Cecelia Murphy

Behind the Texture

with Cecelia Murphy

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Offering a fresh reimagining of the traditional decorative painter, Cecelia creates hypercustomized handpainted surfaces for residences, retail and hospitality. Her creations include bespoke murals and wallcoverings on a variety of substrates including silk and gold foil, as well as digitally printed wallpaper and textiles from original painted designs.

How would you describe your artistic style? Are there specific artists or influences that helped to shape your work?
Lush, worldly, immersive. And increasingly atmospheric. I started out paying homage to the great historical wallpapers, Chinoiserie, papiers peints panoramiques and scenographic French wallpaper. But increasingly, nature and my own voice, and delving into different fine art traditions, symbolism, and meaning. I think there is room for this even in the design world.

What industry trend are you absolutely in love with? 
I love a rich, painterly full panorama. Painting the walls so they dissolve. So you’re living inside a painting, or a theater set.

What is your favorite thing about the decorative industry/community?
My designer clients are more than customers to me – we are co-collaborators in a grand vision of ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’: a total work of art that someone gets to live in (residential) or open to the world (hospitality, commercial, public).

I choose my designer clients carefully knowing they will be “painting in” the foreground to the backdrops I create with my wallcoverings. The furnishings, art, palette, and mood they curate in the mural room tell a meaningful collaborative story: a triangulated conversation between the homeowner, the designer and the artist (me). And when it goes right, this collaboration gives me so much joy.

What would you say is the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
Understanding that it takes time. This is my second career. I came from the language translation industry with daily deadlines, immediate turnaround, rapid communication, everything quantifiable. Getting started as a professional artist happens at a totally different cadence. It feels slow like geological or evolutionary time if you’re used to modern inbox rhythms. Things have picked up but keeping it slow-ish to begin is also healing my frazzled, notification-addicted brain.

There’s a huge social and emotional component: making yourself vulnerable, networking and self-promotion, lots of disappointment at first. Eventually you realize it’s a numbers game and you might actually paint for 1 out of 20 people that enthusiastically inquire about your work. I’ve learned that that’s okay. You’ll need to talk to 100 people maybe. Maybe 500. Always be talking! Always be connecting.

Logistics and planning are maybe the hardest part. I’m often part of a larger construction schedule where projects can be delayed for a year. You try to fit people in like puzzle pieces in your year and sometimes things you counted on don’t go through. Even if you collect a deposit, these didn’t-happens are disappointing in the portfolio-building years, because you need to show what you can do in order to book more of it. It’s been a process to find the confidence to build into my terms and conditions the fact that I can’t always move people around.

And finally the artist’s conundrum of honing in on one style among your vast potentials. I perceive possibilities like a kaleidoscope; I want to try everything and I have so many ways that I would like to be able to paint. Refining what I offer has been a challenge, but absolutely necessary, since everything you attempt at this scale (12 foot ceilings, hello) requires some mastery and even if you’re a fast learner you can’t always be reinventing the wheel.

Maybe I’m the worst person to be giving that advice because I do still work in a wide range. I actually never plan to give that up; probably the most consistency I can aim for is a singular, identifiable voice that speaks in a few different languages. 

What’s something you hope to accomplish this year?
I’m going to spend some time painting at small scale and en plein air. This should help me study more intricacies of light, depth and atmospheric perspective that I can then translate to my murals.

Oh, and I’m launching a wallpaper collection, which I hope to accomplish this year but it might be 2023, does that count?

What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
Figure out what you really need in order to make your best work happen. I need a lot of sunlight, windows, bike rides, swimming, giving and receiving support. Give yourself these things even when it feels indulgent or frivolous.

Be boundaried about social media and Instagram in particular – it can be addictive, toxic and devastating to your growing creative self esteem; it’s also a magic teleporting machine and a portal to serendipitous connection. Use it wisely.

Try working Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way with a group. I’m doing this right now, just beginning – I’ll report back next year with results if you’ll have me again!

Oh- and, if you are a muralist, get yourself some Golden Paintworks products, I’m not kidding, I use them in all of my large scale work. Especially the Slow Dry Fluid Acrylics and especially the neutrals. Nothing you can get in an art supply store comes close.

See more of Cecelia Claire’s work at https://www.ceceliaclaire.com/.

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