Artist Interview: Paint the Sky With Colin Morella

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Colin Morella is more than your average fan-artist, this man creates stunning and creatively minimalist pieces that encapsulate tones, themes, and feelings in each of his pieces. But he is even more than that! He does lots of digital paintings and is also an EA-18G Flight Officer, and if you stroll over to his Instagram, you can see some amazing photos and videos from inside the cockpit of these jets.

Daniel Black: You’ve been making digital art for years, how did your passion and art journey start?

Colin Morella: It started when I was very young, 3 or 4 years old. For as long as I can remember I would doodle anything and everything from planes, submarines, starships, tanks, etc. I can’t remember what drew me to draw in the first place, but I definitely attribute the influences of science fiction movies/games as well as space and military technology as the creative juice for my interest in making art. Throughout my entire childhood, I accumulated hundreds if not thousands of scrapbook pages worth of drawings. Later on, in high school, I decided to take a basic course on graphic design using Photoshop. This simple class propelled me into the world of digital design. I began experimenting with scanning physical drawings and painting over them digitally. Eventually, I ended up designing everything in Photoshop itself. I continued to teach myself through free resources such as tutorials on Deviant Art to hone my skills. In 2013 I discovered the world of ‘alternative movie posters’ and was floored by the different styles and immense talent from dozens of these poster artists. Being a nostalgia addict, I wanted to revisit some of my favorite games and movies and create my own posters to hopefully capture that feeling of joy/nostalgia for others in a unique art style.

DB: Through your art and username (Noble-6 Design), you obviously have a special love for the Halo franchise. Which Halo game do you think impacted you the most?

CM: Halo is definitely one of my favorites! The original Halo: Combat Evolved has had by far the most impact. I still vividly remember playing it for the first time at a friend’s house when I was 11 years old. Something about the soundtrack, scenery, design, and overall ambiance just really stuck with me and still do to this day. I also enjoy the more simple, grounded aspect of the storyline. It wasn’t too far fetched as far as sci-fi goes and you really felt like you were alone on this spooky alien construct. I’m a fan of all the Halo games but some of the more recent installments in the franchise just don’t quite have that same sense of realism that Combat Evolved does. The designs of the ships, weapons, armor, and aliens fit right in the with the types of doodles I enjoyed making when I was younger, and to this day I still enjoy revisiting the franchise in my current digital art style.

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DB: When playing as Nobel-6 in Halo: Reach, which (SPOILERS!) death was the most devastating to you of all the Spartans?

CM: Kat’s. It was so quiet, quick, and unexpected when it happened. The timing of it also really evoked an added sense of despair and desperation in the rest of the campaign. Bungie did a great job in this game of making you emotionally attached to the members of Noble Team. 

DB: Along with Halo, you make art from a wide spectrum of media including The Shining, Mario, Destiny, Tron, general aircraft, Star Trek, Star Wars, horror films, and more. When watching TV, film or playing a game, what makes something truly great? What is it that speaks to you to inspire you to make art?

CM: Great question! It’s really hard to say and I’ve honestly not done a whole lot of introspection on this. I think I’m just drawn to the act of capturing moments from these great pieces of media in a single image that I can share with others. I know that many of my favorite choices of films, games, etc. are shared by others – I mentioned earlier that I am a nostalgic type and I enjoy the ability to create and capture that same sense of nostalgia for fellow fans. 

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DB: Because your art gallery is so vast, we’d love to get a set of quick answers from you: What is your favorite gun from the Halo series?

CM: Needler. Such a unique video game weapon when it was first introduced and still holds up today as one of my faves. I enjoy the added bit of skill it takes to effectively yield and who doesn’t love that satisfying explosion of pink shards?

DB: If you could command a Star Fleet ship, which would it be?

CM: Definitely the Enterprise-E. Always loved the sleek, swept-back style of that iteration of the Enterprise.

 DB: What color lightsaber would you wield?

CM: Always loved the sinister red Sith blades

DB: Favorite films of all time?

CM: Empire Strikes Back is my all time favorite. The original Star Wars trilogy was the first film saga I remember watching as a child. The sights, sounds, music, and overarching hero’s journey of the story influenced many of my interests growing up, including art. I enjoy ESB the most because, for me, it captures the perfect balance of badass-ness, romance, humor, and visuals that make it such a timeless epic. 

DB: What was the first Nintendo game you played?

CM: Starfox 64 was the first one I remember playing. I definitely miss those late ’90s years getting the neighborhood friends over for some N64 split-screen action. A few other favorites were Super Mario, Battletanx, Goldeneye, and Majora’s Mask.

DB: What TV show series have you watched the most?

CM: I don’t watch too much TV these days, but most recently I’d have to say the Narcos series. Love the soundtrack, 80s aesthetic, and the acting. You know a series is good when it makes you want to research the real-life events that inspired it. 

DB: Zurg, Protoss or Terran?

CM: Protoss. Nothing like amassing a massive fleet of carriers and swarming your opponent into submission.

DB: DC or Marvel?

CM: Marvel

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DB: After this barrage of questions, let’s go to a different part of your life, flying. How many years have you been a pilot?

CM: I have been flying in the U.S. Navy for almost 5 years now. I am actually an Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) in the EA-18G Growler, a variation of the F/A-18F Superhornet that is specialized for suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD). The Growler is used to jam enemy SAM radar systems and communications through the use of large jamming pods that can be mounted on the belly or wings. It also carries air-to-air missiles as well as ‘anti-radiation’ missiles that home in on radar emissions to destroy the radar system. My job is to act as a co-pilot/navigator, run comms, and manage the various sensor and weapon systems on the aircraft.

DB: What has been your favorite aircraft to fly and what made it so good to fly?

CM: I’ve only flown in a few so far in my Naval carrier. All student aviators/flight officers start out flying a basic Cessna or Piper single-engine aircraft to test their general aptitude and appetite for flying. Later on, you find yourself in a variant of the T-6 Texan II – a fast and sporty turboprop aircraft that is used to teach basic airmanship, navigation, and form flying. If you end up selecting fighter aircraft later on in flight school, you fly in the T-45C trainer jet. Once you obtain your wings, you will go on to fly your fleet aircraft, which for me is the EA-18G Growler. The Growler has by far been my favorite out of all these aircraft. The speed, flight control system, and the sheer amount of tech in it make it a blast to be in for every single flight. Nothing quite like zooming through the clouds or dogfighting one of your buddies in a grey pointy nose fighter aircraft. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a movie while strapped into this plane.

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DB: How do you feel, if at all, your ability to fly and time in the air connects you to your art?

CM: It has certainly inspired me to delve into more aviation-related digital paintings. I usually don’t have too much time to think about art when I’m up there, but there are occasional calm moments above the clouds and mountains where I really have the opportunity to just be present and soak in all of God’s great scenery in a way that not many others have the ability to do, which I’m very thankful for. There have been some truly epic moments just taking a look out the window while soaring above the clouds…I definitely think times like that get the creative juices flowing on a more subconscious level and I like to express that sublime feeling in my art style.

DB: Your work spans between digital paintings, poster art, hand-drawn sketches, and other things; so what is your preferred medium to create in and why?

CM: I enjoy the digital poster art the most. As I mentioned earlier, I really enjoy capturing the story behind a movie, game, or book in a single image with my own creative spin. There’s nothing I like more than when I get a message from someone saying how my art brought back a fond childhood memory for them. I hope to continue creating posters for as long as I can! 

DB: Our last question is going to lean into your many different loves for geeky/nerdy media. If you had to take the One Ring to Mordor, who out of all of your favorite fictional characters would be in your “fellowship of Nobel-6”?

CM: Very fitting question as I’m currently doing a re-watch of the LOTR trilogy (extended editions of course). If I had to pick 8 other heroes to accompany me on my journey I would have to go with:

  • Master Chief

  • Samus Aran

  • Link

  • Yoda

  • The Mandalorian

  • Gordon Freeman

  • James Bond

  • Spock

Thank you again for the great opportunity to take part in this interview, GeekTyrant! For anyone interested in becoming a naval aviator or following my own journey up in the air, feel free to follow/message me on my Instagram @noble6design  or for anyone interested in spicing up their home office or bedroom with some artwork, many of my pieces are available at my print shop.

Follow him and his amazing art and aviation skill here:

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