Keith J. Murphey is a comic book creator who was born and raised in Connecticut. While he’s primarily a penciller, he’s tackled every facet of comics creation. He’s also a painter with several published covers to his credit. You can check out his work in the Comicbook Artist Guild anthologies, Sky Pirates #5 (Free Lunch Comics), and Psychosis (Guild Works Productions). He will have work in several publications in 2009, including Hector Rodriguez’s Hell’s Blood and Jon Escolbales’s Killer Cortez.
Keith is the founder of the Comicbook Artists Guild (CAG) and has served as president since its inception in late 2000. The organization has grown to include multiple national and international chapters.
In addition to his comics pursuits, Keith is a licensed professional counselor, with a Master’s degree in Art Therapy. He is given credit for starting the comic book art therapy movement, which was the basis of his master’s thesis, published in June 2006.
Question 1: When did you first decide that you wanted to create your own comics for a living?
Unrealistically, when I was eight years old, but as a real career when I was a senior in high school having to make career path decisions. I ended up going to art school and then wanted to do comics even more.
Question 2: Who has had the biggest influence on you outside the comics industry, and how did they affect your life?
We’re talking about people that are alive that we actually met? That’s a tough question when you are in a comic book frame of mind. I guess outside of comics, my primary focus is in the human services field. The person that inspired me the most and got me excited about being in the art therapy field would have to be one of my teachers, Bill Moore. He always just had a cool level head and made me feel comfortable in class. When he spoke he really knew what he was talking about.
Question 3: Who has had the biggest influence on your comics career, and how has that person changed your work?
Veteran inker Frank McLaughlin was my biggest influence. He got me to see things in my work that I had not seen before to improve my storytelling abilities and my style of art. I took his class many years ago and he really got me to the next level artistically. He is still teaching comic book art! I try to keep in touch with him when I can. Occasionally I see him at the NCS dinners in Fairfield, Connecticut.
I started this group called the Comicbook Artists Guild about eight years ago. All I have to do is go to one of the meetings and show my work or see what other artists and writers are working on and I’m good. I’ll usually go home after that and start creating again. Its really nice to have a specialized group of talented people to bounce things off of and that you can relate to.
Question 5: Describe your typical work routine.
It really depends on the project. For covers I tend to spend a lot of time prepping, drawing the picture on the board or canvas, putting out paints, and setting up brushes. I don’t typically finish a painting in one sitting; usually it takes several hours as I go into it piecemeal. It gets done when it gets done unless I’m under a tight deadline. Then I’m working mostly at night or on the weekends.
For comic pages, usually a very loose thumbnail to figure out composition, and then I start blowing the page up. In the warmer months I’m out in my studio, but when it’s really cold I stay in the house and do art. I like to listen to music when I can, mostly rock or anything with a decent beat.
Question 6: What writing, drawing, or other tools do you use?
I’ve only written two and a half stories, so there I’m a novice. I plan on reading Peter David’s book by Impact this year though. As far as drawing goes, mostly mechanical pencils for tight stuff with 2h lead. Usually some type of blue line papers. Also I play with some oil painting, watercolors, and even digital coloring on my iMac.
Question 7: What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?
I guess I try to convey a purity and honesty about my work. I enjoy trying to bring out real human emotion in my art when I can to help make it feel more real and dynamic. Sometimes its easy if the story conveys a need for it. My work is fairly loose but I can tighten up where it needs it.
Question 8: What has been the most rewarding project in your professional career – in or out of comics – and why?
In the human services field, it was when I got my license and my art therapy credentials. As far as comics, I’d say working on Hellsblood #1 with my good friend Hector Rodriguez. It was a great collaboration that will most certainly bear fruit. I got to draw all kinds of really wild things — like demons and guardian protectors fighting one another! Who could ask for anything more?
Question 9: We’ve all met very talented newcomers who are trying to get their first professional projects. What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard given to a promising new creator?
Find someone you really want to learn from and be a sponge and absorb all you can. Some people have a natural tendency to do this and for others it’s really difficult. It really requires unthinking what you know and sometimes eating some humble pie. Think about a genre you really enjoy and stick with it for a while. For me, it was horror primarily. Find influences in that genre, as it will help bring out the best in you artistically.
Question 10: Time to get philosophical: What’s the most important “big idea” that you’ve learned in life – in or out of comics – and why is it important?
Well in comics I’ve learned that you either sit around talking about making comics or you find a way to make comics. I am much more selective about whom I work for and whom I work with. If I didn’t surround myself with good people then the comics I’ve created or been involved with would have never happened.
Outside of comics, it would be to just try to be a good person and do the best I can with what I’ve got. If I don’t expect things from people and things happen, then that’s really a wonderful thing.
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