ImagiNation with Caleb Morris

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Occupation: Illustrator and Owner of Welcome to the Neighborhoods

Favorite Productivity Tool: ClickUp - it’s a project management app. Favorite unprodictivity tool, Benny my dog.

Most Recommended App: Procreate, it's been a huge help with getting work done, especially while traveling. We were in Germany last year when Mountain Dew got in touch about drawing Bigfoot and I had to scramble to find good paper and try to explain in another language the DPI that I needed the drawing scanned at. After that, I got Procreate and I'm able to work a lot easier without a translator. 

Last Thing You Read: The Beastie Boys book

Tell us about your journey? I've been drawing since I can remember. As a kid I wanted to draw comics or work in animation. At 12, I called a receptionist at Disney and asked for their submissions guidelines and she was nice enough to send them to me. They never replied to my 6th grade drawing portfolio so I moved on to other career options. I took a 10 year break at 16 to play music and travel the country. When my rise to music stardom fell through, I ended up in Mobile, Alabama where I got a job sculpting and painting Mardi Gras floats for four years. I would sculpt and paint for 10 hours a day and teach myself fine art painting at night from library books.

In 2010, I got a scholarship to attend SCAD and moved to Atlanta to enroll in their illustration program. I got an internship at the amazing Wit Advertising and Design agency that taught me how to run my own business and learn graphic design. So I would go to school in the morning, internship in the afternoon and work on freelance projects at night. After school I had a few corporate design jobs that taught me I didn't want a corporate design job. I built my freelance career early in the morning and at night around the day job. After a couple false starts of trying to go fully self employed, I drew a couple Atlanta neighborhoods for an art show, when the prints sold at the show opening, I drew a couple more, made prints and took them around to a few stores. Then other stores started calling and the first stores started ordering more and people started emailing asking when I was going to draw their neighborhood. Then stores in other cities started calling and asking for their cities and neighborhoods, around this time, I had to figure out how to actually run a product-based business. I had no idea how to source materials, set up wholesale accounts, etc. but with some help from my girlfriend (now wife) and mom, we were able to get something resembling a legitimate business running smoothly. Local stores like Posman Books, Crafted, and Citizen Supply were also incredibly supportive and helped me figure out what in the world I was doing. 

Now the neighborhood prints are in stores from New York to Seattle, British Columbia and Costa Rica. I also have the best people in the world buying the prints, they send emails saying they have decorated their homes in Tokyo, China, England, Australia and more with the places I draw and even send pictures of how they set up their walls with them. 

What what's your favorite part of your day? Waking up early and getting my day started when it's quiet and dark outside. I try to get as much done as possible as early as possible before the day starts to sidetrack me. 

When do you feel most successful? When I see my work out in the world, I recently got to see the record cover I did for New Found Glory on a marquee in Times Square. Stuff like that is pretty crazy. Or getting messages from people telling me that one of the neighborhood prints makes them feel a little less homesick because they're living in a new and unfamiliar part of the world, those never get old. 

What do you do to recharge when you’re feeling drained? I take my dog, Benny, to the park a couple times a day. We live in a neighborhood that has these massive parks where it doesn't even feel like you're in the city, no sirens, no people, just creeks, hills and quiet. 

What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur How to stay better organized. I had no idea how to build a product-based business when I started, I wasn't even trying to, these were just neighborhood drawings that I was making for fun. So when I had to start sourcing backing boards, figuring out shipping, packing slips, all the tedious stuff that goes along with things running smoothly, it was a big learning curve that I could've prepared myself better for. Now that things have gotten a lot bigger and I'm shipping to stores around the country and customers around the world, I've brought in some great people to help with things I have no idea about like digital marketing, billing, etc, that also helps free up a little time to stay focused on the actual neighborhood drawings.  

How do you optimize your day? Go as fast as I can early in the day, checking off as many things on my list as possible before the day gets in my way. The middle of the day usually turns into a ton of distractions, phone calls, deliveries, etc. but, by the late afternoon, I catch my second wind and can focus on work again until around 10 or 11. It's probably not the best schedule and I'm not sure I'll be able to keep it up forever but it works for now.

Who is the person/people who allowed you to imagine more? My sweet wife and my wonderful mom, and my crazy dad. My wife helps with product photography, deliveries, making sure I stay on task. My mom retired last year and took over admin stuff for me, sourcing products, trade show setup etc. This whole thing would've fallen apart without their help so I'm super lucky to have them. 

What does imagining more mean to you and your story? I think a lot of times, you can get so bogged down in the day to day of making sure you/your business doesn't fall on its face that you forget to take time to imagine more. This year I'm trying to focus on finding time to figure out what that means, whether it’s imagining more cities and neighborhoods to work on, imagining more products and how they makes sense with what I'm already doing, imagining better ways to give back to the communities that I draw, it's a lot to imagine but I'm working on wrapping my brain around it. 

If you could do more of one thing every day what would it be? I wish I could get out and explore more like I used to. If you see me out and about, make sure you stop me and remind me to not be in such a hurry.