Dallas-based graphic designer, visual artist, and “professional doodler” Christina Moreland is fighting a war on the side of good for the soul of humanity. The weapons in her arsenal? Cartoons. Her latest assault on ignorance is a series of aphorisms in cartoon form through a series called Daily Tips for a Better Quality of Life, and her battleground is Instagram.
Currently, she is resting outside of her home listening to birds sing, staring at the sky, ruminating on art, intermittently dancing and sipping on a margarita-in-a-can.
“I’m just trying to make art that’s bright, optimistic and inviting,” Moreland explains. “Online, we’re constantly consuming depressing content.”
From the mildly depressing run-of-the-mill vanity to the actually depressing real-world ignorance — and the kind of hate often spat up online by trolls who think their right to an opinion trumps a right to peace — it’s easy to see her point. From there sprang Moreland's main idea, to interrupt the incessant flow of negativity with a few simple life lessons each day and make them colorful, impactful, and full of whimsy.
Her unique point of view may be a result from her unique upbringing. She was born in a small Kentucky military hospital, moved abroad to the small idyllic town of Niederwerrn outside of Schweinfurt, Germany for the majority of her childhood, and finally to Texas. This varied sense of place is reflected in her eye and in her art.
In Moreland’s mind, the classic American kids programs like Hey Arnold or Avatar: the Last Airbender share the same shelf as German classics like Die Sendung mit der Maus (a German Mr. Rogers of sorts with more cartoons) and this diversity of influence shows.
“All of those showed me how you can utilize cartoons, or silly, expressive illustration work to convey educational lessons, meaningful back stories, progressive ideas, and humor," she says. "Also, I’m generally a really silly person and have been using humor as a coping mechanism since I was a little kiddo. So there’s that too.”
Now Moreland's silliness serves others.
“I think growing up I struggled immensely to find sources of inspiration that showcased blackness and queerness and diversity and to find my ‘place’ as a designer/illustrator in this industry," she says. "But old-school cartoons and animations hardly featured characters or people that looked like me; brands were, and still are, predominantly created with only white folks in mind. The world does not look like that.”
Moreland makes a strong point. The world is not a monolith, and neither is Dallas. Unlike a singular outcropping of marble or quartzite or whatever white stone, Dallas is a colorful and vibrant gem. Like at Oak Lawn, which is Moreland’s “home away from home,” a bastion of inclusivity and diversity.
It was through that avenue of searching for representation where Moreland found part of her trademark style: co-opting Atomic-age cartoon design and other cookie-cutter 1950s white culture and throwing in Moreland’s own diverse experience.
“Taking beautiful things that already exist, but adding my own spin and take, really started when I met Dallas folks like Joonbug, who I think of as the holy grail of Dallas artists, or other freelance artists/creatives like Topic or [DJ] Sober or Jeremy [Biggers]. All incredible artists carving their own way to success,” she says.
Moreland says that her specific path through her creative journey has been influenced by Fort Worth's Leon Bridges, who Moreland says is, “sort of the epitome of being inspired by the vintage but making it modern. Taking what existed for white people only and making it his own.”
These influences coalesce to inform Daily Tips for a Better Quality of Life.
“I started it as both an exploration of my personal style and as a simple but expressive way to provide some lightheartedness on our [social media] feeds," she says of the series. "They’re reminders to myself and others to be good and kind. Especially right now given the world’s current state of chaos.”
These tips run the gamut from the practical (“Eat your veggies”) to the emotional (“Lead with love”) to the directive (“Don’t be racist”). Each illustration incorporates fun and whimsy without overshadowing or losing the meaning of the words.
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“I specifically wanted to treat these ‘life tips’ in a very matter-of-fact way to highlight how these topics are supposed to be common sense… Hey! 'Eat your vegetables, call your parents!', if you still talk to them, 'Don’t be a fucking racist!'” Moreland explains, laughing but dead-serious about her message.
“But the keyword there is these are ‘supposed’ to be life lessons…” Moreland continues. “I believe you’re supposed to learn these things as you grow older, no matter who you are or where you come from… You’re supposed to learn that eating healthy will keep you in better shape and you’re supposed to learn that being racist or homophobic is wrong… As it turns out, however, there are a lot of parents out there who didn’t learn these things, so, in turn, their kids won't learn these things… So [the idea is] to break these cycles and categorize these topics as ‘common sense’ because, well, they should be.”
Moreland summarizes, “Being a good person isn’t a matter of opinion.”