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Jessica Murdock joins Joey Phoenix on the podcast today to talk about starting what you finish and creating art through all seasons of life. There will also be a bit about her rescue doggo Pixie, who is featured in many of her art pieces, and her life as a multi-field essential worker.
Since 2016, Jessica has been creating a piece of artwork every day – an incredible feat of self-discipline. Reproductions (and originals) of some of these can be purchased from her Etsy page.
Jessica Murdock is a Salem, MA-based artist, illustrator, and dog parent whose focus on realism and the natural world around her has enabled her to create some incredible pieces of art, some of which features her various pets as well as the figurative work adapted from the weekly Drink-n-Draw event hosted by fellow artists Sue Grillo and Beki Ferrari.
Mentioned in this Podcast
About The Chaos Within
Hosted by Joey Phoenix, The Chaos Within is a podcast celebrating the weird, the wild, and the creative – featuring makers, doers, artists, and oddballs exploring the unknown and tapping into their creative energy.
The Logo was designed by Anton Presents, the intro music is by Paul Senn (email@example.com) using the Theta-U Creative Circuit System, and the outro music by Chris Wilson Sound using one of Joey’s maternal Grandmother’s haunted music boxes.
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Joey Phoenix 0:05
The Chaos within, part of Creative Collective presents, is a podcast celebrating the weird, the wild, and the creative, featuring makers, doers, artists, and oddballs, exploring the unknown and tapping into their creative energies. The Intro Music is my pulse in the outro music is by crystal sound. In the beginning, there was chaos. I’m your host Joey Phoenix.
Joey Phoenix 0:29
Jessica Murdock is a Salem, Massachusetts based artist, Illustrator and dog parent whose focus on realism and the natural world around her has enabled her to create some incredible pieces of art, some of which feature her various pets, as well as the figurative work adapted from the weekly drink and draw event hosted by fellow artists Sue Grillo and Becki Ferrari. Since 2016, Jessica has been creating a piece of artwork every day, reproductions and originals of some of these can be purchased from her Etsy page. She’s here today to talk about starting what you finish and creating art through all seasons of life. If there will also be a bit about her rescue doggo, Pixie, welcome, Jessica.
Hi, thank you. Thank you for being here. So tell me about this one drawing a day project and what it’s been like continuing that project through all the good and the bad in the last few years.
You know, I started it when I had someone tell me that they didn’t think I was going to have that kind of discipline. So of course, I kind of had to prove them wrong. I try to make sure that it’s, it’s done by midnight, it doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t even have to be good. It just has to be good enough for me. And one of the reasons I post them up on social media too, is to kind of have that accountability. You know, I’ve done a drawing on a bar napkin while I was out seeing a band play. But I’ve also spent the greater part of a day working on some more involved ones too.
it’s really incredible and it sounds like not just self-discipline, but a dose of stubbornness as well in a way.
I’m very stubborn, very stubborn.
When you started this you You were looking at like a month of drawings, what was happening a year later and you’re still doing it, like how did that feel for you?
Well, it was really funny. At first, I was just kind of sitting in my house doing the things that were around me. And of course, that turned into being like, all the dogs and cats and various animals and things. And then when I finished that first year, it was actually the first of the year and I thought, you know, Should I continue to just do another year that wasn’t that hard? And you know, once I did that one drawing, then I had to do it for that whole next year. And then that kind of happened for the past few years. And then this last year, I finally thought you know, I’m kind of I think I’m ready to wrap this project up. But I think five years is a fair amount of time to do a drawing a day without fail and, and I haven’t, I’ve taken vacations and I’ve traveled and I’ve jumped up in the middle of the night and ran downstairs and scribbled something out really quick, you know, gotten it posted the dot before midnight, but yeah, That first year it kind of became routine and the people that come and go in my life that are around me all kind of sit back and respect this if I interrupt a conversation say sorry, I have to do my drawing real quick and people seem pretty good with that. So
that’s really beautiful. I saw you posted one of them earlier today and it was just a bunch of clean laundry on a chair
it wasn’t folded it was a pile Yeah.
It was like really, really beautifully done. And I feel like a lot of your work is new like terms just capturing the everyday but what if what are the some of the strangest things that you’ve drawn? During this time?
I drew a I had a friend who, who kept calling another person names and I wrote it on a hard boiled egg shell that that person then proceeded to eat. If I’d been in art school, still that would have been performance art, but sometimes I – if I’m mending holes in something, I’ll post those as a drawing a day because it’s still you know, I’m spending three hours doing something artistic like that, I think it’s fair to post that as my drawing, I call it drawing with thread or with yarn. But in the past year, I’ve started doing some more abstract pieces, I was starting to have the feelings of wanting to do less representational work. And it’s been really challenging to let myself go like that. So those have been a really interesting journey for me too.
What mediums Do you work with usually,
Often when I’m at home, I work with water soluble crayons or water soluble pencil. And those can kind of take a while to crowns especially because I tend to do them in layers and I have to let the layer dry. So you know, it’ll be this simple little abstract that’s like a two inch by two inch painting, but it actually took me like three or four hours to do because I, I do try to have kind of control of how the pigment moves in the water. So that’s what I use primarily lately. Do a little bit in pencil still and I do sometimes like to delve back into like, really tight crosshatch renderings like Edward Gorey inspired things that have kind of more of an illustrative quality.
I remember the first time I saw your work, I was modeling for Drink-n draw. They showed it to me and it was just like this magical like white ink on a brown paper and it looked like I was some sort of mythical being and like, I just was mesmerized by what you’d done. And I’ve never seen that kind of like white on canvas with cross hatching before, it’s really neat.
Thank you. Yeah, I am. I really like bringing that to the drink and draw because it’s it’s – first of all the Drink-n-Draw is such a phenomenal resource. I need to shout out to my my friend Sue and Beki who run that because they’re great. And the drink-n-draw It was one of those things where I was doing this drawing a day project and you know I thought, Okay, what am I going to do tonight? I haven’t been going to this drink and draw and it happens every week. And this is ridiculous this resource that I’m not using. But it’s great to be able to draw some faces and see some people and get some depth. And just a completely different idea than I get when I’m sitting at home. So I’ve been enjoying that. And yeah, the black and white on the tinted paper has been really fun. It kind of just popped that in, you know?
Drink-n-draw has gone virtual recently to accommodate all of us needy artists.
So to switch gears a little bit and talk about your life before I suppose. Do you mentioned to me a while ago that your life looked very different about a decade ago? Can you walk us through what that’s been like and how it led to where you are today?
Oh, absolutely. So it was a little over 10 or so years ago, I had this this little epiphany and in my life kind of changed. My father had passed away, and I kind of was assessing my life in general. And I was working in high end fashion in Austin. And it was great. And that was afforded me a lifestyle that I really enjoyed at the time. And then I started doing a little bit of volunteer work with a group out of MSP CA, that helped people who were too sick to take care of their pets to take care of their pets. And that was the first time I ever walked a dog.
And then I thought, well, this isn’t that hard. And then I thought, well, I should volunteer at a shelter that’s closer to me so I can kind of, you know, maybe do more of this kind of work. So I started, I tried to go volunteer to shelter near me. And what happened instead was this dog kind of wandered out of the back of the kennel and put her paw in my hand. And I thought, oh, gosh, now I’m going to be a dog parent. And, you know, that’s how I got my dog. Pixie.
Pixie was kind of abandoned at the shelter because she had a lot of trauma, like physical trauma from being a street dog. And the shelter was doing their best to bring her up to full health, but she was not really considered adoptable. And so here I come along and I’m like, Oh, well, then that’s the one I want. So I got Pixie, and became a dog parent. And I thought, well, I don’t want to commute into Boston anymore. And I really don’t want to be in high end retail anymore.
Because the truth of it is, it was very hard for me to help someone choose between a white $500 t-shirt and a black $500 t-shirt. And my job was to say, well, you should just get both. And instead what I want to say was you should spend that money on actually helping make the world a better place.
I needed to change gears in my life. So I started taking prerequisites for vet school so I could be a better veterinary technician. I got hired locally as a veterinary technician so I could basically spend more time with my dog. Because my goal is to spend more time with my dog and devote, you know my life to making things better for everyone around me, dogs, cats, as well as people. And I’m also a hospice volunteer with care dimensions. So I try to volunteer with people as well as animals.
It sounds like you definitely have your priorities straight. And certainly I think dogs are like one of the greatest gifts and reasons for being on this planet so…
They are magical. And my dog she’s really fulfilled her her name, that’s for sure because I named her Pixie because I thought it was cool and she looks like a pixie. You probably seen in my artwork.
She really does. What kind of dog is she?
She is a Sato. Okay, so she was a street dog in Puerto Rico kind of considered kind of a slang term. It’s not a very nice term, but that is kind of they’ve kind of reclaimed that term for dogs like her. So she was a street dog. She was found under some bushes with babies and tumors and cancer and they were like, we’re gonna save this dog. And they did. And but it was it was really wonderful and perfect right now. She’s kind of snoozing, sitting on the couch near me.
What does your life sort of looked like now in the day to day now that you’re, you have Pixie and you have art and you’re volunteering.
So my day. My goal was to really build a life that I you know, wouldn’t be sad about that I could be happy about and be proud about. So I try to make sure I do some artwork throughout the day but also, you know, I spend a lot of time with Pixie I spend a lot of time on other dogs too, that is one of my many jobs. I’ve kind of cobbled this lifestyle together of different means of employment. So my goal is to just provide the best life for my pets and myself.
But I don’t have to set an alarm in the morning, which is the next goal. And my cupboard is full. So that’s another nice goal and I have enough time to take my dog out and spend time with, you know, the few friends she has because she’s not really into other dogs. You know, I go from one job to another like one is at the animal hospital like we’ve chatted about. And that’s really fulfilling to because it’s good to feel like you’re saving lives and helping people and their pets. But I also walk dogs and I also have my realtors license so I can help the people that I care about find homes as as comfortably as mine.
that’s that’s all really lovely. I really like You for Your intentional choices in living. They all seem in alignment with what with what you say you believe and that’s really inspirational. How is this like, kids to the word? these trying times with this the current situation affected you?
Most of the work that I do for employment is considered essential. So I have not been housebound. I’ve actually been working more during this time because of so many people who are kind of stuck at home when I come in to fill these spaces. Yeah.
Yeah. I’m actually curious about that part, as you know about what it’s like to be on your feet and working and most of the road is inside. How are you holding up on that front?
Well, I’m holding up pretty well, I guess. It’s, it’s a little bit challenging having to change like the smaller things that you do all the time, like, you know, making sure like I’m always like sanitizing my hands between walking dogs. And between house to house and like wearing my mask and all of that and trying to make sure that I’m practicing the good husbandry that I need to, like, keep everybody safe.
And then of course, we’ve got protocols in place at the animal hospital too. So we follow those, the challenges really been with parents, you know, who always expect a certain degree of service and care. And it’s sometimes it’s a little bit hard for them, I think, to realize that stuff takes a lot longer. You know, we’re trying to kind of hold things up on our end and keep things really tidy, which means like, you know, phones are ringing off the hook and we’re trying to do extra long dog walks, and then it takes a little bit longer for us to get to your house and that’s more of a challenge is making sure everyone’s happy because they are not happy. It’s very stressful.
I’m sure.. .like I think everyone’s going through it right now but like we all really appreciate you being brave to do the thing because.
Honestly, I, you know, working working at the animal hospital, you do get used to a lot of these protocols anyway, like, it’s really easy for me to wear a mask for 12 hours. I mean, I’m used to it, my ears generally don’t get sore, I can breathe through it pretty readily. I’m, I’m, it’s kind of what I’m trying to do. And I’m already a fanatical hand washer because of the hospital. So. So a lot of this, a lot of the rules that are in place are not that different from me.
So I think I’ll back up a minute and talk more about like, the things that inspire you. Yeah. What are your current sources of inspiration and what has kept you wanting to make art throughout your life?
Well, it’s funny because because, as you know, I did take up a good solid hiatus from making any art for about 15 or 20 years there in the middle of my life. And, you know, that was kind of a reaction from art school. Being being an art student was kind of a brutal environment for me. And then I was like, we’re gonna have a career instead. And so starting the drawing a day project was me kind of getting back into, to making things and, and all of a sudden, the more I started making things, the more I found inspiration around me.
You know, my phone is actually full of pictures of tiny things that people have discarded on the sidewalks. So there’s lots of little cutouts of like, pieces of notes and the things that people tend to discard. So I find those things really cool. I really like the lines and shadows and shapes in space, and trying to make those into more abstract works is is interesting to me. And of course, these animals that I’m surrounded with all the time are just amazing, and I think they’re really such a gift to have in our space and share our results. With that. I’d love to do They’re always inspiring and the way they make these great forms, and it’s one of the cats coming over right now, it’d be like, You mean like me?
How many cats do you have?
I actually only have one right now. I’m actually going to be fostering a cat at the end of the week. So that’s going to be great. And I’m sure she she’s going to end up in my artwork as well.
But we’re excited to see that for sure. So for our listeners, would you tell us about where we can find out more about your work?
Sure. I have an Etsy shop. And you can also find me on Instagram, if you want to follow my drawing a day project. It’s just under JSMurdock. And I post every day and you can look at everything that I’ve done and anything that I’ve made into a print will have a little statement on it saying that the prince is available, but that’s kind of the best way to just follow like my visual work is probably Instagram JSMurdock.
Fantastic and we’ll have those links in the show notes as well for everybody listening. So Jessica, thank you so much for being on here and for sharing your truth with us. I really value you and the work that you’re doing both visually and with the puppers for sure.
The Chaos Within is produced by Creative Collective, Creative Collective connects creativity, community, and commerce across the North Shore. As a collective of creative professionals, small businesses, organizations, and individuals that coordinate a series of events, traditional and non traditional marketing initiatives, resources and best practices to define why creativity matters in all aspects of life. In the beginning, there was chaos. Then you make it yours.
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