Shelby and Sandy Murphy are artists, USC Trojans — and brothers. The twosome live in Southern California painting bright canvases of cartoon characters, images, and sports teams and athletes they loved as kids.
Since the Murphy brothers began working together nearly 10 years ago, they have developed a large following and have been commissioned to paint for celebrities such as Zac Efron, Nick Cannon, and Sean Kingston . They have also had their art exhibited in cities across the world, from Paris to Dubai. They’ve been asked by collectors to paint athletes like LeBron James and Michael Jordan, and also to paint for teams, athletic venues, and a hospital.
SI Kids spoke with Shelby and Sandy about their art, their process, and what they hope their work achieves.
When did you both start to get interested in painting?
We’ve both been painting our entire lives. We’ve always been very crafty and hands on, and we’ve always been making things. Our painting career together became serious in the last two years when we both moved to Los Angeles, got a studio, and started working together. Sandy and I both graduated from USC. I graduated in 2007, and then moved to Santa Monica. So I was in LA for about seven years, and then we got really serious toward the end of his senior year at USC.
You guys use a ton of bright colors and bold lines. How would you describe your style?
Modern pop art. We love Halloween and pirates, so you can see that in all of our paintings as well.
You’ve also painted some well-known athletes like LeBron James and Michael Jordan. What came first? Were you sports fans? Or did you become fans as you were commissioned to paint athletes?
Right now we’re working on commission work, so when someone requests a sports-related painting, it’s usually just commission. So those two were from basketball fans that lived in New York. We like our home teams, though. We like the [Los Angeles] Angels, the [LA] Lakers, the [Anaheim] Ducks. And we like the USC Trojans. We’ve been season ticket holders for the Angels for like a decade.
Do you have a different mindset when you’re painting something sports-related, or do you go about all your paintings the same way?
No, we like to research every subject that we’re painting, whether that’s a cartoon character or something from a movie or a sports-related person. So we did research on LeBron and made sure we got the colors right and the team right, but also the facial expressions right. Everything is always perfected as we’re painting.
When it comes to actually creating paintings and prints, how is your process different from how other artists work?
The fact that we go back and forth on everything. It’s the most precise process I’ve ever engaged in in my entire life. We make sure there is no flaw in every single painting. We will work tirelessly and tediously for hours on each painting to make sure every line and color is perfect.
What athlete would you most like to paint? Or paint for?
Maybe Shaquille O’ Neal. He seems like a friendly guy and a family man. It would be funny to see him in real life and see how tall he actually is. I think he would appreciate bright colors and Superman paintings from us. No one seems nicer than him.
I know your work is displayed several places. Is it hanging in any sports stadiums or venues?
We’re working on a few, but we have to keep that private for right now.
Can you tell me a little about the wing you’ve been commissioned for at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC)?
We painted several paintings for CHOC. They are going to have us do their lobby and a wing of the hospital. CHOC is separated by floors and each floor has a theme, so this is going to be the ground level and it will be the underwater floor with an underwater theme.
What message do you do you hope your art gives to kids?
I grew up going to galleries and museums. Art is always important to learn about because it’s like a timestamp in history. So if you learn about art at a young age, you’re actually learning about history, too. I hope that kids can look up to our art and be inspired. I was so inspired when I would go to galleries and see paintings on the wall. I remember thinking, “That’s something I would like to do.”
Photos: Shelby and Sandy, Instagram