Introduce yourself: tell us about you and what you do.
Hey! My name is Rory J Murphy, I’m an illustrator, designer and artist. I work for small and large companies and also do preproduction work for film and TV. Apart from my commercial work I paint with Montana markers on wood and cardboard which I am getting back into with two recent group shows on The London Underground and in for Illustrated 2015 in Brick Lane, Shoreditch.
What made you want to be a designer & illustrator?
I’ve always had a love of drawing from a very early age and have pretty much drawn all my life – especially at school largely instead of doing any of the work I was told to do. My love of design can be easily traced back to receiving a book, ‘The Usborne Book of Lettering & Typography – With an Introduction to Graphic Design’ at a young age, being utterly fascinated by it, and constantly pouring through it’s pages and learning the uses of type and how it should be used for any application and why. I used to be active on the school newspaper and loved working with the DTP application… which was on the BBC Micro, so clearly not the most wildly advanced application.
What is your creative process? And what your favorite part of the process?
Everything starts in the sketchbook for any discipline so for me the sketchbook is the most valuable and useful aspect in any creative outlet and conceptualising is definitely my favourite part of the creative process since it is the point where anything can seem possible and where thought start to become more tangible. I start off with scribbles which will then evolve into more coherent concepts. From there I decide on what application would serve the project the best, be it a digital or traditional approach and if possible I like to see if I can use a new technique that I’ve picked up and interpreted. For my design work there is a lot of back and forth with the client to try and achieve the best commercial outcome whilst retaining simplicity and ensuring there’s a message that the market or audience can get behind.
For my painted work, I usually sketch up with an idea and see how it would work large scale. Sometimes I have completely freestyled work with no sketches as a means to test myself and see what I can come up with. I think my painted work is more of a playground and is generally what I am most happy with as it’s great to be experimental and this type of work helps me to do that. Getting to where I am with markers has been a very interesting experience - initially I didn’t think I would be able to achieve any kind of tone with them but lots of messing around with nibs have allowed me to achieved that. I’ve just received some new acrylic paints so I am going to have another go with them... I haven’t really done much with acrylics since I was a teenager.
What inspires you?
I find inspiration everywhere, anything visual like architecture packaging, TV… the list goes on. I’m also very inspired by people – they way they dress according to culture and time period, how a dress can present a very different opinion and what, for example, a hairstyle can be perceived to say about somebody, whether it’s true or not. In addition, music is a very big part of my life and I always have music on when I’m working and love seeing live music when I can. Of course, I’m inspired by other people’s work and love nosing through what they're up to and see if I can pick up new ideas or techniques. I’ve been a fan of graffiti and street art (I did dabble but was going through a period of ‘real-life’ work and wasn’t drawing or painting much and I absolutely loathed what I did). At any rate, street art is what got me back into painting, I’d read Graphotism for years and years but it wasn’t until I found a copy of Juxtapoz (which I’d read about when it was first released but never actually had an opportunity to give it a look) which had Blaine Fontana on the cover and I was hooked on the idea of getting back into the painting. Through that I’ve discovered so many amazing artists and met one or two as well. In the design field, I'm inspired by the past great, Lance Wyman who designed the 1968 Olympics which were very cool and Edward Johnston who, of course, designed the typography for the London Underground. Saul Bass and Paul Rand are other favourites of mine.
Your illustration work seems to have a lot of comic book influence. Did you set out to illustrate in that style or was it something that just happened organically?
Yes, comics were a big influence! At school, in the 1990’s I used to read copies of 2000AD which were lying and used to love the work of Simon Bisley, Sean Phillips and Kevin Walker in particular. I really appreciate the element of storytelling which I feel I have a real affinity for. My brother was (and still is) heavily into board games, stuff like Games Workshop so I got into that too but never found the games particularly easy, but I loved the miniatures and little dioramas. Games Workshop had a massive pool of artists providing an illustration for the books and games which had a fantastic element of storytelling there too, you knew there was a story being told and the illustration fuelled my imagination and I created my own scenarios in my head.
When I was fourteen, I got a book, ‘How to Draw and Sell Comic Strips,’ by Alan McKenzie for my birthday which, amongst the examples of character sheets, dramatic perspective shots and laying out the mechanics of comics, there was a very small page from, ‘Love & Rockets,’ by Jaime Hernandez and I completely fell in love with simple linework and Jaime’s graphic style. Later on, I snatched up the whole collection and read them many, many times. Jaime is still a very clear influence and I’m still keeping up with his new work. I was lucky enough to meet him a year or so ago which was a massive thrill although I’m convinced it wasn’t as much for him.
You work with clients all around the world. What is the most difficult thing about working with someone you can’t meet in person? The easiest?
Working overseas isn’t actually that much different from working domestically if I’m honest. In some cases, I have never met the clients I work with in the UK and only spoken to them on the phone or Skype, which is exactly the same way I speak to clients if I work remotely overseas. I don’t have any gripes but the only challenging aspect of working for clients overseas is the time difference as I have to adjust my working day to accommodate a proper working day on their end, which sometimes means working during the night, but there’s no way around it and it’s just something I have to do.
Do you set ‘office hours’ for yourself or do you work until you reach your limit? Or does it vary depending on the client and project?
Client work, where I am working remotely, is always done to a normal nine hour day. I find this just makes working so much more simple and straightforward and allows me to keep control of what’s going on. Sometimes I will be asked to work on site, which means that I can work in a more regular office or studio environment and get to commute into London, which is always such a wonderful and joyous experience.
My personal, painted work is all done whenever I choose, at the moment I am rediscovering the fun of doodling since I got involved with The 100 Day project, although I think I may be severely behind but it has got me doodling again which is what I used to do a lot of at school, and I’m really getting a lot out of it, doodling is something I will definitely strive to do more of, the work I’m producing in the 100 Day Project isn’t wildly polished but, for me, that’s not the point, it is more about just getting stuff down without thinking too much and creating a bunch of pencil lines either.
What are some of your favorite places to go?
I love travelling when I can, I was living in Amsterdam last year which I absolutely loved so I am definitely planning on going back. I really loved the architecture and the people very there are awesome, with the exception of my old landlord. In general, I am a big fan of capital cities in that there seems to be a kind of template of what constitutes a capital city and you get to see lots of variations of the cultural approach. I like Paris a lot, it’s fairly close by and I get to practice my French too. New York is another favourite, I think it shares a lot with London, but it’s kind of expensive to go there on a regular basis.
The last song that was stuck in your head?
Right now I have side one of Four Tet’s Morning/Evening running through my head, the Indian singing I find very hypnotic and the Kieran’s work compliments it so well and so effortlessly. Also, Serge Gainsboug’s Je suis venu te dire que je m’en vais is an earworm right now.