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Russ Murphy / RUFFMERCY

Work / Animation

Step into animator Russ Murphy’s raw, expressive, loose, and playful world

Russ Murphy, or RUFFMERCY as he’s also known, got his break making graphics for MTV and Nickelodeon. Back then, things were vector based and very precise. "I used to spend hours finessing my projects to the point where the only person who’d notice the detail would be me,” Russ tells It’s Nice That.

Things changed in 2011 when he was asked to make a music video, drawing over some live action footage, “the only way to do this was through using a wacom tablet in Photoshop,” he explains. “This was a big turning point for me as I broke away from aiming for perfection and embraced the looseness of drawing and mark making again. My sketchbooks and any piece of paper near me was always covered with doodles but i never really connected my digital work to that process until I picked up a wacom pen and starting doodling over videos. From that point I just went with it and started pushing how loose and raw I could make something. It’s been fun progressing from that initial first video in that style.”

Though clients tend to come to Russ wanting to see a treatment of sorts before he begins working on avideo, the motion graphics animator has “been lucky in a lot of cases where I get free reign to create something and just be given a song to see what I come up with.” Making both fully animated videos and videos that are a mixture of live action and animation, Russ initially starts a video by gauging which direction to go down based on the clients favourite videos from his portfolio. “I then listen to the song a tonne and usually I get an idea of roughly of what the video should look like,” he says of his process. “I like to experiment and allow room for mistakes so I might spend a few days experimenting before fully committing to an idea. I rarely start with an idea that’s planned out or storyboarded. I usually just try things out and fumble through it. If i’m having fun then I usually figure I’m going in the right direction.”

Keeping his work fun, raw and playful is important to Russ, and with multiple commissions usually on the go, downtime is limited. Russ has, however, a ‘midday break’ system, where he spends a couple of hours on something for himself which is often then presented on his Instagram account. “Instagram I treat mainly as a sketch book of sorts where I try out new ideas and sketches. I find this energises me. It’s playtime where i can do whatever I want,” he says. “I have begun to develop more illustrative work through this process which has led me to delve into screen printing with plans to release prints over the next few months. I’m also planning on making my own animated film.”

Music, naturally, is Russ’ number one inspiration alongside artists including Basquiat, Hockney and Cleon Peterson — and, notably, the rule-breaking drawing of young children. " I love the way young children can draw and break all the rules," he tells us. “For them they appear to enjoy being engaged in the creating rather than thinking about the end product. I also find continually sketching and trying new ideas out inspires me a lot.”

Most recently, Russ was asked by XL RECORDINGS to work on some videos for Thom Yorke who has created an original score for the new SUSPIRIA remake, which they’ll release alongside the opening of the film. “The guys at XL wanted to establish a separate identity for the album art and videos to accompany it,” says Russ. “Stanley Donwood has created the Album Art. For the cover there are only two colours used. Pink and blue. We decided that the videos would retain this colour scheme throughout. I have a lot of respect for Thom, Stanley & Phil Lee (creative director at XL) as artists so it has been bit of a dream job being able to collaborate with them. With each song Thom would leave me to experiment and then once I had presented some moving tests he would make suggestions if he felt something needed adding or if i was veering away from the theme of the song too much. I have enjoyed the process. It has felt like a good collaboration and appreciated his trust.”

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Russ Murphy / RUFFMERCY: Instagram

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Russ Murphy / RUFFMERCY: Instagram

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Russ Murphy / RUFFMERCY: Hand Loop

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Russ Murphy / RUFFMERCY: Thom Yorke