Leigh Murphy's exhibit "Vibrant Realism" will be on display at OMAM from March 9 to April 22.
The Ormond Memorial Art Museum and Gardens drew artist Leigh Murphy to expand her work out of Jacksonville to Ormond Beach.
“I was just out in the gardens thinking ‘Ooo, that might be fun to paint. That might be fun to paint,’” she said. “It’s really about the way the light hits something.”
Murphy describes her style as a “stream of consciousness realism.” She finds inspiration in nature, takes many photos of a scene, spends ample time drawing and redrawing her rendition of the photos, then adds watercolor to bring the work to life.
“It’s like a handwriting style but for paint,” Murphy said. “People who know my work best can tell when a piece is mine because of the way I apply the paint and the way I draw because it’s not super, super realistic. You can get a couple feet away and see brushstrokes. The classic photo-realistics, you could get nose-to-nose with it and not know it was a painting.
Murphy took her first watercolor painting class in October 1993, and though she sometimes works with different mediums like oil paint, she always comes back to her roots.
“I work with pretty much everything, but watercolor is my first love,” she said.
Murphy’s exhibit “Vibrant Realism” will be on display at OMAM from March 9 to April 22. Many of her pieces depict natural and marine scenes.
“There was a time when I wanted to be a marine biologist,” she said. “Living in Florida, that’s an easy choice. That’s part of the reason why I focus on sea life and shells and things like that.”
“This is a very freeing lifestyle. It does help you get out and appreciate being outdoors in the natural world.”
- LEIGH MURPHY, artist
A painting of seashells leaned against the wall in OMAM across from a painting of water under a pier on Monday, March 5, while Murphy set up her exhibit.
“With the seashells, you get the light on them and then the light comes through and then it’s this wonderful, golden luminescence that’s hard to find in anything else, even flowers,” she said.
Depending on the detail involved, Murphy spends 10 days to several months on a single piece.
“I solve all my problems with a pencil first,” she said. “I spend more time drawing a painting than most people do on completing a painting.”
Murphy said she’s still learning how to let go a little easier with each piece. Perfectionism, she said, is fatal.
She said she doesn’t get too attached to her paintings though, making it easier to let them go when they’re sold. But her journals are a different story.
One of her earliest journals is filled with 365 drawings done over a period of three years. Page after page tells a visual story of Murphy teaching herself how to garden and depicts what she created in her yard.
“It was irreplaceable, really, because it was a journey to accomplish that,” she said.
Her eclectic approach to realism is what makes her work unique, she said.
“This is a very freeing lifestyle,” she said. “It does help you get out and appreciate being outdoors in the natural world.”
Ultimately, it was the charm of the individualism of Ormond Beach’s businesses and streets that led Murphy here.
“I just love those gardens,” she said. “I could spend all day out there.”