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Local artist Kevin Morgan poses for a portrait in his home studio on Fox Lake Road. Morgan has been creating the art for Athens Halloween for 33 years. 

Kevin Morgan, founder of Uptown Dog and local artist, celebrates 33rd year of Halloween art

Kevin Morgan, who designed the “Court Street Shuffle” and “Muck Fiami” shirt, shares his art, life and experience as an Athenian.

Kevin Morgan is an Athens legend.

With decades of creating art under his belt, Morgan has made a name for himself in Ohio. From starting Uptown Dog T-Shirts to designing the annual "Halloween in Athens" poster, he is a figure known to locals and artists alike.

“I don’t know when I was younger if this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Morgan said. “(My parents) saw I could draw, so for Christmas and birthdays, I always got art supplies.”

At age 14, Morgan said he got his first job at Image Graphics printing t-shirts, and he was 18 years old when he became a partner for the company. In 1988, he started Uptown Dog T-Shirts.

Morgan has created the annual Halloween poster and t-shirt design for the Athens Halloween Block Party for 33 years. His designs, which all include skulls, range from this year’s skeletal “OU Attack Cat” to El Día de los Muertos sugar skulls.

“Being an old ‘Dead Head,’ it really just goes hand in hand,” Morgan said.

He said he makes around $2,000 per Halloween for his designs. Morgan continues creating art, but he said it’s not specifically money-driven.

He and Uptown Dog also created the “Court Street Shuffle” and “Muck Fiami” T-shirts, as well as the “Athens Happens” T-shirt.

“I was the originator of ‘Muck Fiami’ — isn’t that awesome?” Morgan said. “It might have been one of those things where we were having a few beers and someone said, ‘MUCK FIAMI.’ We would be like, ‘Oh that’s good. We really ought to do that.’ ”

As for the “Court Street Shuffle,” Morgan said the phrase originated when a sorority girl in 1988 was looking for a way to document all the bars she and her friends had visited in one night. After he made the shirts for her, he took the idea and mass-produced it.

“We started this back in 1988 and proceeded to piss off every bar Uptown because it started to become sort of nutty,” Morgan said. “'Large crowds of shufflers,' they called them, would come in. And now some bars have little signs that say ‘Shufflers not welcome.’ ”

He also does art for numerous artists and companies around Athens and Ohio, such as Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery, the Pawpaw Festival and the band Hot Tuna.

“I met Kevin in 1999, and we’ve been friends ever since,” Chris Chmiel, Athens County Commissioner and creator of the Pawpaw Festival, said. “He’s one of our local resources, and he’s easy to work with. He has a great portfolio. It’s been a great, magical ride so far.”

He said his designs are made from scratch boards and they have a rustic, wood-block look.

“Graphic design is my bread and butter," Morgan said. "I’ll draw in ink and scan it in, and the color separations are done on the computer.”

His designs can also be seen on multiple Snowville Creamery cartons, and in the logos for Fur Peace Ranch, which is a concert venue and guitar camp.

“He’s able to make art that looks good on a poster and good on a T-shirt," Chmiel said. "He has cross-dimensional qualities that make his art look good. He’s very accessible and down to earth.”

For Jackie O’s, Morgan designs some of the art for its bottles and cans.

“We started to see more and more stuff that he’s done, and we started to throw more art his way,” Art Oestrike, the owner of Jackie O’s, said. “I equate his style to a very Athens-like theme. He really is just an eclectic, fun-loving Athenian.”

As for inspiration, Morgan said he doesn’t really know where it comes from.

“To me a good piece of art has impact and a good tie-in,” Morgan said. “I just love big impact design. It needs to hits you somehow.”

Even though Morgan takes on projects for the sake of art, he’s said he has worked hard to not have to worry about his finances.

“You need money," Morgan said. "I feel like I really busted my ass for many years for no money.” 

With numerous projects and the annual events he is commissioned for, he said many OU students ask him how he became so successful.

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“There really is no ‘making it’ or ‘coming up with your style,’ ” Morgan said. “There’s a place for that, but I always try to go further with my next piece and be better.”

Although Morgan takes on projects all around Ohio, he calls Athens his home base.

“My parents moved here when I was one, and my father was the sports information director (at OU) for 35 years. We were a real Athens family,” Morgan said. “I never went to OU, but I feel like I was a part of it the whole time. I have a good tie-in with Athens. It’s definitely home.”



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