make my exponential growth possible.
Art isn’t about finding the time. As artists, the time finds us through all the beautiful things around us and the things we experience. The creativity just flows from there.
HOC: We hear you love to travel; tell us a bit about your travel? Where has been your favourite place in the last year?
Amanda: Yes! I absolutely love to travel! I think I developed this taste of travel from a very young age, traveling around North America as a musician, but the best moments were with my mom and sister. My mom loved to take us on random little road trips and always let us try new things. She is absolutely amazing and I always thank her for this. I thank her for allowing my sister and me to be who we are.
This instinctual urge to travel has taken me all across South America, down to Antarctica, up to the North Pole, Alaska, all the tiny islands in Hawaii. I’ve visited almost the entirety of the South Pacific and 90% of Asia, Africa, Middle East and Europe. Yes, I have been to all seven continents!
One thing I learnt is no matter the culture, religion, language or city, we all function and work in the same way, we all smile big and we all just want to be loved. Every place has this in common and you can see it through and through. It’s amazing.
I think the most interesting places that I went to this year were Petra, Jordan, Israel and Muscat, Oman. These were places that I never thought I would ever go to, but they blew me away. Petra, being one of the 7 wonders of the world. Israel, I loved because it is the up and coming hub of the art world. Muscat because the beaches and mountains are breathtaking yet everything is so lavish and grandiose to perfection.
HOC: Why, in your opinion, is art so important?
Amanda: In my professional opinion, art is extremely important because it is one the first ways of communication; the first form of self expression and culture. Art dates back to cave paintings where we saw all these grand images of how life was. Then we move ahead to China where the first form of printmaking was invented right after paper was invented around 105 AD.
The Chinese created this form of printmaking to communicate between villages and then later on started to use it in terms of an art form. Everyone loves art, it surrounds us. Not everyone can say they appreciate it. I sometimes do meet some people who say they have blank walls with no interest in ever collecting. Regardless, we all have a favourite colour, favourite photograph, pattern etc., basically something that moves us and makes us happy.
So I believe everyone loves art whether they want to admit it or not! It’s in our human nature. Sometimes people collect paintings for investment but, the majority of us, we collect art because it makes us feel something and every time we see it hanging on our wall, we smile, leaving all the stresses of the day at the front door. Artistically speaking, I think art allows people to have a voice, to show the world the micro complexities of the heart, to share something they may not have shared if they didn’t have art.
HOC: For our creative readers, what advice would you have for them to grow their artist practices and get their work seen?
Amanda: I get a lot of messages every day from artists of all kinds asking me this very question! How did you start? How did you do it?
The best form of advice I can give is to be your unapologetic self. Show the world what you’ve got and don’t be afraid, because there are over a billion people in the world and chances are someone is going to love it! Get out of your studio, go to places you have never been to, talk to people, enjoy and cherish every moment. I also suggest supporting other artists, going to opening shows as much as possible, museums and talks. Maybe even doing an artist talk yourself!
Once you have confidence in yourself, it will shine through and people will notice. From there, anything is possible and the sky is the limit.
HOC: What artwork that you’ve created means the most to you and why?
Amanda: My favourite artwork is actually “Lights, Camera, Action” (seen to the left / above) that I created in 2015. Its acrylic on canvas, 24 x36 inches. I used it as part of my Fashion Week Collection of Paintings. It was nominated for an award in Dubai and shown for Armani at the Burj Khalifa in 2017.
I loved it so much because it was the first time I was part of NYFW in 2012. I loved watching all the other models get ready before shows, walking and then watching shows after. It’s a moment I will never forget. This is an image of Karlie Kloss from Oscar de la Renta’s show at NYFW Fall 2012. The way her energy was on the runway was infectious, full of class and yet serene. I had to paint the photo and put a little bit of my artistic flare into it.
HOC: Who / where do you get your inspiration from?
Amanda: Honestly I try not to let anything influence or inspire me. I appreciate the great masters like Monet, Matisse and De Kooning and of course the up and coming artists of our generation, however I want my voice to be my own. When I start an abstract painting I never think about what I want to do. I have no preconceived ideas.
Most of the time I grab whatever colours are closest to me. Even though I have a gorgeous easel imported from Italy, I like to paint on the floor and get messy! So I have a lot of colours lying around me. When I feel like I am “done” I take a step back, look at it for a long time, photograph it and then go back and fix it more if need be.
HOC: Finally, we feel you are going to have some great creative funk smashers…?
Amanda: Creativity is all around us. In the smile of someone walking by, or the perfectly made heart in the foam of a fresh cappuccino or the shine sparkling the waves as they roll onto the beach. It’s up to us if we want to see these beautiful things or not. For me that’s why I am never in a creative funk. I’m constantly learning, observing and trying new things.
If you asked me while I was in university if I would be painting using concrete, like I do now, I would laugh! I try to keep many paintings on the go at once as well, so I can paint some here and then, there to keep the constant flow of energy going.
Good music is a must as well to have playing in the studio, I like singer songwriters on cold rainy or snowy days and dance/ electronic on sunny days. Whatever the mood, music can really help!
Find our more about Amanda Morie and here work over on her website
Amanda is represented by Artists Lane, NY Art Gallery and in partnership with 1stdibs