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!

ART DEMO at Sheboygan Children's Book Festival


When you go to an illustrator’s event at a school, a festival or a conference…there is more to it than meets the eye.  Just as in the making of a picture book, the readers don’t get to see all the steps, the character studies, the sketches, the evolution of the final product.  And so, here is a sneak peek at something I'll be doing this weekend.

On Sunday, October 12, I’ll be giving 2 presentations at the Sheboygan Children’s Book Festival.  One is a sketch-scavenger hunt at Bookworm Gardens where kids and adults will hear about "rambling," how to use their imaginations outdoors. They'll receive a sketchbook…and out we’ll go, exploring!  A book signing of “One Day I Went Rambling” will follow.

The next is an Open Studio at Kohler Art Museum where I will demonstrate my illustration style.  There is a lot of  behind-the-scenes prep work that comes before I begin this magical inking process.  I sketch quite a bit before I settle on something. In the illustration up above, I added a little color to the fox, and began the underpainting with  white gouache.  When it dries, I’ll cover the whole thing with black ink.


On Sunday during the Open Studio demo…this piece will be rinsed and the illustration revealed…the unique line work, texture, color, and white space.  My heart will be thumping, that moment of unknowing and anticipation, to see if it was a success.  Then it’ll be the audience’s turn to try it.  Yes, an interactive demo!  Are you game??

If so, come.  Bring the family!  Here is a link to the Sheboygan Children’s Book Festival, which lasts all weekend.  Check out the other luminaries in world of children’s books, and Sunday for the times and locations of my programs!


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?




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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HaPPy biRtH daY, Dance Y'all Dance

Dance Y'all Dance is born!  The picture book officially hits the shelves today, November 1, 2009.  It was quite a labor and delivery, fun how many women can say that!  Written by Kelly Bennett and published by Bright Sky Press (see link below), it's a story of one night at a country dance hall where family and friends pack away their worries and dance into the night.  The story is loaded with characters young and old--Grandpappy Skittle who plays musical "spoons" on stage, the mischievious Harlin and Beau taunting girls, and Buck the Dog who tries its best to get into the mix.


Toward the end, the focus switches to Sallie and Jem who just got married, engaged in dance.  I knew I wanted to convey a quiet moment between these two, oblivious to the gaiety of their surroundings, so I used an old photograph as inspiration. Changing costumes and faces, I concentrated on that kiss to the cheek and the sparkle in her eye.  It's one of my favorite illustrations in the I hope will resonate with viewers.

As with the illustration of the newlyweds, I hope readers see something of themselves in the book--their own family celebrations through music and dance--and how, often, we are more alike than different.

Family, after all, can be seen in a tree-or-forest kind of way.  Dance Y’all, Dance!



Currently working on:  Music and dance, again!  Art for a children’s cd called “Boogie Villa.”

dance STEP-by-STEP

Here’s sneak peek into the making of Dance Y’all Dance, a picture book written by Kelly Bennett that I illustrated and is being released this November (Bright Sky Press).  It was the most fun project I’ve ever worked on.  The story is set in the not too distant past when families, farm hands and cowboys & gals would get together on weekends at the local honky tonk.  I did some research into clothing styles, period furniture, Texas symbols and olde timey dance halls, then chose to keep the colors vivid and saturated to give the book a contemporary look.

Once I had the scene sketched, I redrew it on Strathmore 10-ply paper with a Berol Prismacolor pencil...then laid a wash of ultramarine & yellow ochre. With a wet q-tip or small brush, I began to pick out highlights.


Later, using the new tones as a guide, I start to lay in color with gouache, working from dark to light. What interests me now is the design of shadows, losing and finding edges and letting a little of the wash show through as line.  I make an effort to NOT have perfectly symmetrical faces as I believe it lends to more effective expressions. 


I continue building layers of paint to emphasize form, adding texture, patterns, detail and highlights.  Finally scanning into photoshop, I clean and fine tune the piece.


So there you have it.  I love playing with color.  I love visiting my works-in-progress (aka “children”) every morning.  I love this job!

Working on:  another country-themed book offering, but that’s all I’m gonna say right now!  In the meantime, here is an interview I did on the author’s website, if’n you’re interested: