London-based artist and illustrator Trudi Murray loves to create vibrant, bright and energetic artworks, using oil, acrylic, and watercolour. Inspired by the natural world and with a strong imagination, she loves to make intricate collages, usually from paper she has handprinted or painted herself.
Interestingly, it took some considerable time for Trudi to realise her creative ambitions and become a full-time painter. It wasn't having three beautiful children that stopped her, more a lack of self-confidence.
We chatted to Trudi about regrets, self-doubt and why it's so incredibly important to follow your heart and do what you love.
How did you get started? Where did you study? Did you go straight into painting full-time?
I always wanted to be an artist but lacked all the necessary confidence in myself, so didn't go to art college or do an art degree. In the end, I studied English at university, and as it turned out, had my three children quite soon after that. I've stayed at home with the kids throughout, and enjoyed being a mother but also somewhat frustrated and regretful about letting my own creativity slip.
Slowly, slowly, as they grew up I found the confidence to draw again, and paint. It was hard work and took a huge effort. But after a while, friends started asking to buy my work, and it went from there.
When was the moment you became a full-time artist? How did that feel?
It's taken time, over many years, but there was a moment when I got angry with myself one day. Trying to juggle the endless calls on my time from a busy household, and watching my valiant efforts at having time to paint every day still getting squeezed out by homework, music practice and cooking, I decided I had to take charge.
I blocked out my diary, cancelled appointments, stopped volunteering at school, changed my whole routine so there were no daytime gym sessions or coffees, sent out the word that I was now unavailable in the day. And I got my head down and painted. I'm so pleased I got angry with myself. It was a mental shift for me but has done me the world of good. It still gives me a thrill when I hear the kids say to each other 'Don't disturb Mum, she's working'. I was working before, I might add, in a domestic sense! But I know what they mean, and it feels good.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I'm always reading, and get lots of inspiration from whatever I'm into. At the moment I'm reading 'The Bedside Book of Birds: An Avian Miscellany' by Graeme Gibson, and 'Ten Million Aliens: A Journey Through The Entire Animal Kingdom' by Simon Barnes. But poetry, fairytales, folklore and history books never fail to inspire.
Also, nature and travel programmes are usually a hit. And the museums in London. Oh and dreamily sketching while watching brainless television has an uncanny way of opening up a seam of weird ideas you didn't know existed.
Who has been your biggest influence and why?
The chap who runs the art studio where I go each week for life drawing practice. He is a renowned artist but wouldn't want you to know that. He pushes me and my work to my artistic limit and often beyond! He's both frustrating and adorable, and I respect him greatly.
Describe a challenge you've faced during your career and tell us how you conquered it...
Every project I undertake for anyone is a challenge. I lose sleep over everything! My heart beats extra fast, my mind starts racing and I find it very hard to think of anything else once I've been given a job. It's so exciting, and it's so scary. I wonder if I'll ever get better at it?
I do try to be more laid-back, but it's not in me. I will work and work and work until it's done, and delivering a successful end-product is like winning a gold medal. I am pretty exhausting to live with when I have a project on the go, I think.
What's the best thing about being creative?
Looking at the world from a different angle to other people.
And the worst?
The endless self-doubt.
What three things are you grateful for – tell us more!
My husband, through whose encouragement I finally found my way back to painting. He always believed I could do it! He makes a great round of tea and toast, too, delivered to my studio in the loft just at the right moment.
Good friends. I cancelled all those coffees, but they still love me.
Every new morning. It's a gift, every day.
"Be helpful, be kind, work hard, get out there. Make great work. Make more great work. Make whatever you want to. The world needs you and your creativity."
What advice would you give to other creatives out there thinking about following their passions?
I spent years and years telling myself, other people, even my children, that they were better than me, more accomplished, more talented, that there was no place for me, not really. It's sad to think about. Don't compare yourself to others. I know my cost it is self-destructive.
Take whatever confidence you have, however little, and take a step – just one, then another – to follow your heart. Be helpful, be kind, work hard, get out there. Make great work. Make more great work. Make whatever you want to. The world needs you and your creativity.
Tell us more about your home studio
I work in a lovely loft studio in South West London. It’s full of light from an amazing window above my desk. I often stand on the desk to wave at people on the street below.
I’ve got several work areas – an always messy painting space, with my easel and desk, covered in oil/acrylic paint and ink, a calm office space tucked in the corner for computer work and digital creating, and a long worktable on wheels that I use for all sorts of things like packing parcels, drawing, making collage or watercolour paintings.
There’s also an old cosy chair which is meant to be for me but is usually occupied by one or both of my two tabby cats. Hence I never sit down!
What do you love about your space the most?
It’s such an inspiring space, with lovely views of trees and the massive sky over the rooftops. There’s lots of light, and it’s very peaceful up here. I love watching the sky, and to have such a big window is quite wonderful. It’s also amazing to have the space to set up several different projects and leave them all out to tinker with throughout the week.
What's your morning routine?
Three mornings a week I’m up early for a deliciously horrible bootcamp fitness session at 6am – it really kickstarts my day. After that it’s a question of getting everyone off to school or sixth form. On the way back from school, I listen to something energetic to set the tone and then as soon as I get back, I put on my painting apron and I’m off! I tend to work on paintings first, then calm down a bit later on with illustration work or collages. Running downstairs for another tray of tea and a biscuit happens quite often too!
What tools or apps can you not live without?
My sketchbook. I also can’t live without my manky brushes – the sort you get in the discount store but wouldn’t even paint the house with. They’re great for making a cool mark, and the more destroyed they are, the better. I get anxious when they’re totally wearing out though, and have to start breaking in a new set. My painting apron is also important – when I take it off, I’m done for the day. That’s an important ritual for me. Most of all, my best tool is curiosity: what happens if? That experimentation is vital for painting. I never want to stop finding things out!
What's happening next?
A very exciting video project with a filmmaker I know, some large canvasses, a new series of small paintings that will be available as prints for sale in my online shop soon, and hopefully an exhibition in a marquee in my garden as part of ArtHouse Open Studios in Richmond upon Thames, in the summer. And, I'm looking for an agent, so if you are one, please get in touch!