The Hyper-Realistic Art of Annie Murphy-Robinson

Annie Murphy-Robinson is an artist who creates hyper-realistic charcoal based drawings. She rarely exhibits her work outside of her home state of California, as such it is hard to find much information online about her art, career or how she creates her artworks.

The artist was born in Sacramento, but her family was constantly moving so she ended up pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Southwestern Louisiana; she graduated in 1994. The first images that she created were still-life acrylic paintings of objects she had or could easily find, usually clothing, cans, bottles, sheets and bones. After graduating she went back to Sacramento, to be closer to her family, got married and had her first daughter in 1996. The artist applied to the Master’s program at California State University but was refused entry. Therefore Annie focused on painting for two years, in addition to taking some college art classes, then reapplied for the Master’s program and was accepted. She now dedicates her life to creating artworks. For a short time she continued to paint with acrylics, before switching to drawing with charcoal. One of these charcoal based drawings, titled Flower Girl, won first place at a student purchase show; this was her first award. She graduated from the Master’s arts program in 2002.

Annie Murphy-Robinson – Flower Girl (2001)

After graduating she went to an artist’s opening and met Troy Dalton, who became her mentor. He allowed the artist to use his studio and also encouraged her to experiment with sanding the charcoal into the paper, a technique that she has continued to use throughout her career. Annie’s first solo show was held at a local community college in 2005. She continued exhibiting at various non-profit galleries before receiving her first sale for profit show at the B. Sakata Garo Gallery, held in 2006. It was at this show that she sold every drawing that she exhibited.

Annie Murphy-Robinson – Casey and Emily Tutu and Stockings (2006)

Annie Murphy-Robinson – Casey and the Quilt (2008)

Annie Murphy-Robinson – Casey and the Owl (2008)

Annie’s studio is a small sectioned off area within the garage of her home, within it you find print making paper, various grains of sand paper, a belt sander, cleaning rags, erasers and large amounts of charcoal. Most of the artist’s drawings are of her children, however she also creates self portraits, does commission work and also draws still-lifes. A significant portion of her drawings are created using charcoal, rarely using pastels as the dust is dangerous to breathe in and she dislikes wearing face masks. In many of the early drawings of her daughters they were depicted with minimal coverings, this was done to show their vulnerability, the beauty of innocence, as well as the beauty of their bodies, a message that could not have been conveyed if they were fully clothed.

Annie Murphy-Robinson – Casey and the Red Ball (2008)

Annie Murphy-Robinson – Emily and the Eggshell (2011)

Annie Murphy-Robinson – Trophy (2011)

Annie Murphy-Robinson – Dragonfly Eyes (2011)

The artworks featuring her children are drawn from photographs, not from real life. The photographs are increased in size so that they are the same size as the final artwork and placed beside the canvas she is working on. She first outlines the image with compressed charcoal and then blocks in the light and dark. Secondly she uses 400 grain sandpaper to hand sand the entire image, this grinds the charcoal into the paper and sands off the sizing on the surface of the paper. Next she starts to fill in the details and sands them into the paper. Finally the rest of the details are then drawn onto the canvas, a process that can take weeks. She draws every day and averages twenty-five hours of drawing each week. In the comments of her Instagram account she hints that she teaches, therefore I presume she has a part time job teaching somewhere, in addition to devoting time to creating her own artworks.

Annie Murphy-Robinson – Casey the Damned (2013)

Annie Murphy-Robinson – Holly’s Three (date unknown)

Annie Murphy-Robinson – The Wedding Dress (2014)

Annie Murphy-Robinson – Theodora (2014)

As mentioned above there are limited details online about the artist so I can’t say how often she sands her works, maybe it is only the two times I mentioned, or maybe more. There are several places where Annie describes how she creates her artworks, one place is an article for Artists on Art, which also shows progress images of one of her drawings. Another place to find this information is the artist’s Instagram feed, again also showing works in progress. Annie Murphy-Robinson is currently represented by Arcadia Contemporary.