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We Are All Artists: Becky Murphy

By Terri Stone

Though still in her 20s, Becky Murphy can legitimately claim a lot of job titles: illustrator, author, letterer, designer, entrepreneur. She is silly and spontaneous, but also organized and ambitious. And she’s one of the first people chosen by Adobe for a new, year-long program called the Creative Residency

Despite her accomplishments, Becky is anything but arrogant. Like many of us, she owns to suffering from impostor syndrome. “I struggle with calling myself an artist,” she says. “I know I’m an artist because that’s what I do all day and I love it, but my work isn’t an abstract painting that comes from an existential crisis. I’m drawing thumbs-up hand signals and punny quotes. Is it too light to be art?

“The reality is, we’re all artists. I hate when people say they’re not creative. We’re all improvising all the time.”

Becky Murphy's

A sample of Becky's work.

ON HER BOOKS

The first book that Becky wrote and illustrated, I’d Rather Be Short: 100 Reasons Why It’s Great to Be Small, was published in 2013 and recommended by outlets as diverse as Buzzfeed and Parade magazine. (In case you’re wondering: Becky is 5 feet tall.)

She’s now working on The Roommate Book. Becky has obviously had great roommates, since she calls it a “fun time of life,” and her book celebrates that. “My mission is to encourage the reader to make space for play and generosity. That’s the deeper theme. But it’s mostly just a silly activity book for grownups.”

Illustration from Becky Murphy's The Roommate Book.
Illustration from Becky Murphy's The Roommate Book.

Pages from The Roommate Book.

“When I write and illustrate a book, it’s a two-year process,” notes Becky. Despite the delayed gratification, that’s not a bad thing. “When you invest that much time and energy in something, the highs are higher and the lows are lower. I like that. It’s the closest thing I have to having a kid.” Though The Roommate Book isn’t scheduled to be published until 2016, sneak peeks at a few pages are above.

Video tour of Becky Murphy's workspace.

Speaking of sneak peeks, Becky used her trusty mobile phone to make this video tour of her workspace.

Her illustration style is distinctive. “I don’t draw perfect things,” Becky says. “The people have bumpy kneecaps and spaghetti hair. You can’t take it too seriously, which can make difficult information accessible to more people.”

ON STARTING HER OWN BUSINESS

Becky began freelancing full-time a little over two years ago. The first year was a struggle, though few people knew it. “I projected confidence, even though I was spending more than I was making.” She put a lot of pressure on herself. “Failure was not an option,” she explains. “It would have meant that maybe this career choice wasn’t right for me, and that would have meant that maybe my whole identity wasn’t right.”

Then she changed her definition of success: “I was paying my bills and my taxes. And I was working on what I wanted to and I traveled so much. I wasn’t buying a new car, but I was living my dream. When I realized that was success, I came into my own.” 

An example of Becky Murphy's beautiful hand lettering.

To keep things moving in the right direction, Becky meets weekly with a friend who also runs a creative business. “We talk about what we’re working on and our goals.” Lately, she’s been consulting a business coach.

ON GIVING BACK

Becky believes in helping others; for example, she co-hosts a monthly happy hour for creative women in Austin. “It’s amazing to have clients come to me,” she says. “Today I worked on a porta-potty ad that’s in my hand lettering. It’s so bizarre that they’re coming to me, but they want my style. That’s a priviliged place to be, so the least I can do is lift up other people with me. All of this came because other people took a chance on me or shared their wisdom.”

Becky Murphy's hand lettering adorns this ad for PolyJohn
Becky Murphy's hand lettering adorns this ad for PolyJohn

Credit: GCG Marketing (art direction: Marilyn Irwin) for PolyJohn.

The Creative Residency program will broaden her reach. The program gives chosen residents a compensation package that will cover their living expenses for a year, so they can focus on what would otherwise be relegated to side projects. In return, the residents share their work and insights publicly.

“The Creative Residency is an opportunity to explore the side projects I was already working on, but very much in my spare time. Now I have the opportunity to focus on them and accelerate them. I can explore more and fail more, so I can get better. And I get to share the process — that makes it bigger than myself. It’s a chance to accelerate other people’s process.”

Visit our Creative Residency page for periodic updates on Becky and the other resident, Kelli Anderson.