Many have been calling out “who is the face behind the faces or caricatures” recently on social media, who is the girl behind Jen Murphy Sketches and the sports caricatures that have come to life since the beginning of 2015. sportswomen.ie caught up with Jen to find out more about her love of sketching and sport.
“Some people were even questioning was I really from Mayo and the answer is OF COURSE. No better County! Well here I am.”
Originally known as Jennifer and not Jen, she has gone with the shorter version of her name. A 28 year old Graphic Designer who studied visual communications and photography in Limerick for four years, Jen originally set out with the intent of becoming an Art teacher wanting to branch into Art therapy later on (an area that still intrigues her) but experiencing all disciplines in college she was taken on another path. She quickly found the Graphics side of things very appealing and it was something she had never tried before.
Growing up Jen spent her time scribbling on the walls of her parents’ house, drawing eyes on her granny’s glasses, and colouring in between the tiles of the wall while on the phone. Her younger sister had a hard time of it as she usually got the blame for the delights on the wall. She tattooed her dolls and somewhere in the world she reckons a child received a Christmas box with a doll that had a tattoo drawn on its forehead. She drew on everyone and everything !
From an early age Jen’s love of drawing and sports were hugely encouraged by both her parents and national school teachers. She spent a lot of her time with her sports mad granny, watching sport instead of cartoons or taking penalties while her granny stood in goal. Many lamp shades were broken with a ball or a racket in her granny’s hallway growing up but she would always say don’t tell your mother. Jen’s mam, her best critic, has played a huge role in Jen’s development as an artist. With anyone who wants to be top of their game, she is continuously looking to better herself. To her credit, Jen has five All Ireland Title medals in art and coincidentally they were all sports related imagery. Jen admits to being competitive deep down but any success she has gained she puts down to the backing and encouragement of her family and a trio of national school teachers who were each legends in their own right.
You don’t appreciate people like that until you are older and I put it down to them 100%. Your passion for sport or anything is built into you from an early age and I believe it starts in schooling.
From the moment she entered national school, her creative flair was recognized and Jen was lucky to have an abundance of art and sport in her school. She loved both.
“You would dread the day you forgot your football boots or gear and not be able to play at lunch time. The principal at the time used to ref a game of gaelic football or soccer every day without fail. On some occasions we would be delighted to get an extra 45 minutes in the evenings for a game of rounder’s or basketball should the sun be beaming. I even knocked my spine out of alignment trying my skill at a bicycle kick !”
She even managed to injure herself while doing art, snapping 2 tendons in her finger !
In school, Jen remembers looking up to Emma Mullin, who went on to play with Mayo LGFA and win four All Ireland’s. Mullin was called up to Sue Ronan’s international team as well as being an influential player of the Castlebar Celtic team. She was a leader on and off the field. Jen remembers the 2013 FAI Umbro Women’s Senior Cup Final, Raheny United v Castlebar Celtic, where Mullin came on as a substitute producing their comeback goal, but unfortunately unlucky at the end of the day not to win.
During her school years Jen played both football and soccer as well as playing with the Neale Ladies Gaelic Football Team. She crossed the border into Galway for her secondary school years and played both Gaelic Football and soccer with Presentation College Headford. In fifth year her right knee began to give her trouble dislocating any chance it got. “It still does but we are learning to live with each other. I come from a family tree of dodgy knees, I knew I was best trading the boots for the paintbrush.”
After her studies, Jen went to Australia to see where her design career could take her. On the contrary, she spent a year doing very little with art and design. Looking back it didn’t suit her not to be illustrating or being creative in some way. “It’s something I had always relied on and kept me focused. It kept me happy. I had never gone a day without designing something and now I had spent a year or so without it in my life.” She had intended staying longer in Australia but while she was away she was dealt with news that changed her whole outlook on life and work. She lost her father tragically and unexpectedly while away. “He had always been a big character in my life with an abundance of wit and love of sport. From an early age he had coached the local girls soccer team and if he wasn’t coaching I would always hear him shouting on the side-line.”
Settling back in Ireland Jen quickly immersed herself back into the things she had been missing out on while away. This helped her to keep her mind off things and stay focused. The art supplies were out in full force. She remembers sitting watching a ladies Gaelic Football game with her sports mad granny one evening and realized she didn’t know who half the players were. She went online to find out who these players were and she found it was easier to find out what they had for breakfast rather than about their sporting achievements, stats and positions.
“This proved very annoying. It was then I decided to dig deep and combine both my loves. I created one of my first sportswomen caricatures before a league game between Galway and Mayo earlier this year. Using Mayo’s Fiona McHale as my first “guinea pig” I put it out there online. This was purely to promote the player, to put a face to the name you might hear being mentioned. Let’s be honest if you identify with someone it’s usually with their face. It’s almost like a logo, it is the first thing you look at and I thought if you can get these faces out there then maybe in some small way you can promote the game and these athletes.”
What started out as a way of bringing herself up to speed on Ladies Gaelic Football, Jen’s sketches were soon becoming very popular on social media. She was at a stage where she rarely needed a programme, she could identify the players by face. She was approached by the Ladies Gaelic Football Association to collaborate with the launch of the Championship, using the caricature player profile style and painting the players as the hero’s they were, and deserved to be recognized as.
“It is also pretty cool to be able to say I sketched in Croke Park, most people yearn to play there but I was happy to whack out the brush and easel for the occasion.”
Jen believes the profile of women’s sports is changing and is in no doubt that it is growing, but she thinks it needs a bit more miracle grow ! She mentioned the launch of the WGPA by Aoife Lane and Co at the beginning of the year and how it has been a huge step in the right direction for the Gaelic Football and Camogie players.
Jen Murphy came to our attention through twitter and instagram, her sketches were very eye catching and sportswomen.ie approached Jen with the idea of doing something together to help promote women in sport. We met half way in Limerick in July, discussed some possible ideas and aired our beef about the lack of coverage of women’s sport. The final result is the sportswomen 2016 calendar. With only 12 months to play with it was difficult to pick and choose who and what to include and there is no doubt we have left out loads, we’ll just have to do another one next year ! sportswomen.ie would like to thank Jen Murphy for her outstanding work and the hours she put into the calendar.
Whatever lies in the future for Jen Murphy Sketches, she has brought great colour and character into the world of Irish women’s sport.
Thank you Jen.
The sportswomen 2016 calendar can be purchased here.