Social commentator, illustrator, Dad.
Some people have that special knack for making a tricky idea feel simple. Toby Morris is one such person, interpreting social issues in a digestible and delightful way with illustrated comic strips for The Wireless. He tackles topics ranging from the TPPA to inequality in New Zealand. His conscience delivers readers a clear honest message in an increasingly noisy world.
What place does generosity have in the world of art?
I think art, creativity and generosity are very much linked. The type of art, music and writing I’m drawn to is stuff that is inviting and open. When you feel like someone is sharing something personal with you, when they’re putting themselves out there and offering you a way in, that’s when you find work that people really connect with and learn from.
I guess that’s why I’ve often been drawn to traditionally ‘low brow’ or ‘low art’ stuff, like comics, rather than very formal ‘traditional art’. I find that the fine art galleries can be exclusive and gated. I love strange, different or unprofessional stuff, where people have thrown it out into the world for anyone and everyone.
Your work reflects on social and political issues, particularly facing New Zealand. What issues are speaking to you the loudest at the moment? What do you hope can be done about them?
Ah, there are so many! I think the big overarching one for me is inequality. I worry we’re turning more and more into a divided country of haves and have nots. I feel like there are two New Zealands living side by side, largely invisible to each other.
I think and hope that we as Kiwis don’t want that. When people really think about it they say “yeah, that’s not right”. So for me, I feel like what I can do is to get people to glance that way once in a while and consider it for a minute. I don’t know how to fix it all myself, but I hope that the more people look at it, the more we’ll talk about it, and hopefully start working together to improve things.
Who inspires you to aim high?
My kids are pretty inspiring! Pretty cheesy answer I know, but I feel like ever since I’ve become a parent (two boys, aged three and one), that has lead me to think about the bigger picture more and worry less about myself. I wonder what kind of world they’re growing up in and I’m also conscious of setting a positive example. I know they’re watching and learning from me so I don’t want them to watch me being a jerk!
What was the last experience you have had with a generous act?
Our family is involved with our local Playcentre in Morningside, Auckland. I was just thinking this week about how good that has been. Every time someone in the community has a new baby, the group organises a meal roster – so everyone takes turns cooking extra dinners and dropping them off for the family with the new kid.
That generosity is really appreciated and when you’re the family receiving the great food, it’s a massive help. I remember how special that felt, and how helpful it was when we had our second boy. But this week we were on the giving side. When we dropped off the meal, I realised how much I enjoyed that part of it. It felt good to give, to help and to share... so it’s a win for everyone!