Paul Murray ~ His Story
“I’m trying to capture the last flicker of light of the past, the character and depth of the people of yesterday. I don’t know what an artist’s job is exactly. I do know I’m trying to capture something that is almost lost – fading fast.”
~ Paul Murray
In pencil and in paint, Paul Murray records the everyday lives of a few who remain hidden from this world. The Southern Appalachian mountain folk and the rural Canadian farmer, whose recluse or pioneer lifestyle, are detailed in Murray’s timeless faces.
“Murray is interested in the simple lives of his subjects in this complex age. His desire is to preserve the heritage and traditions of our forebears. This is not merely a nostalgic journey, but a chance to remember time-honored values. Murray continues to capture on canvas the inner beauty and the essence of these people. Many of his subjects live their entire lives without what the modern world considers necessities, such as electricity and running water.” *(quote from Jay Demier – Louise, writer of his book “Mirrored Souls”)
His subjects have a richness within that we find distant, strange, yet wonderful. His talent to capture the depth of every soul is not only unique but well mastered. In each weathered wrinkle, a life story is told, far past a glistening eye; the detail is revealed it is not what is visible but what is felt by the viewer. Murray’s use of negative space is rare, and here he balances beautifully; mystery, mood, and technique.
In the oil paintings, Daniel, Joseph and Aunt Emily, it is made easy for us to experience the hard work, the joy and the inner peace of his subjects. In the paintings of his childhood friend Joseph age 100, in the pencil-Aunt Emily age 103, and in the children, we understand a peace of heart, a pride, a wisdom, and an innocence. To capture all of this it is a task is not easily achieved. Murray does this while practicing the oldest and most arduous methods of painting. He has discovered passes on the dyeing techniques of the Dutch & Flemish masters of the 16 century.
His art studies:
Born just outside of Windsor, ON in a village called “St. Clair Beach”, Murray had the countryside just out his window. Always preoccupied with the study of his art; at the age of 10, Paul didn’t find it hard to skip school and walk 12 miles to visit his old hermit friends Joeseph and his siblings. These were the last of the pioneer lifestyles in this part of Canada. When he wasn’t on the ancient farm in Belle River, Ontario, he was in the library learning the techniques of the art masters of old and of current times. Some of those that most excited him were Rembrandt, Wyeth, and Rockwell.
Murray was already displaying his work at local art shows, where his paintings and commissions sold. At age 13, he left school and dedicated himself to preserving these rare people. Paul was either on his friend’s homestead learning to make tools by hand and live off the land, reading about the masters of art, or researching the history of Appalachian culture. Paul documents the lives of his subjects, he doesn’t just drop by for a short visit, he knows them for life, and even lives amongst them at times. Imagine yourself living this isolation, not trusting strangers, and having a young strange man knock on your door! Murray has chosen a risky career, walking in places where foreigners are not wanted. Although he travels these places with great respect and caution, he says it is the most fulfilling career one could have.
Many artists work in one medium only, but Murray has various mediums; pencil, pastel, egg tempera, oil and watercolor. He read all that he could on the elusive and eclectic mountain people of Appalachia and the Canadian settlers of the area. In seeing relatives in the south, he visited these areas, since an early age and the mountains and its people intrigued him deeply. Here he recognized the unique purity of such deep isolation, the hard struggle to survive, the pride and hundreds of years of knowledge kept alive in this hard place.
International Exposure & Public response:
Paul Murray began publishing his paintings and solo exhibitions at age 16. Most if not all of the limited releases of his art have sold out and his art has shown in almost 200 galleries internationally. His accomplishments to date are the publishing of his book in 1989, “Mirrored Souls – A study of Paul Murray’s art”. At this time special showings for schools were set up where Murray gave insight and motivational talks. He donated over 200 books libraries and schools and he traveled to the schools giving talks in 1990. Murray continually gives back to the community. His donations to many charities have helped raise more than a million dollars. His three day, one-man art galas every fall have garnered 3000-5000 patrons from all over the world. At times the lines on opening night shut down the roads leading to the lakeside venue in his home area. Since his paintings and in-depth research take many months, people sometimes get a rare chance to view both finished and unfinished works and are excited to learn about his development process.
Murray has been invited to show and won awards in the Museums such as New Mexico, Florida, England. He has been honored to be invited by his peers to various exhibits with world-caliber art masters like Robert Bateman, Glen Loates, Michael Dumas, Brent Townsend and George McLean and more.
Portraiture is among the hardest achievements for an artist and typically not a prolific one. Murray complicates this by his study of history and of an intimacy with the people he paints. His commitment to each picture to tell the truth of the person’s life and his strive for perfection causes intense involvement in each painting. Many pictures don’t make the final stages. Those few paintings that do make it to the frame are sold each year in his fall (Oct., Nov.) exhibits in his hometown area of Essex County and where his heart is, in Gatlinburg, TN.
His informal career and the extremely uncommercial subject matter has not brought him formal awards. Somewhat a rebel of the art world, Paul Murray’s rewards are the sell out of his limited editions and originals, a confirmation of the public’s appreciation for his endeavors. There has been an award-winning documentary done on him in 1989, plus many TV radio and newspaper interviews. Windsor Ontario made it front page news when Murray was to move away in 2007. Now back in his home area, Murray keeps his art at work in his “Passing it Forward” campaign, performance paintings “Music ‘n Arts Collide”, masterclasses, workshops and art exhibits.
Paul Murray is still a young man yet he is a veteran in his field. Let’s see what the future brings in the life of a man that has only ever wanted one thing.