From tech to tranquil paintings: artist Willow Murphy on her decision to become a full-time painter

Having made the shift over the pandemic from her 9-5 job in tech to become a painter, Willow Murphy now wants to induce feelings of nostalgia and memory with her work.

2 February 2022


Aside from hoping her paintings will “brighten a wall”, artist Willow Murphy wants them to “light up someone’s day”. Featuring idyllic scenes of lazy summer days, queues for patisseries and lunch amongst rolling fields, Willow’s work is sure to transport you to a place of rest, relaxation and recreation.

Viewing her pastel palette and painterly style, it’s not hard to see how Wayne Thiebaud and David Hockney have served as her inspiration. But, Willow primarily relies on her everyday observations to inform her work: “I try to pay attention and notice things – like a lonely palm tree in the middle of an 80s cement building complex, or a pattern on a tablecloth that looks like it could be straight out of a Matisse. I’m constantly on the lookout for scenes and visuals to incorporate into my work, often trying to turn a mundane scene on its head.”


Willow Murphy: Corner of London (Copyright © Willow Murphy, 2021)

Through her focus on depictions of the everyday, Willow mostly hopes to induce feelings of familiarity. “I enjoy exploring how nostalgia and memory through image can have a positive impact on someone. I mean nostalgia in the positive sense – like when you get that fond childhood feeling when an ice cream van whizzes past you playing that tune.” And to do so, she focuses on places that create those emotions within herself. Having spent a number of years living on the west coast of America – a place she tells us she is currently “very nostalgic for” – she has been trying to capture how she remembers it in her mind’s eye, “this means I over-simplify and exaggerate details of reality and blur memories to make these familiar places fantastical while still recognisable.” Tending to “dart from subject to subject” so as not to limit herself, Willow has also painted scenes from her childhood, especially that of Erno Goldfinger’s infamous Trellick Tower – “I used to have a view of it outside my window growing up, and I always remember thinking it looked like a big grey cigarette.”

But despite her plethora of work, Willow only recently made the jump to becoming a full time artist. Coming from a family of creatives, she has always understood “the friction and not-so-glamorous lifestyle” that came alongside being an artist. So, after finishing her art history degree, Willow instead decided to “push herself out of her comfort zone” and into a steady 9-5 job in the tech industry. Avoiding her family's pressures to quit her “boring office job” (she tells us amusingly that her mum could never remember the name of the company she worked for) Willow eventually succumbed to her instincts and made the switch at the end of 2021. She makes it quite clear however, that she didn't leave out of dissatisfaction, her desire to paint was simply too strong: “I actually really loved working in tech – I learnt so much that’s influenced my painting [...] Their grit (I hope) has sort of rubbed off on me – so I decided to make the leap, knowing that if I hit a brick wall there’s probably a way to get around it.”

Willow is currently busy preparing her first solo show in mid-May. Hoping to open her home and studio for three days, she aims to display the culmination of her work to date. It won’t be one to miss!


Willow Murphy: My Kind of Ride (Copyright © Willow Murphy, 2021)


Willow Murphy: Follow the Yellow Brick Road (Copyright © Willow Murphy, 2021)


Willow Murphy: Golborn Gold (Copyright © Willow Murphy, 2021)


Willow Murphy: Golborn Gold (Copyright © Willow Murphy, 2021)


Willow Murphy: Road to Ridley (Copyright © Willow Murphy, 2021)


Willow Murphy: Lunch in the Field (Copyright © Willow Murphy, 2021)


Willow Murphy: Up (Copyright © Willow Murphy, 2021)


Willow Murphy: Californian Quilt (Copyright © Willow Murphy, 2022)

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Willow Murphy: Rainbow Roofs (Copyright © Willow Murphy, 2021)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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