James Murphy (b.1943) is an American artist based in Phoenix, Arizona. His paintings depict the beauty of nature both in still life and landscape works through the compelling use of texture and light.
James (Jim) Murphy
American, B. 1943
By Sean Murphy
My father Jim was born in Kansas in 1943. His family lineage is of Irish and English decent. The oldest of six siblings, Jim grew up in what could be described as a typical Catholic, middle class family, in Kansas City, Missouri. His mother was a school teacher and full time homemaker. His father served in the Pacific theater during the Second World War and later in life, managed restaurants and hotels.
Jim's youth was fairly typical for a Midwestern boy of the time. He went to Catholic schools, attended church with the family, played sports with his friends, and had a love for comic books. He liked to draw and was fond of Norman Rockwell illustrations.
In his early teens, Jim had thoughts of becoming a priest and entered a seminary in Kansas City where he studied for 5 years. However, he continued to draw and paint, his love of art never fading. Eventually, Jim found himself at a crossroads: a religious life or life in the art world.
In 1962 Jim would choose, apply, and be accepted to the Kansas City Art Institute, one of the nation's finest art schools. In college Jim thrived. His influences included notable painters, faculty, and Art Institute alumni Robert Rauschenberg, Thomas Hart Benton, and sculptor Dale Eldred. He would also tell me years later, other art heroes were Andrew Wyeth, Chuck Close, and Annie Leibovitz.
While still in college, Jim married my mother Carol an accomplished artist in her own right who was attending the Art Institute on scholarship. They had two children, myself and Hugh my brother.
After graduating from the Art Institute, Jim worked as a graphic designer for notable companies in Chicago and Des Moines including Meredith Publishing, producers of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine among others. He also created graphic design, illustrations and art direction for Fortune 500™" companies.
The 70s were a busy time for my father. He continued to hone his fine art; always painting, always drawing. His subject matter at the time included architecture, nature, current events, social issues, and even the space race.
In 1973 Jim and Carol founded a successful design and typesetting studio in Des Moines, Iowa. Around the same time, electronic type was introduced and this development influenced Jim s fine art also. He would experiment with the use of mixed media and collage, however, always paying attention and focusing on refining his drawing techniques. He also managed to find time to open a co-op gallery.
In the 80's the space race and other political narratives and such disappeared from Jim's work. The use of sharp lines and vivid, contrasting colors would be utilized to help add dramatic effect and showcase architectural elements and light in his work.
Jim's subject matter began to focus solely on architecture and nature. Commercially, paintings of this timeframe were well received by galleries and Jim's works sold well.
In 1994 Jim took a trip to visit his youngest son Hugh and newborn grandchild, Huxley. Arriving in Port Townsend, Washington, Jim was immediately struck by the natural beauty of the area and within a year, he would find himself relocating to the area, although, readily admitting his move being as much about being close to his grandson as it was for the scenery.
Jim settled into Port Townsend and soon set up his studio. The temperate weather being more favorable than that of the frigid Midwest winters helped energize my father and he would find himself painting outdoors as often as he did in studio. During this time Jim's subject matter, informed by nature, was specifically, water, trees, clouds, and dramatic skies.
Jim currently ives in Phoenix, Arizona traveling back to Port Townsend frequently. He has continued to paint scenes of the area, focusing on nature for the past 20+ years. Importantly he's avoided typical cliches and subject matter such as boats and lighthouses in his work. These decisions have proven invaluable, making his works far more universal.
Recently, Jim's been finding new inspiration and challenges by collaborating with poets and other painters. The group discusses collaborative ideas and concepts. The poets write and the painters then interpret the poems into their respective works of art.
The group is lecturing in Seattle at several Universities and have gallery shows upcoming. For more information please check back on this website or subscribe to our contact form for updates.
In addition, when needing to stay indoors, Jim's been busy focusing on still life images which, have become some his most sought after works with collectors from as far away as France and the Ukraine.
Andrew Wyeth, Chuck Close, and Annie Leibovitz are three of Jim's art heros.
"Without access to art supplies, let alone even pencil or paper, my earliest memories in life are simply drawing with a stick."
James Murphy, Artist