Ethan Murrow is an awesome illustrator we had the privilege to feature on Empty Kingdom (definitely check out his previous EK feature). Now we’ve been given the further honor of an interview with him. Join us as we take a peek at the insides of his brain.
How long have you been working in art/illustration, and what do you get out of it?
I began seriously studying art at Oberlin College in 1993 and then at Carleton College soon after. I’ve never really looked back. I feel very lucky to have the freedom to build projects and engage in dialogue with my viewers. It’s a demanding and rewarding job. In general, future steps and endeavors are often completely unknown and this means there is a lot of risk but I really believe that the risk itself helps build innovation.
Do you have any of your drawings left over from when you were in elementary or middle school?
Thankfully very few, save for some embarrassing ones on some family walls.
Would you have imagined you would grow up to be an artist?
I did hope for it. I’m lucky to have had a bunch of writers and creative minded family members who were excellent role models.
Did you attend art school?
I studied art in a liberal arts college (Carleton College) and then got my masters at UNC-Chapel Hill.
If so, what did you learn from it, and what (if anything) do you wish you would have known back then that you know now?
I got a very good education. I’m grateful to be able to say that. But I wish I had paid more attention in art history in undergrad. Little did I know I would have to go out and re-learn it all at a later time. Among other factors, good art comes from a sensible understanding of context and history. It took me years to understand that.
What attracted you to illustration?
I’m not really involved in illustration as the term is normally used so I’m not sure what you mean.
How did you settle on graphite and why does it turn you on?
I appreciate the simplicity of the material, it’s relevance to paint because of the layering ability and the way in which the matte grays help connect the work to black and white photography and film which are important references in the work.
You have also made some videos, what do you get out of working in other mediums?
Primarily I appreciate the necessity of collaboration that often goes hand in hand with video and film and how these interactions help build new ideas and direction for the work. The challenge of structuring content and narrative are also prime motivators as well as the health of working in media that is so different from drawing.
How does the moving image (false 3d) influence your two-dimensional art?
I would actually call the moving image real 3-d as well as false and this is part of my interest. It is after all a real physical thing. I also see myself as a an addict to story and film in particular often shares this addiction. The falsehood you speak of is important though, especially since my characters are so often absorbed in worlds that may only be of their own invention.
Do you practice Tai Chi?
Who would win in a battle royale, Bruce Lee, Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Tony Jaa, or Marky Mark from the Funky Bunch?
Bruce Lee. Go classic.
Where did you get the idea for the Doomed Explorer series? Or any of your series?
I have often worked in collaboration with my wife Vita Weinstein Murrow on story development, photo and video work and film projects. Many ideas are built on these experiences and conversations. Much is also rooted in histories of success (or relative success) of historical figures like the Wright Brothers or Shackleton and investigating their less successful or less well known competitors, copiers or peers. I appreciate the fact that any success is built upon a history of failure.
What would you say is the dominate emotion you feel from looking at your own work?
Narcissism (if that’s an emotion…Love of self). It’s present in the characters, in my own role in the work, in the nature of being an artist.
Do you ever have dreams of flying?
I wish I did more. When I do it’s a good night.
Can you describe your process?
Wide ranging brain storming, writing, reading and research. Photographs taken in the thousands. Edited and stitched together down to an essential few. Taking the leap with one and endless hours of small mark making to complete the piece. It’s laborious but meditative.
What artists/art blogs do you follow?
Too many to name although I seem to be particularly obsessed with the artists at the Zwirner gallery in NYC and I do think (completely self-servingly since I contribute) that the Huffington Post is doing a good job with its new arts section
Can you tell us about any upcoming series? Or upcoming shows?
I have a solo show opening in Paris at lagaleriearticuliere in March and at Winston Wachter in Nyc in September.
So look out for that show. Until then, check out his site if you want to see more of his art. http://www.bigpaperairplane.com/index.php