Jennifer Murphy – Combining love of Graphic design, Sport and Colouring Books

Wed, Jun 03 2020

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The power of the pencil is something that has brought Mayo lady Jennifer Murphy a career in illustration and graphic design all while maintaining a strong connection to her main passion and love in life, sport.

Living in the scenic West of Ireland has allowed Murphy’s creative side to flourish in her work as a Graphic designer for a company in Westport, 45 minutes from her home on the Mayo/Galway border.

"I work as a full time Graphic designer by day for a company in the beautiful Westport, Co. Mayo and I live 45 min drive from there on the Mayo/Galway border although I’m strictly and very importantly a Mayo women!

"I then do a lot of freelance illustration work for myself which I love so I'm essentially double jobbing most of the time but at something I love which makes it a lot easier.

“I have always been into art & drawing from as long as I can remember to be honest. I started off drawing on walls and blaming my little sister for the random scribbles in my mother’s hallway. I never really wanted to do anything else, drawing was always my first love and always what I was going to do.

"I especially love to draw people; I am fascinated with peoples face and features hence you may have seen a lot of my work is sketches of people and caricatures. I was very lucky also in that the primary school I went to would have very much promoted or helped you work to your strengths and I was always encouraged to draw or spend as much time as I wanted on anything art related from a very young age. The principal at the time bought me my first proper artists easel as a gift from the school as a recognition for an achievement I had won before I left primary school.”

Having studied Visual Communications and Graphic Design in Limerick school of art and design for 4 years, she admits to finding it “calming and relaxing and would encourage more people to express themselves through art! It is very therapeutic. In fact, I had always after I finished college hoped to go on and study art therapy, but I haven’t got around to that yet!”

Working remotely and in her own home environment is something that is quite a regular experience for Jenny especially in recent times with an increased amount of custom requests for gift ideas and special occasions.

"I am keeping well in lockdown. I am lucky in a sense as I work in an industry where I can work from home as a lot of my work is digital based. (Though it does mean I don’t have as much time to be out enjoying the sun and making endless batches of banana bread as much as I’d like to.) To be honest I have never been busier work wise and with illustrations. It is sometimes too busy!

"I suppose sports illustrations would be what I am most known for and where it all kind of kicked off for the digital caricatures side of things online. I have always loved sport and would have played football and soccer in my younger years but between  a history of dodgy knees in the family and also a tendency to be on the injury table more often than not I decided to put all of my focus into my illustrations and into that line of work and now my sporting connections lie in being a huge supporter of all things sport.

As well as football, like many Mayo people Murphy is a big fan of Gaelic games and in particular the Mayo Ladies football team.

"I’m a big Mayo LGFA fan (if nobody guessed before now!) I rarely miss a game in fact I even once missed a friends wedding to make sure I was at a Mayo Ladies Match).

"I do miss the simple things at the moment like not even being able to go down the road and watch a match on the weekends. It was something I really enjoyed and was a refreshing escape from work most weekends but all of that will be back eventually for us to enjoy again. It may not be for a while but we'll get there and back to everything we enjoy again.

"With such a passion and a love for sport I do focus a lot on sports illustrations and then a lot of my work is in someway related to sport as well even if its not an actual sporting image. I do a lot of Caricature wedding invites for sports people looking for something a bit quirky as well as it tying in with the sporting side.

"I also do a lot of framed custom caricature sketches for different occasions that people or families might have coming up. It's a quirky and cool idea for a present, something different and a memorable thing for people to keep and look back on. The main requests I get would be for birthdays, weddings, housewarming gifts and Christmas presents too."

A specialist skill and talent that Jenny has worked hard on perfecting for years is now something that she has never been so busy with. New requests are being pencilled in every week. Each piece unique. Each piece with a different meaning. Each piece equally satisfying and a perfect reminder to herself that she is doing what she loves and successfully too.

"The time it takes for an illustration I guess really depends on the project or request of the client. Some may take two hours, some may take 1-2 days it really depends on workload and what is being commissioned. The great thing about it is no project is the same. Everything is unique and I guess that is why I’m interested in people’s faces as a subject also.

"Again, this all depends on the brief, a lot of the caricatures I draw on computer, others could be wall murals, others could be hand drawn with a pen.

"Working from an image is probably the easiest and most convenient for people and sketching digitally at the moment would be my preferred method.”

As well as each piece symbolising something different for each recipient, a lot of the time just a simple piece that will be taken out of the attic every once in a while and used to remember the particular occasion it was received with a smile,  there are also clear  and important benefits being taken from Jenny's latest novel creation.

Firstly, a novel and fun way to entertain the kids with strong mental health benefits attached for both adults and kids.

"I suppose at the start of lockdown people were looking at new ways of keeping the kids entertained while at home and constantly looking for new ways to change up the day.

"The colouring books proved an instant hit online. I sketched some GAA/LGFA/Rugby and Ireland women’s soccer books.

"Each of them got a fantastic reaction and were downloadable and free for people to print from their homes.

" Art distracts the brain and gives it a break. The beauty of it is that anyone can do it and be as creative as they want.

Colouring is something every kid gets hours of fun from and this way they become more accustomed to their sporting heroes and players that they aspire to one day be like.

"I think this is very important, I like to put a face to a lot of the players, especially the female players, so young girls can become more familiar with them. These colouring books are another way hopefully, of increasing visibility and familiarity among young kids with the ladies footballers and a range of different sport in this country. I think huge strides are being made with the likes of 20x20 campaigns but there is still so much to do.

"I am also working on some at the moment with Energia who are doing colouring books of Leinster rugby players. There has been great feedback on the colouring books which gives me great satisfaction and a total motivation to start sketching the next!

"It's so rewarding personally when the individual pieces get such glowing reaction. I have had sports stars such as Katie Taylor, Aidan O’Shea, Simon Zebo and Sonia O’Sullivan to name just a few that have acknowledged my illustrations. I remember I once got an email from Sonia O Sullivan and I thought I was dreaming! But it was real!”


Have you a special occasion coming up and are looking for something different and quirky?
"People usually contact me through my social media channels. Twitter @JenJen_Murf or Instagram @jenmurphysketches or my facebook page Jen Murphy Sketches."