Upon looking at Stella Murphy’s work with no context or background information, all starts to make sense when the London-based illustrator starts to name her influences. From artistic references like the Chicago Imagists, psychedelic underground print presses from the 70s, Oz magazine, Alan Aldridge’s work and quite rightly Viz magazine for its black comedy, the humour, colour palette and illustrated voice Stella has drawn out for herself is both recognisable and fresh.
However, Stella’s introduction to illustration didn’t develop via a traditional route. She studied Graphic Design at Chelsea College of Art but “was often drawing” and in turn, it was her drawings that were noticed and illustration became her port of call when responding to briefs set by her tutors. Concentrating on one creative discipline while studying another, of course, left Stella feeling that “my portfolio was as confused as I was about what I wanted to do,” she tells It’s Nice That. After graduating she took a job as a content designer for a social media startup “and quickly realised that the office environment wasn’t for me”.
Consequently, Stella took a brave leap, packing up and moving to Glasgow. “This seems kind of drastic looking back but it gave me the space and freedom to work on what I wanted to do,” she explains. “While I was there I began freelancing and picked up some really fun briefs from The Art School (the student union of Glasgow School of Art) to make some gig posters among other things”. While in the Scottish city Stella also interned at renowned Risograph printing masters Risotto, an opportunity to learn “more about a printing process I had always wanted to try, and which is now my main method of printing”.
Now back living in London, Stella’s work utilises the textural benefits Risograph printing can bring, pairing unique colours together and amplifying gradients to clash against the harsh black her drawings are often outlined with. This year, the illustrator is hoping to make a publication while working part-time in a gallery. “They gave us some sketchbooks to use when it’s not busy, and it’s there that I make some of my favourite drawings.” This cushty encouragement from her bosses allows Stella to create drawings quickly, resulting in a “free, immediate and instinctive” style. “These drawings are almost like automatic drawings, I don’t plan what I’m going to do and the narrative just evolves. They don’t always make immediate sense, but I kinda love that as they remain open for different readings.”
With a month-long residency at AGA Lab in Amsterdam imminent too, Stella plans to expand her practice by experimenting with new techniques and processes, looking forward to “the space and time this offers me to push and develop my work, hopefully, I’ll make lots of new drawings and prints too!”
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