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Have You Met Mike Murphy?

Tacoma artist Mike Murphy makes other worldly abstracts that make you look twice.



Image of abstract artist Mike Murphy

all photos have been provided by Mike Murphy


I met Mike when I purchased one of his paintings-

We were both participating in the Tacoma Arts in the Armory event which allowed us to do the hand off in person. His work immediately impressed me. It is unique and he presents it so professionally.

Originally from the East coast-

Mike came to Seattle in 2008 and haven't left the Pacific Northwest since. He started his own brewery in Seattle in 2013, which he co-owned and operated until 2022. When he decided to leave that industry to explore new creative ventures- he settled in Tacoma to live and make art.


Mike wasn't always a painter. Music was his first creative outlet. From age 13 he was playing guitar, writing songs and learning new instruments. "I grew up playing music, which has always been my primary artistic expression" says Mike.


Around 2011, he got the itch to try painting and really loved how different it felt to make visual art as opposed to music. "It flipped a switch that allowed me to express myself in this completely new way. I painted off and on throughout the last decade (most of it terrible)." Mike says, "I often tried different styles ranging from folk art to character drawings, and eventually it was abstract art that hooked me."


It wasn't until 2022 that he had the time and capacity to focus fully on his creative practice.

Mediums & Process

Mike has dabbled in all the mediums. "It's all trial and error for me. I've used watercolor, oil, acrylic, charcoal, alcohol ink, and everything in between" he says. With his current style, he primarily uses acrylic because of its versatility, durability, and quick drying time.


Like a lot of artists using liquid acrylics, Mike uses blow dryer to move paint around the canvas which creates abstract shapes and patterns. However, in his process he lets the base layer dry completely before pouring small amounts of paint on a canvas at a time, piecing together a series of forms until he feels a painting is complete. He also often blows through a straw or a melodica tube, which creates an up close and personal experience.


Inspiration...

Because so much of his creating is a therapeutic tool in reaction to life- Mike is often inspired by daily life. His dabbling and experimenting is a reflection of finding different therapeutic methods that help process life.


He has found that jotting songs and ideas down when they come to him throughout the day help to keep him inspired. And like any good artist he is constantly being inspired by other artists.


"Overall, I love experiencing art in all forms and mediums and constantly find inspiration from other people's work, be it music or visual art, etc."


Unlike a majority of artists- Mike loves to work in silence. No podcasts or music for him:

"I love the stillness and solitude of painting... I do my best to focus exclusively on what I'm actively making and get lost in that world without any outside distractions weighing me down. I find it very freeing and trance-like as I'm making art and it clears my head in a way that most other things don't."



Challenges & Coping Mechanisms

Mike's challenge is that he is colorblind; however, he hasn't let it hold him back. "I've learned to trust my instincts when selecting and blending colors" says Mike.


Mike explains that often what looks good to him somehow looks good to people who are not colorblind. He has heard artists' stories about the difficulty of choosing the right color. Instead of letting colorblindness hold him back he now things of it as something that has freed him from indecision.


Mike's Advice for Creators...

"I think my advice would be don't let people's personal opinions of what art is "supposed to be" pigeonhole your creative process, because unless that person is a professional in the world of art, their opinions are truly and fully subjective. I think social media specifically can be both inspiring and soul crushing at the same time because there will always be people more talented and/or practiced in their process than you, and there will always be people ready to criticize what you're doing, but that shouldn't be a reason to hold back from expressing yourself. I think art enhances our lives, that every person is creative in their own way, and that everyone should pursue ways to express that unique creativity however they see fit."


BIG goals

Mike's short term goals involve switching from markets to fine art shows + exhibitions. He is still very new to the art world but he is realizing that his work fits better in the fine art realm (vs a community market).


"I've never had the goal of painting being my sole income and/or full-time job because I think something would get lost or ruined for me personally if that became my driving force," Mike says. "I'm over the moon that anyone is buying the art I create, because it allows me to make more of it."


He continues to offer accessible price points for his work knowing that art should be available to everyone and not just high-dollar collectors.


I'm always curious what other people would be doing if they were guaranteed to succeed-

Mike replies that he dabbles in comedy writing, and often contribute to The Needling, a fake news publication in Seattle. In an alternate world he'd like to pursue writing more seriously. His dream job would be to write for a show like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.


Abstract painting by Mike Murphy


Run, don't walk, to collect his work > click here

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