AOTM September 2016: Beth Murphy Morrison

Art, artist of the month, Uncategorized

Interview by Jess Petrylak

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Beth Murphy Morrison

SUCKER: Who is Beth Murphy Morrison?

BETH MURPHY MORRISON: I’m a seventeen year old artist and student from Northern Ireland. I like to create colourful pieces exploring the theme of body positivity, self love and the connection between ourselves and the beauty that is found in nature in my art as I find it’s a good way to celebrate self expression.


SUCKER: What is your preferred medium(s) to work with?

BMM: If I had to choose a favourite media it would definitely be a tie between watercolour and gouache. I love the freedom of expression I have when I’m working with watercolour, as in my experience even the mistakes that I inevitably make while painting with it serve only to add character and beauty to the piece, forcing me to step outside of my plans and assess how I can improve. However, I also adore and the strength of colour and versatility of gouache. It’s incredibly useful for an art style like mine, due to the thick consistency that lends itself to heavy linework.

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Beth Murphy Morrison

SUCKER: Reminiscent to Art Nouveau paintings/illustrations, you are influenced a lot by naturalistic elements, such as plants/flowers, crystals and the female form. Modernizing this classic style, you mainly work with imagery of women of all shapes/colors and LGBTQ themes. What do you hope your work illustrates to the world?

BMM: My main hope with my work has always been to celebrate the parts of us that are too often looked down upon or ignored by our peers, ourselves and the media, and to improve the representation of different bodies, sexualities, genders and ethnicities within art. While I’m heavily inspired by beautiful, stylistic Art Nouveau movement, I don’t see a whole lot of variety in what is shown to be beautiful. I am inspired by stomach rolls and stretch marks and acne and I have always wanted women to be able to look at the people I create and see themselves, their sisters, and their mothers in them. Every time somebody tells me that I have helped them feel more at home in their skin I feel like I have achieved a huge goal. I enjoy drawing the women among flowers and other natural, organic elements because I can show the similarities between our bodies patterns and those we find in the natural world. A woman with stretch marks beside flowers with huge veins, a woman with acne compared to a geode and crystals, a woman with body hair surrounded by cacti. It makes the person viewing them perceive what is usually shown to be a flaw as a natural and necessary part of the art. I hope my art illustrates that every single part of us is natural and beautiful and should be celebrated rather than hidden or changed.


SUCKER: What is your first experience with art? How do believe you have grown overall as an artist?

BMM: The first memory I have of anything art related is my mother explaining a Picasso painting to me. I come from an incredibly artistic family, with my grandfather, mother and sister all being very artistically talented, so art has always been part of my life. I began drawing when I first learned to hold a pencil and the nurturing and encouragement I received at such a young age is almost definitely the reason I continued with it. Despite this, I would say that I have only began to grow within the last two to three years. While I always had a talent for art, I rarely worked on my techniques and style until I was forced to when I took GCSE art and actually tried to step outside of my comfort zone and develop a new and more interesting style. I had previously fallen into a rut in which I only drew photo-realistic pencil drawings, which, for me personally, didn’t feel rewarding or expressive. Working with more knowledge of artists and mediums definitely helped me grow and it’s something I’d recommend every young artist explore.

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Beth Murphy Morrison

SUCKER: What is your go-to art making song(s)?

BMM: I’m a huge fan of musical theatre, so i always keep a playlist on my phone with a mixture of my favourite soundtracks which I stick on and sing along with as I work. At the minute I like to listen to Hamilton, Rocky Horror and Les Miserables. if I’m not in that sort of mood though I find artists like Hozier and Fleetwood Mac put me at ease while I work.


SUCKER: Heavy contrast is part of your stylistic approach to creating art, in your experience does overworking a piece ruin it?

BMM: For me, it definitely does. Often times simplicity is the best route to go down if you’re uncertain. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been forced to scrap one of my pieces after I let myself get carried away and either destroyed the paper I was using or overcrowded the painting itself. It’s never a pleasant feeling, and even when the piece is salvageable, it won’t feel the same way my other, more successful attempts do.


SUCKER: What physical and emotional environment is the best for you to work in?

BMM: I prefer to work alone most of the time due to the fact that I’m ridiculously easy to distract, and when I’m in other people’s company I tend to get sucked into speaking to them rather than being focused entirely on whatever I’m working on. I also tend to work best in a positive mood, because with the style of work I do I am always focused on portraying positivity and happiness. . When I work in a bad mood I find that that will affect my colour schemes and the general feeling of the piece, and I will likely be less happy with the end result.
Physically I’m not too fussy. As long as I am somewhere comfortable I can generally make it work. A lot of the time I paint sitting cross legged on my bed, leaning on whatever hard surface I can find. It’s unfortunately not the most professional set up, but hopefully I’ll actually get myself a desk soon.


SUCKER: What is something you absolutely would not do within your artwork?

BMM: There aren’t a whole lot of boundaries I have in terms of subject matter, however  If I felt that something I had created had the capacity to be harmful to someone, for instance, by promoting stereotypes, being culturally insensitive or by romanticising eating disorders, self harm or substance abuse I would immediately get rid of it. Other than that, I’m open to exploring a range of different themes within my work.

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Beth Murphy Morrison


SUCKER: Do you experiment with other forms of art other than illustration?

BMM: I have experimented in the past with different art forms, such as sculpting and digital art, however I found that none of them suited me as well as illustration does, as I enjoy the process of painting and sketching. Although I would really like to gain more experience with different art forms as I believe it’s incredibly important for growth, and I would absolutely like to try to improve my skills in a range of areas in the future.


SUCKER: What does your art making process look like? How long does it usually take to create a piece?

BMM: Usually when I’m working I like to start with a sketch or clean linework and then begin to layer. My process usually adapts to work with whatever media I am using at the time but I generally enjoy working in segments and will prefer to focus on one part of the piece at a time to make sure it gets the right amount of attention. More often than not, I start at the face and work outward, because that’s the part I enjoy most. When working with fast drying paint, which I usually do, I mix my colours as I go to avoid them drying out as I work. The amount of time spent on a piece for me varies, and can take anywhere from 4 hours to 70 hours, depending on the size of the painting and what I’m using to make it, but if it is as small as A4 I can usually finish it in around four or five hours.


SUCKER: Your work involves very vibrant, saturated colors; How do you make color decisions? Does color transcend the meaning behind your work?

BMM: I wouldn’t say I use colour to display meaning, but I do use it to portray moods at times and I find that the colour decisions I make change as I get a feel of the “personality” the subject I’m painting displays. I like to choose bright colours if I want the piece to show someone powerful or joyful and I like to use duller colours or purples to show someone peaceful and calm. People tend to associate different colours with different emotions, like yellow with happy or angry with red, so playing with these ideas can be good when displaying emotion in art.

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Beth Murphy Morrison


SUCKER: What is your ultimate goal involving the arts?

BMM: Ultimately, I would love to get into tattoo art and continue to sell commissions. I think that the stylistic approach I like to take with my pieces would transfer well into tattoos due to my love of linework, and, like all artists, I would also hope that at some point in my career I would be able to have my work displayed in galleries. In the more immediate future I would like to attend university to study Fine Art.


SUCKER: Who are your biggest inspirations within the visual arts world?

BMM: I’m really inspired by artists such as Frida Kahlo, Klimt, Alphonse Mucha and Egon Schiele, because they are all artists who explore a somewhat surreal style of portraiture which has heavily influenced my own work. Frida Kahlo’s unapologetic self expression and the celebration of her features has always played a part in my exploration of self love, and the unique body types both Klimt and Schiele portray is somewhat mirrored in many of my drawings. I’ve always felt very fond of Mucha’s work because body types he portrays look realistic and attainable, and I admire and the classic elegance that all of the women in his work seem to possess.

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Beth Murphy Morrison


SUCKER: You have recently painted on the back of your jean jacket, could you see yourself venturing into creating more custom made clothing pieces?

BMM: Definitely! I’ve already started on a second jacket and I have plans to buy more denim clothing in bulk and begin to make as many as possible to sell at markets, as well as creating custom clothing on request. It’s an incredibly fun way for me to create something new that can actually be used and it’s something a lot of people have expressed an interest in, so in the near future, I will hopefully be making a ton of new items.

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Beth Murphy Morrison

SUCKER: Why is it important as a contemporary artist, to share your work online?

BMM: I think that if you are trying to gain success as a contemporary artist you would have to be absolutely crazy not to have some sort of online presence, whether that be a promotional page on Facebook, an Etsy store or even an Instagram. The internet, and social media in particular, are incredibly powerful tools for creating a name for yourself and spreading awareness of your work outside of your own small bubble of acquaintances. The truth of the matter is that the internet is incredibly important for marketing yourself and getting your name out there for people to come across, and your chances of success are going to be much higher with that support behind you.


SUCKER: What is the best advice you had received as an artist?

BMM: Probably that you should listen constructive criticism, because as an artist it’s really important that you listen to the advice and tips that you are given by other artists or the people buying your work. While it may be difficult to acknowledge that you don’t always know best and that not everything you create will please everyone, taking constructive criticism on board will help you grow a lot faster and improve your work drastically. This doesn’t mean you always have to agree with the criticism, but acknowledging it and respecting different perspectives of your work can be really helpful.


SUCKER: Your linework is graphic, but hardly linear. What do soft, curved lines do for your work, contrasted with the graphic highlights and shadows?

BMM: I mainly use softer, more curved lines because of the movement and the easy flow they give the piece. I find that harsher, more linear lines can at times make the subject seem stiff and rigid, which is never an effect I’m fond of in my own work, or else they can make the entire piece slightly too harsh when coupled with the highlights and block colours I enjoy using. I find that when the soft linework is coupled with the more graphic elements of the piece it finishes the painting and it works as a whole, rather than overtaking other details and becoming the main focus.

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Beth Murphy Morrison


SUCKER: What is next for your future art and future self?

BMM: In terms of my future art, I’d really like  to further refine my current art style, while also experimenting with new subject matter and art forms to round out my abilities. I also want to begin to sell prints as well as commissions and will be doing so as soon as possible.Because I’m currently in my final year of high school, my future self for the time being will be focusing on getting into a good university and maintaining a balance of school and art, and will be selling custom clothing and commissions when she has the time, and will hopefully be creating an online store as soon as possible.


SUCKER: Where can we contact you, follow you and buy your art?

BMM: Currently my only public social media is Instagram, and you can find me and contact me there @fairyhands, and while I  don’t have an online shop at the minute, I will be creating one in the near future!

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Beth Murphy Morrison
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