Your Neighbor: Meet Susan Morris
Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 11, 2022
By Mandy Haggerson
For the Clemmons Courier
Susan Morris grew up in Pfafftown as an only child surrounded by a mom and dad who inspired her to love art. Morris’ dad worked full time for then-Piedmont Airlines but had a steady passion for photography on the side. Exposing her to photography from a young age allowed Susan to see details and tell stories through his photos as well as embrace a love for nature.
“We have enjoyed many adventures to the North Carolina Zoo and Blue Ridge Parkway with cameras in hand,” Morris said.
Morris was also influenced by her mother’s talents as well. “She had a studio and I dabbled around in it. She was incredibly talented, and I enjoyed watching her create because she did commissioned pieces and also taught art. As an only child, you are left to self-entertain, and art was a wonderful vehicle for doing just that,” Morris said.
“I remember the excitement I felt the first time my art was displayed in the state fair in kindergarten. It was a real treat. For most of my childhood, if I wasn’t creating something, I likely had a book in my hand or was cooking with my mom.”
When Morris graduated from high school, she wasn’t sure about heading off to college. “A part of me thought that I would prefer to stay home and work. However, I was encouraged to pursue a degree first and went to Meredith College for a year. After that first year, I convinced my parents that I did prefer to work at that moment in time,” she said.
Morris began a series of various administrative and executive assistant roles. She worked at Calvary Baptist and Center Grove churches and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. “I gained some valuable knowledge and life experiences from each of those places that I appreciate,” Morris said.
Morris had her daughter, Olivia, now 31.
“Being a mother was so rewarding. I tried to find jobs where I could balance that life. I remember when I was working a full-time job and a friend had approached me to work with her as an office manager. That position wasn’t going to be as many hours but did afford me the opportunity to have more time with my daughter. It ended up being doubly beneficial because I also met my future husband, John, there too. He was just there on a brief contract. I actually asked him out, and after I did, he said he was planning to do the same. We had a lunch pre-date before our real first date, and the rest was history. It’s been 22 years, and I’ve been so grateful to have such a loving and supportive partner,” Morris said.
Morris had always prided herself on learning from the school of hard knocks. However, when she was 48, she decided to go back and get her degree in project management through Forsyth Technical Community College.
While completing her degree, Morris was witnessing her mother fight Alzheimer’s Disease. “She struggled with it for five years. It’s probably one of the cruelest diseases I have ever encountered. You have the most current memories in the forefront of your mind, and sometimes they overshadow the good memories,” Morris explained. “When she passed in 2019, it was very difficult. I miss her terribly.”
Morris soul-searched after the loss of her mother, and reconnected with her love for art.
“At that time, I realized there were all sorts of Facebook groups that provided resources and tutorials that spurred my love for colored pencils. I even got my first commission request through social media. I realized I had been bitten by the bug to create. At that time, I was also working full time at the accounting firm, Saunders, Strode & Trawick. I would come home at night and do my artwork, and during the daytime work in my office administrative position. I was burning the candle at both ends. At that time, John was very supportive too. He helped pick up the slack with things on the home front, and I was so appreciative,” Morris said.
Morris’ work was getting attention. She was asked to publish in various magazines, including “COLOR,” “Color Pencils Magazine,” and “Hidden Treasures” to name a few. In April 2022, she decided to take her passion full time and focused solely on art and left the corporate world behind her. “I had met an author, Robin Ladue, online who had purchased some of my art, and she asked me to illustrate a story for a children’s book. The story was originally written for an ill gentleman to cheer him up, and someone had suggested turning it into a book. Robin lives in Washington state, and to this day we have never met. We became fast friends, and text and talk daily. Collaborating with her on the story, “The Diving Cats of Bucerias” was just a dream come true. It didn’t feel like a job when I was illustrating with her,” said Morris of her books that are found at Barnes and Nobles and Amazon.
“I also was quite fortunate to have had such a patient and helpful book publisher, Melissa Coffman of Book House Publishing. She was wonderful to work with. So many people have written a children’s book and are interested in having it published but don’t know how to move forward on that dream. Melissa helped make that possible.”
Morris has been staying busy ever since her first published book. “Rainforest Fairies” was the most recent book that Morris illustrated and published. Bookstores have requested her to come and participate in various book signings to give their patrons an opportunity to meet the illustrator. “It’s all very new, and I am enjoying the ride. My husband, daughter, dad, and his wife, Dixie, have been so supportive through this journey,” Morris said.
Morris focuses a large amount of her time on commissioned art, especially pet portraits and landscapes. “What I enjoy most is creating art that tells a story, captures a special moment or passes along a treasured memory,” she said.
Morris’ attention to detail and use of color emphasizes her unique style.
“I prefer working with professional-grade colored pencils, but also enjoy pastels,” Morris said. While many of her works can be found in homes across the country and internationally, she credits her talents by stating, “God does it, but He lets me hold the pencils.”
Morris’ work is also on display locally at the Sticht Center at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and the Red Dog Gallery in Winston-Salem. To learn more about Morris and her art, go to www.shmorrisart.com.