My personal opinion might be biased, but I believe Morgan Manley — also known as Morgan Mandala — is Colorado’s top visionary art painter. With over 108,000 followers on Instagram, I know many would second this opinion. Her art breathes Colorado through the geometric infused landscapes and flowy, psychedelic imagery that draw viewers inward through the painting. Morgan gained popularity through live art performances at music shows and collaborative art installations. As a full-time artist, her work isn’t just paint strokes but focuses on building the visionary art community in Colorado.
Manley regularly invites fellow artist friends over to her mountain cabin up Four-mile Canyon outside of Boulder to gather for communal painting sessions. For her, this is just one way to help build and uplift the artist community. These connections continue into collaborative art paintings where two or more artists work on a piece together like at a music show or festival. “This develops support and growth in the art practice similar to yoga,” Manley says. “We do it individually as artists, but when we come together, we can uplift each other.
Manley live paints at numerous venues around Colorado and plans to attend Electric Forest Festival in Michigan and Boom Festival in Portugal as a featured painter this summer. She feels these gatherings and chances to work together influence and strengthen her work. When working on an art piece with more artists, she says there’s both a lot of trust as well as an intuitive process of collaboration. “We mess it up before we make it beautiful,” she comments about how each artist adds new layers upon another artist’s work, and through the final product, one can feel the depth of all the layers of paint.
Manley enjoys reaching a flow state when live painting by feeling the energy of the crowd and the music. “There is a performance aspect to live painting. However, I don’t have to face the crowd, which is less intimidating, but can still feel their energy,” she says. This makes her want to paint more and experiment with how the painting will evolve. “I let the painting become what it wants to become,” she adds. “I like to keep it fresh and fun [when painting at live shows] and try something that hasn’t been done before.”
She admits her style of painting tends to play with your subconscious. Some of her biggest art influences are Martina Hoffmann, Robert Venosa, Ilene Meyer, Joseph Parker, Alex & Allyson Grey, Mark Henson and collaborations by the Further Collective. After reviewing these artists, you can see how their techniques are blended into Manley’s creations. I’d describe her style as a mix of Salvador Dali and Bob
Ross influenced by the mountains of Colorado. “Nature is high up on the list of influences,” Manley agrees.
Manley has built an amazing career as a professional painter through her unique style as a visionary artist. She believes this would be the best category for herself, because her work transcends the full physical form. She tries to portray an idea or theme through her images. As evidenced in her name, she uses mandalas throughout her art. Mandalas are used in various spiritual traditions as a guidance tool to help the practitioner through meditation and achieve a trance like state. For Manley, painting is a way to integrate her meditative process.
She finds thriving is being able to maintain a balance of all that her spirit and body needs. “All of the experiences I have in my life — yoga, skiing, hiking and spending time in nature — help me put more energy into my art. These activities keep the flow happening by not being stagnant, especially when having to sit for a long time to work,” she says.
She finds making art is similar to practicing yoga, because one has to develop the skills or stretch their muscles both physically, like in yoga, or artistically. “It’s never too late to start the practice of something you’ve been missing,” she adds.
Manley always loved to draw as a kid growing up in Chicago. “I didn’t know I would end up doing it full time and was told I couldn’t,” she says. She went into college planning to study veterinary but switched to painting and art history. “I had lots of friends who were musicians and invited me to join as a live painting artist,” she explains on her first start into live painting.
Later, she taught private art lessons for a while and realized how she could make it a viable income. In 2006, she moved to Colorado because of her love of the mountains and was lucky enough to happen upon the growing art and music movement at the right time. She went from hustle to hustle doing live paintings, collaborating and selling art to being a full-time artist with an upcoming gallery showing this October at the Threyda Gallery in Denver.
Originally published in Summer + Fall 2023 issue of Colorado YOGA + life.