Making people happy is not only part of Morag Myerscough’s personal mantra, it’s in her DNA. “My great grandfather was a clown whose stage name was Le Rigolo,” she tells us. While the British artist and designer’s work isn’t meant for the circus, it does dazzle in brilliant and unexpected ways.
Growing up in London has allowed Myerscough to understand the urban environment in a more nuanced way, and how an injection of colour, pattern and words can change peoples’ perceptions of a place. Her work varies in scale but is unified by accessibility; from building a space that would make the visitors to London’s Design Museum feel welcome to creating hospital rooms that would lift children’s spirits, Myerscough’s vision draws people in and surrounds them in positivity.
Her full mantra of ‘make happy those who are near and those who are far will come’ has seen her work with communities across the globe to create murals, immersive installations and transformative artworks that stimulate public interaction. Myerscough documents passions and processes on Instagram, where you’ll find alongside her, her West Highland terrier, Elvis. With her work encouraging so many, we checked in with the kind-hearted artist to see how her four-legged friend inspires her.
Tell us about your West Highland terrier, Elvis. How long have you had him, and is he named after the King?
I picked nine-week old Elvis up from his mum’s house on 03 March 2018. Elvis is my third Westie. My first Westie was Fraser, my mother’s maiden name. My second Westie was Lemmy after the Lemmy from Motörhead. I had a space of one to two years between each Westie, they were all very different characters. So it was a no-brainer he had to be called ‘Elvis’.
His breed is known for being “happy and entertaining,” which sounds like your mantra. Are you two similar in spirit?
Elvis is my quietest, gentlest Westie. He is so connected to me and we are together all the time. Yes, I think he has taken on a few of my characteristics. Our hair is the same colour. He is a total joy to be with and has been from the start, fitting in with the way I am straight away. He likes to dance.
Elvis is seen on Instagram hanging out while you paint. Has he ever gotten himself mixed up in your work?
Yes he put his head in some pink paint once, and realised it was not a good idea because I had to wash him and he really hates being washed. So he has not done it again. He is super careful and walks around everything. I think that is just from watching all the time. I have not had to tell him much, he is just naturally careful.
Has he ever inspired any of your projects?
Not yet. But because he makes me smile so much he definitely helps me with my work.
How do you two spend quality time together?
We go to Shoreditch Park and as I have had more time we now go for a big walk in Victoria Park in the morning, and then he has a shorter walk in the evening. He knows exactly the time we are going—8AM—and he loves it. So walking is our thing.
You do a lot of large-scale installations outside of London. Does Elvis travel with you?
That is not often possible. So Elvis stays with my partner Luke [Morgan] if it is only me away. Or he stays with my friend who also has a Westie. Or he goes and stays at his favourite place overnight boarding, he loves dog sleepovers. I am often sad he can’t come with me but the sites I work on are often hard-hat, and dogs would not be very popular.
Has the pandemic changed your creative process? How have you stayed inspired?
I have been lucky as I have been able to continue working throughout lockdown as my studio is on the ground floor of my house. But my work did change, as all my commissioned projects stopped. So I decided to focus on my home and throughout the last few months, Luke and I have been transforming rooms in our home that I have been wanting to do for years but work was always the priority and they never got done. So this has been incredibly rewarding and has made me fall in love with our home again.
You’ve often lent your support to the healthcare industry, now and in the past. How do you hope creativity can affect social change?
I have made several projects in schools and hospitals over many years now. I have been able to observe the difference artists can make in these environments and how important it is. Budgets are often tiny and the arts commissioners work so hard to deliver as much as they possibly can, I have huge admiration for everybody who works in hospitals and the devotion everybody has under often complex conditions. So when I was given the opportunity to thank everybody on the frontline on their daily commute in Leeds, at the height of the pandemic, I felt so strongly that if I could help in a small way—in the best way I know how to, even if it was just to bring some colour to the desolate lockdown streets—hopefully it would brighten someone’s day a little. I believe the pandemic has proved that creativity is so vital to our lives we can’t just eat, sleep and do Zooms. I also do not believe in a ‘new normal’—normal is a terrible word. I believe in ‘a new now’. I have made a piece of work in response to Covid called ‘A NEW NOW’ that is to be near the Pompidou, Paris in September this year.
If Elvis could describe your work, what would he say?
Have you ever imagined Amy Winehouse or Nick Cave as a Chihuahua, Neil Young as a Vizsla, or PJ Harvey as an Afghan hound? That’s exactly what San Francisco-based artist Michael Gillette has done through his unique illustration project, blending beloved, iconic music legends, both past and present, with their dog counterparts. Pack of Dogs, our first foray into book publishing, is a joyful title designed for music, pop culture and dog lovers alike.
August 25, 2020