Kevin Murphy’s Academy of Art expands to Hunterdon County

Kevin Murphy was working in construction in New York, when one day he decided he had had enough.

“Cold winters, early mornings, it just got too much,” he said. “I was young and decided I wanted to do something else.”

The other thing turned into a successful career as an award-winning and internationally recognized portrait painter and illustrator.

Jim Crispo, of Flemington, working in charcoal.

Murphy, inspired by the old masters, wanted to transmit his knowledge to apprentices via the Academy of Arts in Hillsborough. The school has been so successful that Murphy is opening a second art academy in Lebanon and planning a third on Long Island in September. He firmly believes: “Great artists are not born. They are trained. He urged those interested not to be intimidated and added that the academy was also perfect for beginners.

Hunterdon Art Academy will be run by Zoe Zylowski, a contemporary realist painter from Hillsborough. She studied with Murphy and artist Andrew Lattimore. She specializes in portraiture, figurative work and still lifes. It has been recognized internationally, nationally and locally. She was commissioned to do a portrait of four-time Olympian Joetta Clark Diggs. “She’s a fantastic performer and she uses the same techniques I use at Hillsborough,” Murphy said.

READ: Central Jersey student artists honored in national competition

Murphy began his career by combining his love of science fiction and fantasy books with his interest in art. “I studied art, read a lot of books, and I’m actually mostly self-taught,” he said. next year or so to develop my skills.

Kevin Murphy with student Echo Chen, from Hillsborough, with his self-portrait.

In the years since, he has been commissioned to create artwork for nearly 250 commercial works, with a clientele that includes Random House, National Geographic, RJ Reynolds, Viacom, Virgin Records, Rolling Stones and more. He also worked with George RR Martin as the art director of an independent publishing house that released the limited edition Game of Throne series. “It was a monumental undertaking. Each book … contained 72 drawings, four paintings,” he said.

The turning point in his career was “working with Stefan Sagmeister, I was assigned to do the cover for the Bridges to Babylon album in 1997 for the Rolling Stones, as well as all the merchandise for the tour”. After that, Murphy said his career really took off and he decided to change direction and become a portrait painter. Since then, he has created approximately 150 portraits for clients from diverse backgrounds.

READ: Middlesex County announces arts grant winners

“I was at a point in my career where I wanted to do something different,” Murphy said. “I wanted to teach. It’s a tradition in the arts, where the old masters took on apprentices and the apprentices became masters in their own right. These skills are not ours to keep, they have to be shared and passed on. I can teach anyone to do this.

He opened the Hillsborough site in 2009. Today his pupils are adults and children, aged 7 to 76, some of whom are very serious about art, and others who simply want to make a hobby.

“All training at the Academy of Arts is individual,” he said. “We train students from scratch, starting with drawing in charcoal first and continuing until we get to painting. It’s a very controlled analytical approach, no different from learning math. You start with addition and subtraction, before getting to multiplication and division.

Janice Moser from Bridgewater working on the eye painting exercise.

“There are multiple approaches to oil painting and drawing, and I teach a number of ways to go about it. It’s not about pencil and brush. It’s “is about how you think about what you see. If you don’t know how to process what you see, you don’t know what to do with it,” he said, adding that he teaches students how to process the information they see and how to approach drawing and painting.

Murphy, pointing to the paintings on the walls of his school, said: ‘I can teach anyone to do what we do. One of our big problems is that people think it’s only for prodigies. It’s not true. What you see on our walls and on our website is typical of what we get from everyone else. He added that his philosophy was different from that of many art schools, where people sit in front of a canvas and paint. “There is not a lot of teaching. I would say that I have no natural gift, but I have been working as a professional artist since I was 23 years old.

READ: Student artwork on display at Metuchen and Milltown libraries

He proudly added that his students have a 100% acceptance rate in the best art universities in the world and have been awarded presidential scholarships. “Additionally, high school students in our program have been recognized in national and international competitions in direct competition with top professionals,” he said.

One of her students, Echo Chen, 18, said her art really improved by taking classes at the Art Academy.

“I’ve been taking lessons for almost four years here, and I had a lot of ideas but couldn’t execute them before I came here,” Chen said. “He has really helped me bring my ideas to life. I can paint now in a way that I never thought I could. I love being able to express my ideas in a way that others can see what I see and feel what I feel.

Chen plans to spend a gap year at the Academy before starting college. She painted the newest portrait in the Township of Hillsborough Portrait Gallery, which will hang in the town hall meeting room. This is the portrait of Governor Peter D. Vroom (1791-1873).

The Art Academy is located at 3 Jill Court, Building 15 Suite 5, Hillsborough, NJ and 56 Payne Road, Country Square Plaza, Lebanon. For more information, visit

Mildred D. Field