Chris B. Murray had a hunger for art from his earliest years, growing up in a small town in upstate New York. Having ambitiously exhausted his autodidactic options, he then majored in illustration at Rochester Institute of Technology. He now practices in Philadelphia, where he lives with his girlfriend, Emily, and their dog, Chunk. His work has been awarded or recognized by the likes of The Society of Illustrators, Juxtapoz, Hi-Fructose, and Illustration Age, among many others. He has done editorial and promotional illustration for many high-profile publications such as The New Yorker, Boys’ Life, and XXL. Recently, his Adirondacks-exploration series “ADKS” showed at Chicago’s Rotofugi Gallery. His work can be found at chrisbmurray.com and facebook.com/CBMArtworks.
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You started very young. When did you realize your art was transitioning from the expressive art projects that most children do to something deeper and indicative of a career?
Probably in my later high school years. I was given the back room of the art class and had free rein. I gave myself projects and just basically did my own thing. My first ever painting was a Marvel superhero painting done entirely in oil. It measured something like three feet by four feet. It seemed massive at the time. But I used all sorts of media back then, from pastels to paint to strictly graphite black and white drawings.
Why do you create?
It’s my fuel; without it I don’t know what I’d be doing or if I’d be happy doing it.
Can you name some of your influences?
Norman Rockwell early on and even still. Then, as I learned about hip hop culture, I really got into graffiti art. Around that time, comic books were a major influence, too. Today there are so many talented artists working, it’d be hard to name a core group. Other than that, as cliché as it sounds, everyday life and its happenings are my biggest influences. I can get ten or twenty ideas for a drawing just making a quick trip to the grocery store.
We’ve previously discussed the role of forests with other artists, specifically that it was a very real source of terror for the ignorant civilizations of old Europe and thus the progenitor of centuries-worth of malicious fairy tale figures and fears. Your “ADKS” series revolves around New York state’s forests and its inhabitants. Does your narrative parallel fairy tales at all, or does it portray a different, more American, set of conflicts and characters?
It does in a way, I guess. My continued “ADKS” series is driven from my experiences growing up. It’s my take on life up there and the characters living within. Some of the paintings and drawings I make based off the Adirondacks are certainly embellished a bit, but that’s how I perceived it. It’s a look at that world through my eyes, and how I want the stories to be told.
Like a past Nightmare Magazine cover artist, Adam S Doyle, you illustrated for Daniel Nyari’s 52 Shades of Greed card deck. What is the relationship between artists and political expression? Are artists morally obligated to creatively contribute to causes they support?
Yes! If you are going to be about something, then be about it. That’s my strongest belief. I think it’s the job of an artist to speak on everything happening around you through art. Not all at once, of course. I have very strong stances on certain subjects like politics, race, social equality, etc., although I can’t always touch on every subject because honestly it would become too much of a weight to bear. I do like to speak out from time to time on certain matters when I see fit but, with everything going on in the world today, it’s hard to really cover everything. That’s why it’s so important to be part of the artists’ community. Power in numbers!
Do you have a life philosophy?
For the longest time, it’s been never to let talent go to waste. Now that it’s obvious I’m not going to let that happen, it’s to just live life and be happy doing whatever it is you’re doing. To try and experience things with those you love while you’re able to. To always be respectful to others and be willing to help those who might have less and are in need. Taking a step back to look at the whole picture every so often to put things in perspective helps, too.
You are a tremendous advocate for other artists, actively promoting them on your Facebook page. Are you a karma-seeker, or just that unworried about competition?
Trust me, I’m far from a saint, but I’ve always been one to help others. I am very driven and passionate about the art I create, and I want others to share this same passion. So, any way I can help them achieve that, I’m more than willing. They just have to share the same determination and love for art as I have. Sure, I’m aware of my competition, and it’s pretty damn scary, haha. I just wouldn’t feel right about reaching my goals unless I’m helping them reach theirs.
What’s your dream illustration job?
Ehhh, I’ve got too many. I’ve got plenty of clients I’d love to work for. I guess I’d like to do some work in the film industry at some point. Maybe make an animated short. I’m not entirely sure.
What are you working on right now?
My next solo art show at La Luz De Jesus in L.A. next June. That and various other illustration projects.
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