Author & Artist Corner: Artist

Kelly Murphy

While growing up in southeastern New England, Kelly Murphy was surrounded by an abundance of flora and fauna. It was not until recently that she became more fascinated with urban areas and their intricate mazes of buildings and streets. When illustrating these cityscapes, she resorts to the wooden building blocks she would play with as a young girl. Kelly loved to see how tall and uniquely shaped the buildings could get before eventually toppling over.

Kelly at age 7 
 Kelly at age 7


 Art Desk
Kelly's studio


Creating my Cricket Cover

Here are a few of the sketches I created while throwing around ideas for this month's Cricket. The editors were attracted by my mystical cityscapes, which they saw in my online portfolio, and asked me to create something similar, something fantastical with a Middle Eastern flavor, since since that was the setting for several of the issue's stories. 

I thought of Marduk's dragon. Marduk was the Babylonian name of a late-generation god from ancient Mesopotamia and patron deity of the city of Babylon. Dragon referenceThe mythical Dragon of Marduk, with scaly body, serpent's head, viper's horns, front feet of a feline, hind feet of a bird, and a scorpion's tail, can be seen on the famous Istar Gates. King Nebuchadnezzar ornamented the monumental entrance gate dedicated the goddess of love and war, and the processional street leading to it, with scores of pacing glazed brick animals. On the gate were alternating tiers of Marduk's dragons and bulls of the weather god Adad. Along the street were the lions sacred to Ishtar. All of this brilliant decoration was designed to create a ceremonial entrance for the king in religious procession on the most important day of the New Year's Festival.


Here's the progression into the final cover. Obviously, the Babylonian referrence was a bit too obscure, but still cool to research and learn along the way.



Final Cover 

Click "Add new comment" below to ask Kelly a question.

Hello Kelly!  What advice can you give an illustrator?  How often do you draw/color?

submitted by Samantha, age 9.5, Europe
(November 30, 2009 - 9:28 am)

Hello, Samantha,

I draw and paint every day, for sure. There might be a day or two where I have errands or visiting with friends, but I can guarantee you that I am thinking of projects I am working on, or want to work on! Brainstorming and gathering referrence material is a very important part of working, and sometimes overlooked. Even though you might not have a brush or pencil in your hand, your brain is working hard.

I am very lucky to have a job that I love very much, but it's also important to balance work with play! But it's so hard when I consider making these pictures fun, too.

Good luck with illustrating! 

submitted by Kelly Murphy, Providence, RI
(November 30, 2009 - 7:22 pm)

I love to write but when I start a story and then get halfway through it, I get an idea, start another one and never finish the last one.

submitted by Clare Z., age 09, Mass
(December 9, 2009 - 6:13 pm)

Ok, I have another question.  How did you become the cover artist of this issue of Cricket?  Did they ask you to do the cover, or did you go to them?  And do they only pick experienced artists, you know, such as people who have a degree or sell their work, etc.?  Thanks!

submitted by Laura☆, age 16, Santa Rosa, CA
(January 10, 2010 - 1:37 pm)

Hi Laura,

I love getting business-minded questions.When I graduated from art school, I sent samples of my work to a variety of places; publishers, magazines, advertising agencies... And I knew Cricket magazine had such a wealth of illustration. I made sure to send samples to them every couple of months. Eventually, I got a few jobs illustrating some of the recipes and short stories, and after ten years, I was then offered the cover. I was ecstatic!

I can't speak directly for Cricket, but in my experience they're not concerned about having an "experienced" illustrator... but if the work is strong, and the person is focused and makes all of the deadlines for sketches and final art on-time, they make successfull illustrators! 

Are you interested in an illustration career? It's a lot of fun, and if you are organized, it's even better!

Thanks for the question! 

submitted by Kelly Murphy, RI
(January 14, 2010 - 10:13 pm)

Hello Kelly! Sorry I haven't said thank-you for the advice yet, so thank-you! What else are you hoping to illustrate in the future? When you were a kid did you get the Cricket magazine? What's your favorite color? Book? Movie?  

By the way, do you remember where you got the little mushroom house you were holding in that first picture on this page? It's so cute, it's so fairyish. I love it!


submitted by Hannah P. ☺☻, age 14, Georgia
(January 24, 2010 - 12:03 pm)

Hi Hannah!

That is very sweet of you to send a thank you. It's always a pleasure, so no worries! You know, I didn't get Cricket Magazine at my house, but I was able to see it at my school library from time to time. I really enjoyed National Geographics and Ranger Rick.

These are fun questions!

Favorite color: This is a tough one. I'd have to say I like color combinations. Reds and greens, navy blue and light green, and yellow and orange are really nice. My favorite color to wear is red. You can usually spot me in a red hat and scarf.

Favorite movie: Another tough choice! I love all of the movies by Miyazaki; Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Spirited Away... I also have enjoyed time period movies, especially World War I & II and 19th century dramas. Empire of the Sun is a great movie I have loved since I was nine years old. But Let's not forget some great movies like Indiana Jones, Ghost Busters, Black Beauty, and Back to the Future!

Favorite Book: The best part of my job is that I get to read young adult chapter novels! They are the perfect length and typically have really fun subject matter. Island of the Blue Dolphins, 21 Balloons, James and the Giant Peach, Ralph and the Motorcyle, and Cricket in Times Square are still my favorites!

And the small mushroom house was a toy I had. It's a smurf house, and I was pretty excited about it. Enough so that I had it in my first grade class picture! Haha! 

Do you have any favorite toys or books?



submitted by Kelly Murphy, Providence, RI
(January 27, 2010 - 3:20 pm)

Hello once again, Kelly! I haven't seen any of the movies you like except Indiana Jones (the first, part of the second and the newest one) and part of Ghostbusters when I was very young. And I haven't read any of the books you like!

Favorite toys, I still really like Barbies. My sisters and I have these little dolls called treehouse dolls (because they were made for this miniature tree house the same company made). We also have little furniture and food and blankets for them! My mama and I made a cardboard house for my treehouse dolls, it has a master bedroom,, kid's room, kitchen, dining room/living room (right now it serves as a dining room to the Kwan's [that's the last name of the family]) and either a large closet or a very small bedroom. I've added on more boxes to form a basement and the brother's room.

Favorite books, Harry Potter!!!!!! The Order of the Phoenix is my favorite in the series. I also really like Juniper, Wise Child, Thin Wood Walls, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Eragon, And One For All, The Penderwicks, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, and even though my mama hasn't finished reading the last one to me and my sisters, I like it so far. I've even gotten the answer to one of the riddles right! And then there's A Gebra Named Al , Princess Academy, My Side of the Mountain, The Secret of Stonehouse, A Gathering of Days, How to Eat Fried Worms, The Biggest Klutz in 5th Grade, the Laura Ingall books, and I'm reading Tennyson right now. It's very different from other books I've read, but I can't describe how it's different.

What books have you illustrated? What T.V. shows do you like? Have you ever heard of these DVDs called Dravive Through History? There really funny! When this part of the website is made so people can't type back and forth with you anymore, will you be posting on Chatterbox at all?


submitted by Hannah P. ☺☻, age 14, Georgia
(January 30, 2010 - 7:14 pm)

Whoops, I meant Drive Through History.


submitted by Hannah P. ☺☻, age 14, Georgia
(February 1, 2010 - 1:20 pm)

Hi Kelly! when i go to college i wanted to be not only a veterinarian but an artist as well! I love to draw all the time and i am even in an advanced art class called 'tag Art" in school but i have a few problems drawing faces... the eyes end up okay but the mouth gives me a bit of trouble. Any advice? Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

submitted by Cassandra D., anonymous:)
(March 15, 2010 - 10:37 pm)

Hi Kelly,

It's already April and I hope I am not too late to get this question to you.  I just now discovered you here on Cricket.  First I want to tell you that you have been my all-time favorite children's illustrator since I got the book Fiona's Luck for St. Patrick's Day a few years ago.  My Mom and I love love love love love your work!!!  We go to your website and look at all your drawings and paintings all the time.  I mostly love the deep, dark, rich colors you use, and how you make the lighting look so real and mystical.  I have always wondered about what kind of paint you use to create your children's book pictures and paintings. Oil or acrylic or water color?  And how do you get them to be digital and ready for printing.  Do you take digital pictures of your paintings or do you create some of them on the computer?   I can't believe I found you here answering questions!  We buy all the books you illustrate just so we can have your artwork at home and look at it all the time.  I draw, paint and write every day, and my dream is to be as talented as you are when I finish college someday. Thank you Kelly, I hope you get this and it's not too late! 

Cameron J.


submitted by Cameron J., age 11, California
(April 7, 2010 - 4:18 pm)

Hello Cameron,

Thanks so much for your kind note. Sorry it had dipped below my radar, but the helpful team at Cricket alerted me to your message. I am very pleased that you enjoyed the book Fiona's Luck, and that you've taken the time to look at my website and other publications. Thank you very much.

Almost all of my paintings are done with oil, acrylic, and gel medium on gessoed paper. It's sounds complicated, but think of the paintings as a bunch of several layers. When I gesso a piece of paper, that seals it, and water or paint can no longer seep in. Then at that point, I can transfer a drawing and do a light acrylic wash over it. At that point, I then take one color of oil and spread it out over the whole piece of paper. This is how I develop the tonal structure of the painting. I can then wipe away certain areas to bring out the lighter parts of the piece. It's a bit like reverse drawing. Instead of painting in the darks, I wipe away the paint for the lights. Then, I have to seal the painting with an acrylic spray. At that point I bring the color back into the paintings with my acrylics. I do a few layers like this, until I reach the glow and saturation that I am happy with.

Typically, I send all of my paintings to the publisher who then sends them off to be professionally scanned. I believe they put them on very sophisticated drum scanners and then go through a couple rounds of color corrections. For my own use, I will scan the pictures on my flatbed scanner so that I can put images onto the web, or keep my own digital archive in case I were to lose any of the artwork, or even worse... have a house fire. It's very rare for me to create a piece of artwork that is completely digital. Sometimes if I am in a rush, I will make a drawing that I will scan in and then color digitally. It's important to make those deadlines!

Thanks so much again for your kind note. It made my day! I am sure you are already more than talented and determined, and I have a feeling we'll see you work very soon! Where there's a will, there's a way!

Cheers Cameron,


submitted by Kelly, Providence, RI
(April 12, 2010 - 10:04 am)

Kelly!  Yay!!!  Thank you so much for writing me back.  I kind of can't believe it.  Wow!  And thank you for explaining how you create your paintings.  It sounds like layer by layer.  No wonder when I try to paint at home it never looks right. it just never looks like I hope it will. I can draw, but painting is very hard, it messes up my drawings most of the time. So obviously I need to go to art school when I'm older.  So here's one more question...when I go to college for art someday, if I want to be a children's book writer and illustrator, is there a special kind of degree for that or are you just supposed to be an Art Major?  

Also, do you have any new books coming out and do you ever come to the west coast, like California for book signings or anything like that?  

Third and last question!!!!!  Are you an Art teacher at a college or anywhere? 

Thank you Kelly,  Just last nght I was looking at your picture book illustrations again.  Didn't think you'd get this message!

Thank you!!!!!!!!  Smile





submitted by Cameron J., age 11, California
(April 14, 2010 - 3:29 pm)

Dear Kelly,

 I think your artwork is really good. You've inspired me to maybe be an artist too, when I grow up! Right now I want to be an author for chapter books (novels) when I grow up. I type my own stories on the computer and then print them out and give copies to my friends (and family). 

Anyway, I have a question: Do you ever get frustrated when you don't do something right when you're drawing or writing, or someone corrects you on something? How do you feel?

Bye! Hope I'm not to late to ask you a question and give you a message!


submitted by Faye G., age 10, Olney, MD
(April 10, 2010 - 3:01 pm)

Hello Faye,

Great to hear from you! I am excited to hear that you share your stories with your friends and family. It's a perfect way to get feedback about your story and see how it inspired their imaginations, too.

I definitely get frustrated! Sometimes I see something so perfectly inside my imagination, but it's diffiucult to express it when I put pen to paper. I think the best solution is to stick with it... and keep sketching until you've worked it out. Getting referrence of the subject matter that you are drawing is a big help! And much like you show your friends your stories, I also show my ideas and drawings to my husband and friends for feedback. They can be a big help!

I typically don't get too upset when I am corrected anymore, but I know that feeling. Having suggestions or corrections is a very natural part of the creative process, and teachers, classmates, and friends are there to make sure your ideas are expressed in the best way. I have great editors and art directors that ask me to do corrections quite often... and more often than not... it does make the artwork stronger.

Ultimately, it's all about your desire and confidence! If you love what you do, then others will recognize that and help you along the way. Good luck, and I look forward to reading your novels someday!


submitted by Kelly, Providence, RI
(April 12, 2010 - 10:14 am)