Ross Murray is an artist, illustrator, father, husband, graphic designer, comic book maker, storyteller and once upon a time did a wee stint at NZ Post. A man who spends most of his spare time trying to remember to breathe, we truly appreciated the time he took to answer some of our questions for the blog. We asked about all his creative endeavours and what he would be doing if he wasn't up to his ears in making art.
What were you like as a kid?
I was a shy but predominantly happy creature. I grew up on a farm so spent a lot of time running around outside. Inside time was spent drawing or glued to my Amiga 500.
What’s your background? Did you go to art school?
I come from a rural background. My father is a dairy farmer and my mother a teacher. I’d always been obsessed with drawing and once I finished school I studied a Bachelor of Graphic Design at AUT, majoring in illustration.
How did you start your career as an artist?
Haha, I’ve never really considered it a career! I studied graphic design and illustration then ended up working in advertising. That was a great place to learn about stuff and develop my craft but advertising’s not the most creatively fulfilling domain so I began making personal art after hours. My first proper exhibition was at endemicworld in 2017. (Golden Summer)
Can you describe your style and how you came to it?
I work across a range of styles but something they all have in common is a strength in colour and composition. I’m influenced by a combination of comic books and vintage tourism artwork.
What are the main themes/ideas in your art?
Those familiar with my work through endemicworld might notice themes of travel, nature and nostalgia. Looking at my work more broadly, I guess other themes include idealism, the human condition, consumerism and the challenge of living ethically as part of a capitalist society.
Speaking of capitalism, do you ever think of chucking it all in and moving to a cabin in the woods with the family and not being a slave to the man?
We actually did that! I left my job in Auckland to go full freelance from a house in the woods along Opoutere Beach in the Coromandel for three years or so. It was a pretty dreamy time! I have two daughters now so these days I’m a slave to them.
What is your process for creating a new artwork?
I’ll think over an idea for quite some time before starting the drawing process. My work is based in realism to a certain degree so collecting different pieces of reference is usually an important part of the process for me.
What materials do you like to work with you when creating your art?
Mostly, I work digitally in Adobe Photoshop using a Wacom Cintiq drawing tablet. However, I do still love drawing in pencil on paper.
What/who is your main source of inspiration?
I get inspiration from all sorts of places but the New Zealand landscape and the way we think about it is definitely significant. Internet culture and consumerism are things I’m also fascinated by.
Where do you create your art?
Most of the time I work from my studio at Mount Maunganui. Life can be pretty stressful at times and my studio is definitely a bit of a sanctuary!
What do you want people to think/feel when they see your art?
I’m a helpless people-pleaser so I want people to see my art and like it. My work is pretty accessible but occasionally there are slightly deeper things going on beneath the surface.
Do you ever find the people-pleaser part of your personality hinders your creativity and if so how do you combat it?
I view it largely as a positive thing rather than a hindrance of any kind. It mostly has the effect of forcing me to set high standards for myself in making the work as good as it can be. I personally dislike art that panders to people which weirdly informs my idea of what makes something ‘good’.
What are you working on right now?
I’m currently working on a few different illustration briefs - a poster campaign, artwork for a book, a magazine cover. I’ve just sent a new picture book off to my publisher which will come out later this year. I’m also chipping away at some personal work which is kind of halfway between art and comics. (In addition to being influenced by comics, I also make them too.)
What are your plans for the future or something you would like to work on next?
Not sure! I’d like to draw some more actual comics sometime soon. Chromacon - the indie arts festival - is scheduled for later this year so I might see if I can finish something new for that.
What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t making art? Or what would you like to be doing?
I don’t really know how to do anything else! I guess I’d like to do something that helps the planet. I like writing. And I’m kind of interested in psychology. Thinking back though, I had a part-time job working for NZ Post and I actually enjoyed it. So maybe delivering mail😂