Looking for some creative artist accounts to follow on Instagram? Don't worry, we've got you covered! This month we chatted with 2D Artist Darren Murray who's based in our Dublin studio. Darren has been with us for 4 years and has really developed his style over that time.
You can view his work on his Instagram at @d_murray_art. You'll see plenty of original characters as well as a few you may recognise as you browse through his work. We had a scroll through and picked out some pieces to chat with Darren about!
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Darren: So, my name is Darren Murray, recently turned 30 and I’m obsessed with art, animation and story. I don’t think I’m into anything else anymore, other than watching movies or getting out and about for walks or travelling, but even then I’m thinking of stories or drawing. My mind never switches off.
I’m a very chilled, laid back guy and try to live a positive, no stress life. Going to the gym helps that a lot. I love all forms of art from drawing and painting to writing and animation. Before getting to work as a 2D artist I set out to be an animator but I’m very happy with the way things worked out for me.
How would you best describe your work?
Random and fun I suppose. I don’t have particular things I like to draw, I just wait to be inspired, and it could be anything at all. A lot of my work would be ideas rather than completed illustrations. I tend to get bored of pieces very fast so I like to quickly draw out an idea and move on. After all, most finished designs in animation start with a good idea and develop over time, and I suppose I’m most happy with the first phase of that process.
I need to make time for both quick studies and finished pieces as it’s nice to spend some time with a design to see how far I can push it and test my ability.
Your work both concentrates on form and expression, which do you feel is more important and why?
Hmmm, they’re both important in their own way, like colour and light, they’re two different things but they tie together very closely and each one needs to be as strong as the other. I think for me, most important to maybe come first is expression, as that can drive the motivation to work into a piece. Like if you capture a nice pose or a funny expressive face you will want to develop it and continue with it and see where it goes, keeping what you love about it. You can always worry about form later on and get the reference you need to make it anatomically correct or just to look right, as some characters can be exaggerated in proportions, so I wouldn’t necessarily say they’re anatomically correct but you can spend time making it work. But to capture an original expression, something so relatable yet you’ve never seen anyone draw before, for me that’s where the fun is.
We love this piece below can you tell us a little about it?
This piece was for a monthly Art Jam we have in work and this particular month the theme was 'Witches'. I started developing this by doing some loose thumbnail sketches in my sketchbook using an ink ballpoint pen. Keeping it rough and loose to see what happy accidents I might make. The keyholes on the wall were just at random, doing some mindless drawing and filling up space. I really loved this idea and brought it into my final illustration. It's one of my favourite ideas I've ever come up with for a drawing. I was pretty happy with the overall design and I suppose it was a level up for me, even though I didn’t quite finish it the way I wanted, I just called it done so I could get it in on time for the Art Jam deadline.
You will notice in some of my work if I have pictures on the walls I will upload previous work or Art Jams into the picture frames to save me time and to save me from thinking of something new for a throwaway background piece.
Again this was for another Art Jam, these seem to help me create my best pieces of work as I put way more time and thought into them than I do for my other work as I mostly do quick sketches and ideas. I suppose putting the effort into these takes up a lot of my free time during the month. This piece was for our “Halloween” theme. I'm not the type of artist to draw scary monsters or what you might typically do for a Halloween theme so I designed something based on what Halloween means for me. A nice warm cosy sitting room and a good movie. So I designed this based on what life felt like growing up as a kid with the old Irish style sitting room and old fashioned TV. I didn’t have a dog growing up but I have one now and I feel a cosy night is not complete without my dog Snuggy.
You mention “phone sketching” in your posts. What is this and how does it influence your work?
Phone sketching is the best and worst thing that has happened to me ha-ha. I downloaded an app to my phone, Autodesk Sketchbook. Which is basically Photoshop in your pocket. It’s perfect for sketching ideas but it’s a little hard to control at first. Plus it’s a very small screen and I use my finger, for those reasons I forgive myself if my line isn’t perfect or my proportions are a little off. But for me, it’s about the idea and how convenient it is to just take it out of my pocket and sketch. I suppose I could do this with a sketchbook but I like to add a bit of colour to them, particularly if someone on the street catches my eye, not only for their style but for the colour of their outfit, or even a building with a nice colour palette.
I used to do quick sketches out and about when inspired and would write down the colours but this way I feel is better to paint it while it’s fresh in your mind or right in front of you. Most of my drawings using this would be from imagination, practising techniques I’ve learned or quickly drawing someone I saw as a note. I originally planned to send these sketches to my computer and push them and develop them in Photoshop but I found some of them turned out ok or I just wanted to post it as an idea with the potential of being something more. So I tend to draw them, upload them to Instagram and move on.
What artists/things inspire you and your work?
My favourite artists do change a lot, I love the style of classic Disney movies like 101 Dalmatians or the likes of Oliver and company, “quirky realism” I like to call it. Loving the style of recent movies Coco and Zootopia but I can be inspired by live-action movies too, I love a good drama and I’m a sucker for a rom-com, ssshhh don’t tell anyone that.
My favourite artist as I’m writing this is Cory Loftis, the work he does I could only dream of doing. If and when I can draw like him is when I really start having fun.
Everyday life inspires me a lot, like funny or cute scenarios on a bus, tram or walking around town, whether it be people, places or things. The world is full of inspirational goodness, you just have to see it that way.
How do you develop your work and skill set and what motivates you?
Practice every day. Drawing, drawing, drawing, wherever and whenever I can.
I try to caricature people a lot to develop my design skills and open my mind to new ideas. I try to study whatever motivates me at the time, I love to draw people and buildings, although looking at my work, it’s mostly people. But I have an interest in fun quirky buildings and plan to draw them more.
I take night classes and online courses. I’ve done a lot of courses over the past few years and they are crucial in the growth of skill level. I feel like I’ve used up everything I know at the moment so I’ll be looking to do some Schoolism courses very soon. Growing and learning never ends and will always have to be done.
What motivates me is working with amazing artists and trying to keep up with their growth and skill level, plus there are some great job opportunities within Brown Bag Films so I’d like to keep upping my skill level to further my career, and mainly to be able to draw and paint my ideas and to have the ability to draw them and envision them and to show people what I find interesting about the subject. To just be a better artist, that’s all the motivation I need.
How do you approach a personal project and is this very different than your approach to a professional one?
They’re quite similar approaches, if not exactly the same, but with my personal stuff, I have to come up with the idea, in work I have to draw someone else’s idea. Coming up with a good idea can sometimes be the hard part. I read about my subject and see what it needs to do, I look up some references, draw up rough sketches of my own and then push the ones I like to a finish and I take the same approach when I move on to colour.
I suppose I’m stricter with the formula in work but doing personal stuff, sometimes you can run away with yourself and see where something goes, explore. But with the drawings in work you want to get them done as quickly as you can and move on, so it's best sticking to a straightforward approach.
What tools do you use in your work and what is your favourite?
I only use Photoshop in work, which is all I need for drawing and painting, I also work on a Cintiq which I’m fairly new to, but really enjoy using. I was afraid to get it at first as I can be afraid of change which is a bad habit I need to break!
What are your aspirations for the future?
I aspire to be better than I am now and to never feel I'm as good as I could be as you always need to learn and study to grow. The day I stop studying is the day I get worried. I just want to be a strong artist and to really get a grasp on putting life into my drawings. I’d love to one day work on a feature film but for now and the near future I’d love to develop one of my ideas and for it to be made as a show. I’d like to be a director or art director one day but I think even if that happened I’d always want to come back to being a 2D artist as that’s where I’m happiest, drawing all day listening to music.
Be sure to check out more from Darren at @d_murray_art!