Pablo Picasso once opined that all children are artists, but few people can remain artists once they grow up. Drawing comes as naturally to children as their imaginations do. The moment they can grasp a crayon or marker they set out to not only draw their homes, dogs, brothers or sisters, but they draw the monsters that live in their closet and the mythical creatures and superheros who will save the day. Children, like all good artists, tell us something about themselves by what they put on paper. Somewhere along the line most people give up this childhood love. They become too afraid to bear their soul, to be seen as failures, to have others study and criticize their work. John Murphy (University of Georgia, '13) survived growing up (at least as much as one can claim a 21 year old is grown) and has turned a childhood obsession into a place for himself in the art community.
As he tells it, Murphy came from a spectacular family. Each member had something they excelled at. His sister is a genius and his parents are both in education. At a very early age, art became his niche, his way to stand out. So he started painting portraits of people, animals, and the things he loved and never found a reason to stop.
Murphy credits his parents with supporting and encouraging him to pursue art as more than just a hobby. They didn't tell him to grow up or to find something more suited to finding a career, something more stable. Unlike a lot of parents, he said, they let him chose a difficult, uncertain path.
As he grew, Murphy said he began to draw on his experiences for inspiration. He became fascinated with classical art, religion, and iconography. His interest eventually turned to photorealistic painting – a form of painting in which artists gather information using cameras and photographs and then use that information to create a painting that appears photographic. Not content with his abilities, Murphy made an effort to learn photography. It wasn't long before he was hooked. He eventually took his passion with him to the University of Georgia where he now studies political science and photography.
Going to college and leaving the support system he had at home wasn't easy though. The safety nets were gone, the familiar had disappeared. Thankfully, said Murphy, he found Phi Kappa Theta where today he is chapter president. "Phi Kap is my home away from home and it was an extremely welcoming place and they continued the culture my parents set up for me. Not telling me what to do or how to do something, but to do it to the best of my abilities.” He said his fraternity brothers were invaluable in helping him get to where he is today. "For some brothers Phi Kap supports them in studying and getting a job. For me it was coming to shows and being my models.”
Don't mistake needing the help and encouragement of others as an indication that Murphy lacks talent though. He has won numerous competitions, spent six months studying painting at the prestigious art school, Istituto Statale d'Arte Paolo Toschi in Parma, Italy, had his work displayed in Times Square, and recently sold a photograph to Elton John, owner of one of the most important private collections of photographs in the world.
Being able to sell one of his pieces makes all the work worth it said Murphy. "Especially for artists and musicians we make piece after piece and we are now producing things we find important and that come from a deep place. We aren't assigned them, so when you make something like that, showing your all, showing yourself through your art, having somebody buy your piece is very validating.”
Despite the recent success, there are still mountains to climb. Murphy said, "It's a very competitive field. You don't have many avenues to a steady job. It's all up in the air and you don't know where your next job will come from. I had a professor tell me that only one out of 20 art students will work in the art business.” For the time being, Murphy is looking forward to putting together a series and getting gallery representation. If he continues to use his talents that shouldn't be a problem. People might soon be saying they knew him back when.