Photos by Elizabeth Hover

The dynamic portraits of artist Morgan Gray

The virtual gallery of artist Morgan Gray reveals a dynamic showcase of immediately recognizable portraits, from one-name megastars like Beyoncé, Twiggy and Cher to art world icons Frida Kahlo and Vincent van Gogh and music legends Jimi Hendrix and Whitney Houston.

Yet it’s been a restless exploration of the new and unfamiliar that led Gray, the painter and proprietor behind Morgan Paints Stuff, to this point. Her work sells—and sells out—online with remarkable immediacy to patrons all over the globe, from the UK to Australia to Japan. Original works often disappear within the hour, prints within a day. Even restocked prints tend to be gone in a half hour, while seasonal drops like last year’s Christmas collection are snapped up in minutes.

Gray, whose family moved to Berwick, Louisiana, when she was two, received a BFA from LSU in 2017. Even at a young age, she dabbled in doodling, drawing and coloring, but discovering the joy of painting is what steered her toward pursuing art as a profession. An interest in abstract patterns was cultivated during a ceramics class in college, leading to a dedicated study of color palettes, then a fascination with portraiture, which she combined with her passion for abstracts and expressionism.

A brief episode of boredom while on a family road trip traveling back from Connecticut a few years ago served as the impetus to join TikTok, which was then on the cusp of its meteoric rise. Gray noticed that many artists were exhibiting their work on the video-focused platform and made the leap, catapulting her social media presence to greater visibility—currently, she has 230,000-plus followers—and allowing her to step away from the commissions she was accepting at the time in order to produce original works for a wider, engaged audience.

Gray’s Princess Diana portrait.

“Throughout all of the phases that I’ve gone through, I’ve taken a little piece from each, and that’s how I’ve worked up to the specific style I have right now—which I probably will change in the future,” says Gray, who knew early on she wanted to live in a thriving, arts-focused city like New Orleans. “I’m always evolving my style and working toward something new and different.”

While she frequently gets audience pleas for certain pop culture figures to feature next, she also keeps an ever-growing list of historical subjects she would like to paint, which is how her versions of Michelangelo’s “David” and Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” came to be.

Her technique is mainly intuitive. She likes to work quickly, layering in a multitude of elements while being inspired, for instance, by the style of lines drawn in a painting she has spent hours observing, or incorporating facets she deems a natural fit, like moons and suns (her astrological sign being a Leo).

“I love when you can just stare at a painting for hours and continuously find something new,” says Gray, who plans to release a wider array of abstract work early this year. “That’s something I wanted to show with my work.”