The painter up yonder on the mountaintop

Profile: Morgan Irons

Montana-based painter Morgan Irons creates works that have literally brought people to tears. She graciously shared her story and process with Bumbleroot in the interview below. 

And for a limited time, she is offering a limited-edition print for sale (a perfect holiday gift!). Drool here. 

When someone who hasn’t seen your paintings asks you to describe your art, what do you say?

My paintings are narrative scenes of figures, mostly in the landscape, done in a traditional manner using oils. 

How did you learn to paint?

When I decided that I needed to learn how to paint, there were two things I did that were most effective. The first being looking at masterful art for a few hours every day. And being deliberate about it, collecting the paintings that I connected to and cataloging them to revisit. This allowed me to look at them as a whole and find the common threads between them. These became my North Star, what I aimed for in my own work as I was learning. This includes palette, feeling, subject matter, etc. 

The second thing I did was to put a limit on myself as a way to create focus. I allowed myself to only paint the land I lived on and the people I know best. This led to a deeper dive, and a more recognizable hand.

Technically, I learned to paint by doing it every day and seeking answers from paintings that I love. It wasn’t always easy, as I don’t have access to realism teachers here in Montana, but you can find a ton of information online. 

What is your process in creating a painting?

The initial spark for a painting comes in a number of ways, from reading stories, listening to music or a meditation process I use to explore images. The idea is usually fairly solid, and from there I gather models to work with. I’m lucky to have friends that humor me in this way. We work together to solidify this idea in reality, and often my original idea shifts during this time. I take photos, do drawings, and studies on site when the weather allows. Then I take all of this information back to the studio and work up a drawing on the canvas. A painting can take from a couple weeks to a few months to complete, and runs the gamut of successes and failures.

Your paintings have a clear relationship to nature and landscape. What is your relationship with nature and your landscape like and how do you maintain that?

I’m very careful about creating my lifestyle around my relationship to nature and the landscape. It’s important to me to have that space to make art and be the quiet that I try to impart in my paintings. I live and paint out of a cabin in the mountains of Montana and chose that deliberately for my work. 

What does a typical day look like for you?

I wake up with the sun and go for a hike with my dog Bear in the woods behind my cabin. I usually bring my coffee and spend time sitting and observing. When I get home, if I am still feeling out of sorts I will do some writing. I like the daily pages practice, just getting out all stray thoughts. I start painting in a morning session, working on my solo show work (special projects that take a few months). Then another short walk and lunch with Bear. I do an afternoon painting session where I focus on regular gallery work. I used to work evenings, but the cabin tends to sway me towards getting cozy when the sun goes down. Which is early here in Winter. 

How does is feel to part with a painting?

Certain paintings I have a really difficult time parting with, especially in these early years of my career when I can see clear shifts in ability and thinking in one painting. But there is no better feeling than when someone connects with my work enough that they want to hang it in their space.

If you could do anything in the world, except be a painter, what would you do?

I’ve always thought I would be a writer. Not because I am any good at it, but because I love reading stories and telling them. 

A special holiday gift

Own your own Morgan Irons print.


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