As an only child growing up in Mississippi in the 80s, Jason Murphy “spent a lot of time alone, playing make-believe,” he tells It’s Nice That. Then finding comfort in drawing as a way to “combine my fantasy world with line on paper” it was at this age, “maybe around three or four”, that the young artist started playing with “proper drawing criteria” like shading and perspective. In fact, “this is the moment when my work was the most exciting,” says Jason. “Every squiggle made sense in my mind,” and as a result the artist’s current practice is a continual effort to get back to this point, while fully knowing he “never will.”
As well as being very keen to see the works Jason was producing as a child, we’re also huge fans of his artistic practice today. Working with huge canvases or small lithograph like prints, Jason’s figures can often be seen stretching out into the very corners of the frame, before falling over one another voluptuously in his illustrative style. This stylistic approach is derived from his younger years; as a child his grandfather “used to cut out the Sunday funny papers and bring them to me,” he tells us. “I remember being mesmerised by them, the way the paper fibres soaked in the ink, the smell, everything. I began drawing at that time.”
While developing his illustrative skill, Jason, like many a young artist, began copying the characters he liked. “I would transfer characters from the newspaper onto Silly Putty and pull it, in order to distort their features,” a characteristic one can easily spot in his paintings today.
This approach was also influenced by his love of cartoons, specifically a TV channel in Mississippi called TBS. A free station run by Ted Turner, “who purchased the rights to classic MGM cartoons,” Jason would wake up each morning and watch “these images of bright, colourful, rubbery figures in constant conflict and distress,” he tells us. The first thing he saw every morning for ten years or so, it’s no wonder that these visuals influenced his work "for years" until he went to art school in 1995.
At university, however, this aesthetic of Jason’s was stamped out, and tutors believed “that this type of cartoony work was trite," he says. "I was encouraged to make a more ‘sophisticated’ effort.” As a result, Jason spent the next few years floundering after art school, “attempting to find a style of my own,” he says. It wasn’t until he had his own children and began showing them the cartoons which had fuelled his creativity personally, that “the same sense of excitement returned.”
Realising he was possibly on the right track all along, Jason then began thinking back to older cartoonist forefathers and their ability to “achieve so much using only line and flat colour,” he says. Despite their limitations in technology too, this “allowed them to really focus on design,” as the artist points out, then adopting this technique himself for the past decade or so. As for his subject matter, thematically the meaning behind his works has always been conflicted, it just took time to find his "visual key”.
Now operating an artistic practice and developing a keen following with his unique but somewhat familiar pieces, Jason most recently delved into self-publishing. With a style of work which lends itself so naturally to comic strips, he created exactly this in a release titled Me Nut Nut Nut Supplemental. With several layers to spot, a backstory we can all relate to with his practice, and jaw dropping artworks big or small, we look forward to seeing what Jason's “visual key” could unlock next.
About the Author
Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.