It's Music To Your Eyes! The Custom Guitar Art of Scott J. Morgan

BELLOWS FALLS, VERMONT – Local artist Scott J. Morgan is a renaissance man - fine art painter, landscape architect and musician. Recently he’s found a way to pull all his passions together by venturing into the world of custom guitar artwork. Morgan started out with acrylic paints and traditional guitar lacquers, but when a local guitar builder asked him to preserve the beautiful natural grain of a quilted maple guitar top, Morgan began working with dye applications on the guitars. The water or alcohol based dyes provide Morgan with a way to apply his abstract designs as a transparent layer that enhances and reinforces the wonderful dimensional grain of the wood. Scott is owner of a fine art company called WaterMusicart, the name coming from one of Scott's earliest paintings titled Water Music, which depicts the dynamic movement of water in conjunction with the lyrical dialog of music.


Article by Joe Milliken * Photos courtesy of Scott J. Morgan

As his art has evolved, these particular themes became more definitive elements in Morgan's work, with his experiences as a musician evident in the rhythm and movement in his paintings. In fact, the WaterMusicArt concept grew out of his desire to expand this form of imagery beyond the canvas to include other applications - murals, custom ceramic art tiles, bass drumheads and guitars... and a custom Stratocaster!

Morgan plays bass, keyboards and harmonica. “I played bass semi-professionally for many years and recently started playing again, slowly re-learning my instrument and getting my chops back,” Scott said in a recent Standing Room Only interview. “I've also been playing the harmonica since the mid-70s and that's become my go-to instrument. I play and jam locally whenever I can and love playing the blues, folk, funk R & B... anything I can add a groove to. I've also recently been playing with a local heavy metal band and their unplugged project... acoustic versions of their metal songs which seems bizarre, but it works!”

So, how exactly did this concept of custom guitar-art applications come about?

“It actually all started back in 2012, when I custom-painted the Strat of my nephew (and Chester, Vermont-native) Brendon Thomas, also known musically as Foreverinmotion,” Morgan said. “It turned out really nice and everyone was digging it, but I wasn't sure how to go about finding musicians who would be willing for me to paint their guitars... so I decided to start looking for a guitar builder who may be interested in branding their guitars with a signature and custom, fine art paint job.”

Morgan connected with local guitar builder Nick Gregory, who admired Scott's painting and wanted to collaborate on a guitar project. “However, Nick's guitar tops were made of materials such as picture maple, quilted maple and birds-eye and it was all about the gorgeous, almost three-dimensional grains. Therefore, I had to learn how to dye the guitar instead of painting it... which I was able to figure out pretty quickly through test pieces.”

The guitar-dye application is still somewhat experimental, but certainly evolving. “When I make a mistake or want to change the application, it becomes quite different as compared to just scraping paint off of a canvas,” Scott added. “In this case, I have to sand the piece down which is kinda crazy... but those little mistakes can also add something positive and present opportunities that fit well into my abstract style.

“Therefore, unlike production dye jobs coming from Fender or PRS, a certain section of the guitar might have a little leftover red or green on the surface which adds a beautiful effect. In other words, the application is not perfect but unique, which works to their benefit. Another aspect that makes my custom dye-jobs unique is that nearly all of the dyed guitars currently being produced are all one design, the classic sunburst and fading from dark to light and thats it. Whereas I am able to go way beyond that concept with my custom design work.”

Most of Morgan's concepts consist of simple yet unique designs which could potentially be duplicated in production, so that the guitar model could be sold in a variety of colors, while using the same design. “I always consider the guitar to be a very special canvas and I love the organic shapes and interplay of the components,” Morgan stated. “In all the guitars that I paint or dye, I try to respect the style and shape of the guitar body and work to enhance that, while even considering the specific location of the components.”

Although Scott was given complete artistic control when he painted the Foreverinmotion Strat, he is more than willing to work with a client in regards to the design and color scheme of customizing an instrument. “As for working with a client on a commissioned guitar, I am not an illustrator, so I would not be interested in creating a 'theme' guitar, say a Beatles guitar or a Red Sox guitar as an example. However, I would gladly work with a client regarding color schemes and adding special touches at their request, such as a custom headstock with a logo. However, and for the most part, I would be focusing on the guitar itself and doing what I do... creating a unique, custom fine art piece in my own abstract style.”

Morgan is definitely interested in working with a progressive, forward-thinking guitar builder and in fact, is open to a national search to expand the possibilities. He would also like to work with individual guitarists in creating one-of-a-kind designs. “In my research I have yet to find anything similar to these dyed guitars... they are unique and beautiful.” Scott also fixes and/or rehabilitates old or broken guitars as well. “I enjoy re-habbing old guitars and turning them into works of art,” Scott added. “I find guitars at recycling or that are given to me, which are usually broken and I fix them up. However, they are usually not meant to be played, but to hang as art pieces... although I'd certainly be interested in re-habbing old guitars so they can also be played once again.”

To contact and learn more about Scott's fine art and custom guitar artworks, please visit
www.scottjmorganart.com and www.watermusicart.com