Drawn to Sister Gertrude Morgan

Celebrating the renowned artist with a comic about her life and work

March 7, 2024
A woman dressed in white plays the tambourine while singing and musical notes float around her on a blue background

Cover of the comic, "Sister Gertrude Morgan: A Creative Calling." Illustration by Stephanie Hunton

Born in Alabama in 1900, Sister Gertrude Morgan expressed her Christian faith through her artwork. Equal parts musician, painter, and poet, these creative expressions helped share her sanctified journey. As a self-taught artist, she fascinated people by her unique approach to art, and what constituted a meaningful work of art.

Her journey from embracing religion as a teen to becoming a missionary and preacher in New Orleans, is beautifully rendered in the comic, “Sister Gertrude Morgan: A Creative Calling,” illustrated by Stephanie Hunton, a student at the Ringling College of Art and Design. Hunton’s strong palette combines deep colors that brings Morgan’s story to life. Its yellows and greens feel like the colors of hope that get punctuated with deeper blues and purples during times of difficulty, change, or great emotion. Hunton uses color the way a composer uses sound, to great emotional effect.

Detail of an illustration of Sister Gertrude Morgan holding yellow roses and a bible.

 

The best part of the project was figuring out a fun color scheme that fit Sister Gertrude Morgan’s story. She was a singer, preacher, and painter. She seemed like she had a very lively personality so I wanted to express that in my range of colors. I used a lot of highly saturated oranges, blues, and purples which are on opposite ends of the color spectrum. When they are used together, they complement each other and create a beautiful celebration on each page.

Stephanie Hunton

Music is a big part of the story—throughout Sister Gertrude Morgan’s life and throughout the comic —beginning with the portrait on the cover. Hunton portrays Morgan enthusiastically, if not ecstatically, playing the tambourine as part of her spiritual practice. With the same warmth that Morgan welcomed people into her prayer room, Hunton welcomes readers into the story. As the comic continues, it captures Sister Gertude Morgan’s personal, spiritual, and artistic developments in colorful illustrations that, in Hunton’s talented hands, portray a life well-lived... and well-drawn. 

Illustrations and description of Sister Gertrude creating decorative fans and singing during church services.

This comic is part of a series Drawn to Art: Tales of Inspiring Women Artists that illuminates the stories of women artists in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Inspired by graphic novels, these short takes on artists’ lives were each drawn by a student-illustrator from the Ringling College of Art and Design.

We invite you to read the comic and share it with your friends and young people in your life.

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