Kevin Murphy Artist Review – Portrait Painter & Illustrator

kevin murphy artist

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Heard about Kevin Murphy somewhere?

Maybe you’ve seen some of his earlier illustrations with big companies like The Rolling Stones, Sega, Lucas Arts, National Geographic, Barnes and Noble, etc.

OR … maybe you’ve managed to stumble into one of his masterful oil painting portraits — some of which have received international acclaim?

Perhaps you’ve even taken an interest in his recently trending Evolve artist program and are curious about the person behind it all?

Whichever the case may be, continue reading to learn more!

Who is Kevin Murphy?

Kevin Murphy is a portrait artist and illustrator born in the United States in 1968.

More specifically, he’s an internationally recognized, award-winning portrait painter and illustrator with decades of experience.

who is kevin murphy?
Kevin Murphy from Evolve Artist

He’s also the founder of The Art Academy and Evolve, marking him as someone with an endless passion for teaching those interested in art, which he considers a most wonderful and historic tradition.

Kevin Murphy’s Early History

I wouldn’t use the word ‘talented’ or ‘prodigy’ to describe myself.

  • Kevin Murphy

Unlike what you might have heard from other artist biographies, Kevin Murphy was not born to be an internationally recognized artist.

Neither was he raised to be one, for that matter. Kevin has shared in several interviews that he grew up in the harsh streets of the Bronx, where studying fine arts was definitely not a priority. Given the circumstances, Fine Artist Kevin Murphy may have never existed today without his determination and his father’s support.

This rough start, one without a clear path for Kevin to follow, led him to later firmly believe in the saying:

Great artists aren’t born – they’re taught.

kevin murphy's early history
One of Kevin’s First Paintings

Educational Experience

One day, I packed all my tools and decided I was going to be a professional painter … I’ve never looked back since.

  • Kevin Murphy

Kevin Murphy described himself as ‘not a BIG fan’ of art as a child.

It wasn’t until he was 11 years old, reading a magazine his father had left behind about professional artist Boris Vallejo, that he decided he wanted to be an artist. His earliest education in art can be summarized as following in the footsteps of this illustrator, and this is meant literally!

Contacting World-Renowned Illustrator Boris Vallejo

After Kevin graduated high school, he tried to mimic the art style of illustrator Vallejo for a while. However, it didn’t work quite like how he expected it to. And so, Kevin opted for a more direct approach by tracking down his idol — quite unlike most other high school kids his age.

He reached out to artist Vallejo for advice and was recommended by him to ‘train more’ because ‘he wouldn’t be able to do it alone.’

contacting world renowned illustrator boris vallejo
Kevin’s Art at 17 (Senior High School Student)

Unpleasant Experience at Art School

Unfortunately, despite Kevin’s success in becoming a freshman at the School of Visual Arts at 21 … Vallejo’s well-meaning advice didn’t work out quite like it was meant to.

Kevin had a growing interest in becoming an illustrator at the time and so pursued knowledge on realism. This was completely at odds with his teacher, who was into more abstract pursuits. The rift caused by this divided interest only worsened over time.

And, to keep a long story short …

Kevin went for ONLY one semester, paid an exorbitant price of $9000, and never went back.

Learning How to Be a Professional Illustrator

learning hpw to be a professional illustrator
Kevin’s First Official Book Cover (1992)

After deciding that art schools were just not for him, Kevin decided he would learn to create art independently. If Kevin Murphy’s life story were to be recorded in film, this part of his life would have certainly made for the best MONTAGE.

To describe it in Kevin’s own words, this was a time when all he did was paint.

Or, more specifically, he said:

I was painting every day. I was painting 15 hours a day, sometimes 17 hours! I would work until I couldn’t anymore. And work some more when I woke up the next day.

Kevin Murphy’s Career

kevin murphy's career

Within 18 months of self-study and slowly, but surely, learning things he believed he wouldn’t have learned in the art academy through practice, Kevin went from a beginner to a professional.

Professional Illustrator

More specifically, within a year of quitting the art college, he was able to sell his first official book cover. And, another half a year after that, he was considered a master illustrator in the eyes of such major entities as:

  • The Rolling Stones
  • Sega
  • National Geographic
  • Lucas Arts
  • Viacom
  • Barnes and Noble

Award-Winning Portrait Painter

award-winning portrait painter
Kevin Painting a Portrait

Kevin didn’t stop at illustration after getting started. He chose oil paint as his medium and began to explore traditional painting in the form of portraits.

He worked as a portrait painter for 15 years, producing hundreds of oil painting portraits for all kinds of clients and winning various awards for his mastery of oil painting.

Aspirations to Open a Physical Art Academy

Because of his horrible experience at art school, part of Kevin had always wanted to open a physical art institution of his own.

It’s this that led to the founding of The Art Academy.

The Art Academy was founded over a decade ago (October 2009). Its headquarters are in Hillsborough, New Jersey.

aspirations to open a physical art academy
Art Academy Student Progress from The Art Academy

Currently, Art Academy offers programs for youths (ages 7-12). There are also Art Academy programs for teens and adults (12 and up), and summer intensives for those still in school.

(BTW!) If you’re interested in attending classes at the Art Academy, there are two available physical locations in New Jersey. 

Founding the EVOLVE Program

founding the evolve program
“Mr. Richard Herd” by Kevin

Other than the Art Academy, Kevin also founded Evolve.

However, unlike the Art Academy, Evolve is an online program.

What is Evolve?

“This program is about making serious art accessible and available to anybody with the desire to be able to make it.”

  • Kevin Murphy

Evolve serves the same purpose as the Art Academy: it’s an affordable alternative to art school. One that has a carefully crafted curriculum meant to guide artists at every level — from beginner to professional.

It was founded after Kevin contacted a like-minded friend, Mitch Bowler, who gave him the idea of digitizing the existing art program used in the Art Academy to reach a wider audience.

Evolve’s Mission and Goals

Other than providing a more affordable alternative to art schools, founder Kevin and Mitch also wanted to ensure that the platform would serve as close to matching the rigorous program offered by official art colleges as possible.

evolve's missions and goals
“Ms. Annie Ryan” by Kevin

Students must do homework and turn it in to trained mentors for review.

There are also chat rooms where students can connect with other students. Through this, Evolve artists can continue to progress in their studies while staying connected to other contributors in the art industry.

Evolve’s Curriculum

Emulating his own self-study experience, founder Kevin Murphy created the Evolve program to help an artist become a professional in less than a year.

To do this, the main Evolve curriculum was broken down into easily digestible parts to allow one to increase technical proficiency in each skill set before moving to the next. The first block teaches value & form; the second block teaches proportions; the third block teaches color value; the fourth direct painting, and so on.

evolve's curriculum
“Ms. Ashley Novitski” by Kevin

Other courses are available for those who want to develop certain art-making skills that may not have been covered in detail in the main program. One example is Kevin’s mini-course on depth and volume, which is available for FREE access.

Should You Join Evolve Artist?

The benefits of Evolve is that you can get to art-making in the comforts of your own home. All while still being held accountable to your studies and given access to an art community that will inspire you to continue to become a great artist.

You can decide the pace of your studies, get timely support from trained instructors, AND use the same supplies used in the coursework.

should you join evolve artist?
“Ms. Halley Murphy” by Kevin

HOWEVER … these advantages also lead to a pretty big disadvantage.

That is, Evolve is a program for artists who want to learn and are willing to put in the effort in order to do so. If you’re not dedicated to seriously learning, this program will not help you at all.

Start Your Own Art Evolution Today!

Although Kevin Murphy’s journey to becoming an internationally recognized award-winning portrait painter and illustrator was not the most conventional, there’s no denying that it is quite inspiring.

Despite not having any natural, prodigious talent, as he himself would claim, he managed to develop himself into a professional artist capable of working with such major entities as the Rolling Stones, Sega, Lucas Arts, and more.

He accomplished his goals, one step at a time, and completed the evolution to become a great artist. Continuing the wonderful and historic tradition upheld by many old masters before him with hard work and determination, he never once backed down from his goals.

If you want to follow in his footsteps, make sure to check out the Evolve program! It’s the best representation of the culmination of Kevin’s decades-long journey to becoming a professional artist.

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