Past and Present, Drawing from Life...

Sometimes, you gotta revisit the past...go back to the beginning.  Figure out how early passions inform the present. For me, it's the memories of art school, my love of drawing/painting people from life, capturing their faces and  the stories behind them.

life drawing, pauper's art guild, American Academy of  Art, Terri Murphy, terrimurphyart
life drawing, pauper's art guild, American Academy of Art, Terri Murphy, terrimurphyart

I was very happy to discover a professional gathering of artists happening just a stone's throw from my home, the Pauper's Art Guild.  Like a kid in a candy shop, I was instantly enamored of this place filled with serious (and fun) artists.  The walls display gorgeous original art while numbered prints on the consignment pile wait to be framed. Tom Waits, Elvis Costello or some obscure indy band urges us on as those present delve into it with the medium of their choice.  While it was a bit of a rough start getting back in the swing of drawing from a model, soon everything resolved itself. The atmosphere goes from silent intensity to raucous debates with a little blue humor mixed in.  I found my tribe, in my own 'hood, no less!

Mornings in May--My Illustration Challenge


It’s been a while since I’ve devised an artistic challenge, and so beginning tomorrow and for the full month of May, I’ll be creating one illustration a day.  Even though I have a big job/deadline on my drawing table, it seems those are the times I feel a great need to refresh and inform myself while frolicking with the muse. The parameters will be a concentration on design and tonal value, to be completed in the morning within an hour.

Wherever one is in their career, there is always something new to learn and explore.  The first seed that inspired this challenge is a critique (above) I received from illustrator Matt Faulkner, who pointed out things I can concentrate on to improve my craft. The other seed is I’ve been privileged to take a picture book making class with illustrator Laura Montenegro here who stirred the pot of my creative process.


To make things more interesting, I’ll be picking 3 subject suggestions from this list I’ve compiled to create the illustration.  Hopefully it will feed into my sense of the absurd.

Starting May 1st ..  Let the wild rumpus begin!

Update:  Here are some of my favorites of the month:


An Interview with Terri Murphy, Children's Book Illustrator


The IRC (Illinois Reading Council) published an interview with me in their quarterly Journal, Spring 2013 Edition.  In it, I speak of my childhood, the road that led me to children’s illustration, and my inspiration.

Thanks to the IRC for featuring my work!  

You can read it here:

"Have Book, Will Travel" ...iREAD 2013

I’m very excited to be traveling to Peoria tomorrow for the Illinois Library Association conference. The association will be unveiling their iREAD summer reading program for 2013 and the 3 posters I created for it.  A sneak peek here!  







Come summer, you’ll be seeing them at your local Illinois library as posters, bookmarks, imprinted on tee-shirts, backpacks, flying discs,  pencil cases,  etc.,…. maybe even as your grandma’s tattoo!

 If you’re attending the conference Tuesday or Wednesday, stop by the iRead booth for a chat and a poster.  I’ll also have copies of my picture book, One Day I Went Rambling and I hear a little color-changing chameleon may visit!  Rambling and traveling through imagination….it fits in nicely with the “Have Book, Will Travel” theme, don’t you think?

Rambling into iREAD

It’s been a whirlwind summer, a blur of juggling the successful launch of my illustrated picture book, “One Day I Went Rambling,” and putting finishing touches on 3 posters and a myriad of themed illustrations for the Illinois Library Association's summer iREAD program for 2013.  Here is one of the posters.  You’ll be seeing more of me, traveling, at your local library this summer.  The theme is “Have Book, Will Travel.”


In addition to that, I’ve been developing materials to promote the picture book, school and library visits, my Young Artists Workshops, and targeting picture book publishers for more projects.  Whew!


But mostly I enjoy connecting with kids. “One Day I Went Rambling” was released at the end of May, and I was able to squeeze in one school visit at Franklin School in Chicago, and another for Northbrook District 27 summer school...

Terri Murphy

It’s my great hope to visit more schools and libraries to speak about story through art or present my Young Artists Workshops.  And since I have the inside skinny on the Illinois Library Association’s iREAD theme, I’m currently developing art workshops for this coming summer.  Here’s a little taste of some origami-to-go as we travel to Japan!  





Welcome to the following fellow bloggers to the Let's Go Rambling Blog Tour, June 8th - June 22.  Visit their blogs for insights, opinions and reviews of ONE DAY I WENT RAMBLING, or interviews with author Kelly Bennett or myself.

Comment about the book in their blogs and be entered in our prize giveaway (original book illustration and more!) described in my May 23rd blog... here.

June 8

June 8 - Kim Norman

June 8

June 8

June 8

June 8

June 9

June 10

June 12

June 13 - Cindy Faughnan

June 14

June 14

June 14

June 14

June 15

June 17

June 19

June 20

June 22

My heartfelt thanks to you all!  Let's go rambling!!!!



Let's Go RAMBLING Blog Tour, June 8 - June 22

RamblingButton2At long last, ONE DAY I WENT RAMBLING, the picture book I illustrated, Kelly Bennett authored, and Bright Sky Press just released is going blog-hopping.  Maybe I should say blog-Rambling!

 From June 8th until June 22, ONE DAY I WENT RAMBLING will make guest appearances on several blogs in the form of book reviews, interviews with the author or illustrator, or  spotlight mentions.  Anyone who participates in the blog tour, or comments on a guest blog post, comments/friends the author or I on facebook,  tweets about  our book with the hashtag #letsgorambling, or attends and participates in our Facebook event--One Day I Went Rambling Virtual Book Launch on June 8th will be eligible to win cool prizes. 

 What cool prizes you ask?  Well,  ONE DAY I WENT RAMBLING is a story about an adventurous scavenger boy, Zane, whose wild imagination allows him to see magic in the ordinary. He has a sidekick....a chameleon, who changes color to the kid that’s having the most imaginative thought... 

 With that in mind, prizes are as follows:

 1st PRIZE- This signed original illustration of the chameleon from the book’s dedication page. Huey

2nd PRIZE- An autographed copy of the book, and this zany color-changing Chameleon!!

3rd & 4th PRIZES..ONE DAY I WENT RAMBLING,  signed by the author and me!

If you’ve come across this blog and wish to participate in the tour,  please fill out the registration form in the clickable link at the top left of this page.  I will send you a pdf of the book, and will post a running list of blog participants here when the tour begins.  Once again, anyone who posts a blog *3, comments on a blog *1 or posts a facebook mention *1 (link the author's or my page to your mention) or tweets *1 (hashtag #letsgorambling), or buys the book *3(send proof of purchase to are eligible entrants.  The numbers reflect how many times your name is in the hat. The prize drawing will take place on June 23rd. Winners will be posted and notified.

You can start by pre-tour commenting here! It'll count. Why not share a few lines from when you went Rambling, and found something that turned out to be extraordinary....

Let’s Go Rambling!!! 

Gratefully Yours,

Terri Murphy

ps. If we aren't yet, you can friend me on facebook at 

Terri Murphy

Kelly Bennett, author

Bright Sky Press


Coffee with author KELLY BENNETT

Author Kelly Bennett joined me for some cyber coffee-klatching about her influences, writing career and our upcoming picture book, ONE DAY I WENT RAMBLING...

(Kelly and I in Texas with our first picture book together, "Dance, Y'all Dance.")

Congratulations on having your 11th picture book published, Kelly.  Did you always know you were going to be a picture book author?

I loved reading, loved writing, but never imagined I’d be a writer. As a kid, I ran through the usual list of what-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow ups: doctor, stewardess, explorer, volleyball player, mom. It wasn’t until I became a mom, and began reading so many marvelous, fun picture books to my children, Max and Alexis, that I began imagining: “Maybe, just maybe I could be a writer, too!”

What book most influenced you as a child?

Hands down, The Tall Book of Make Believe compiled by Jane Werner, it’s a mix of poems and short stories. Number 2 is the Guinness Book of World Records.  Truth is I didn’t own many books and my school didn’t have a library. Instead, the Book-Mobile came to the school every Wednesday. 

How does your typical working day unfold?

I find I am more creative and happier, and my writing is fresher, if  I vary my schedule. So my “typical working day” depends on what I’m writing and where I am in the process. If  I’m revising, I sit myself down every day, no matter what, and work. But for no more than an hour at a time. (I even set a timer). At the end of an hour, I’ll get up, putter, do something else. Often I’ll return to revisions for another hour stretch and maybe another after that. I find, if  I don’t get up and move around, I’ll drift into copy editing rather than revising.

If  I have a new picture book idea, my writing day begins at bedtime. I pursue new ideas by spending a week of bedtimes—only 10 minutes a night--listing and free thinking about that idea. After a week, I plop myself down and write through a complete draft, no breaks, no interruptions, no expectations that what I’m writing will be good.

ZaneHow did you get the idea for writing ONE DAY I WENT RAMBLING? 

It was all because of that wonderful, haunting poem! A poem by Valine Hobbs called One Day When We Went Walking. I found it when I was little—maybe 5 or 7, in—surprise, surprise!-my all-time favorite book: The Tall Book of Make Believe compiled by Jane Werner.

I read and reread that poem so many times, I still have it memorized. It begins like this:

One day when we went walking,

 I found a dragon's tooth,

A dreadful dragon's tooth....

"A locust thorn," said Ruth

I felt as though that poem was about me.  I used to find things too, and imagine them to be magical, wonderful, exciting other things. But, but, but…the ending of the poem always bugged me. The last stanza reads:

Next time that I go walking-

Unless I meet an elf,

A funny, friendly elf-

I'm going by myself!

I loved the ending because the person in the poem doesn’t give in, but instead decides to keep walking and finding things. At the same time it bothered me because only way the main character thought she could continue to play this imaginative finding game was to go alone—or to go with an elf (although who wouldn’t love to meet an elf?)

Do you have pictures in your head when you write stories, and how different are they from the eventual book?

Scenes run through my head in Technicolor, hi-definition 3-D movies. So more than writing, I transcribe what I see. When revising picture books, after I am satisfied with the story, I create a dummy-book of the text, but folding paper into a book and cut & pasting the text in place. Flipping through the pages as though it were a book.

 Which children's book authors, now or historically, would you like to have dinner with?

So many! I am fascinated by the writing process and love interacting with writers and illustrators. Here’s my short list: (And if any of you brilliant folks are reading—I’m buying!)

Maurice Sendak

Elaine Konigsberg

Lois Lowry

Margaret Wise Brown

Robert McCloskey

Ludwig Bemelmans

Bob Shea

Tammy Sauer

What’s next?  Any new projects we should know about?

Beware: Coming next spring from Candlewick Press is Vampire Baby!  

 And finally, if you were ice cream, what flavor would you be? 

Rocky Road, cause I’m irresistible and chocolate a little nuts with a gooey middle and I’m better in small doses—too much too fast and I’ll give you a headache.

 Perfect!  Thanks for spending time with us this morning, Kelly.

Thank you for spotlighting me and my work, Terri.









“One Day I Went Rambling” will be released next month and is available for pre-order at









One way I get to travel is when I follow my artwork.  So far it’s lead me to New York and Texas.  Now I’ve just shipped off 5 themed illustrations for consideration to Bolognafiere 2012, held in Bologna, Italy.  It’s the “Sundance” for children’s illustrators.  Last year, no one from the United States was chosen.  But if these make the cut, I’ll go to Italy.  I’ll go! Terri Murphy

Those with generous overflowing imaginations and heart, can you picture them there?



Bees and Exploding Trees


It’s been a sweltering summer of mishaps...with no end in sight.  In July alone we’ve had record breaking heat and rain, a tornado touch down, a nearby tree explode by lightning, a neighbor who discovered 80 beehives in the walls of her house, power outages, a flood...and I’m waiting on the locusts and frogs...

Above is a full page illustration I created for this month’s Ladybug issue.  The art director  wanted animals to convey “hot” in this poem so I chose these arctic looneys vacationing in the tropics.  Here’s a close-up detail on the fox...


Still wringing out from the flood, but the air conditioning is working and so am I, on character sketches and a layout design for a new picture book due out in March 2012. It’s by the same author and publisher of my last  book, Dance Y’all Dance...Kelly Bennett and Bright  Sky Press.  

I love the beginning stages of a picture book. It’s like making a movie!  I’ve got the screenplay and am in the middle of a casting call, sketching forth all sorts of characters to bring the author’s words to life.  Some don’t make the cut. Others do, but have to be tweaked...and still others are fully formed the moment they hit the page.  These character kids, fourteen of them,  will live with me, shaking me in twilight dreams, directing me as much as I direct them when I consider expressions and body language, pacing, camera angles, mood and lighting, and visual story arc.

I mentioned designing a mural in the last blog.  If you have a facebook page and want to see the results, here is a link to the album.   Friend me, if we aren’t  friends already...  :o) 

mural album







“Be the change you wish to see in the world”...that is the theme for a mural I am honored to be designing for Park Manor School in Chicago.  It will be painted in one day, by volunteers who may or may not have artistic skills, on June 11th.  Though I will the there to direct and assist...and will also be a good exercise in letting go, and trusting, and knowing.  A big thanks to my artistic friends in SCBWI for their excellent comments and critique as this drawing progressed.

Every day there is magic, there for the taking.


What else I’m working on:  a magazine illustration, my book dummy, an Illustrator Intensive assignment and a summer college art camp for kids workshop.


PAjaMa pOLka !!


Time to dance!! Again!   Spider Magazine’s March 2011 issue features my illustration with Eileen Spinelli’s poem “Pajama Polka.” A delightful weave of imagination that shows the effect “of March wind’s sudden music.” Nightclothes fly with dayclothes  for an eleven city block parade!

I played with perspective on this one, wanting to show a close-up pajama couple as well as suggest a parade and an audience.  I played with texture too.  Before I started painting, I laid a brushy undercoat with light molding paste.  You can see better evidence of it here:


Currently working on another magazine piece for LadyBug Magazine, their July 2011 issue.  Can’t divulge anything yet, except that it’ll be hot hot hot.  Nice project for the cabin fever blues...

 Also working on a website update... Coming soon.


Terri Murphy








Creating's a solitary endeavor.   It is a leap of faith, that we connect something true in us to something true in others. My friend Chris and I have been talking about collaboration for a while.  We had our first taste this weekend.  

Drawing from imagination and dreams, our session spanned seven hours within two days, producing several paintings.  Fueled  with caffeine and occasional carbs, a real sense of play transpired as we experimented and learned from each other.  We talked about technique, color theory and touching the archetype in dreams...interspersed with music and Chris’s theory of heartbreak economics 101.  


A beautiful thing, painting alone...and a different beauty, painting together.

Creating toward a child’s initial exposure to universal language...priceless.





Children's book illustrator Terri Murphy has Halloween Fever and it shows, in the Oct 2010 issue of Spider Magazine for Children

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