From spray cans to fine art: Splott artist Malcolm Murphy causes a stir

A few weeks ago, a painting of Splott Road was posted on Twitter by Alan Bretos, a friend of local artist, Malcolm Murphy.  The tweet had over 2,000 likes and was shared far and wide.  It even inspired an article on Wales Online!  This week, Inksplott caught up with Malcolm P Murphy and found out a little more about how this local lad went from graffiti on walls to oil on canvas.   


Inksplott: Hi Malcolm, thanks for being interviewed for Inksplott.  Your paintings of Cardiff, including Splott and Adamsdown are fantastic.  Can you tell us a little about yourself and your work?



Malcolm: I’m 47 years old soon to be 48 and have lived in Splott for the most of my life.

I started drawing at the age of 10 and was inspired by the hip hop scene I saw on the television. At the age of 14, I was lucky enough to go to a dancing class on a Saturday morning with the freelance dance competition winner Fankie Johnson; this helped me learn the breakdance movement and with the breakdance movement came the graffiti art. And that was it – I saw exactly what I wanted to draw.

From there we started a crew named Clash of Styles.  Me and 3 members decided we were going to spray walls all around Cardiff.  We found an aerosol supplier in Newport selling discontinued cans , so we saved up pocket money and dinner money through the week a bought cans every Saturday (my mum got a little worried because we wasn’t eating through the day!).  However it was all worth it – we started doing top to bottom murals all over Cardiff.  We got chased a few times by the police and eventually got caught.  Spraying the back of Splott swimming pool a white wall – well we just could not resist.

That was the start of my traditional signwriting career as a result of being caught by the police they informed the school, in turn they gave me a day release from school on work experience where I meet a traditional signwriter who taught me the trade over a 5 year period.  This naturally developed into airbrush art and theming for theme parks and fairgrounds.

I always loved John Constable and Ls Lowry so I decided to try and copy their artwork and that’s how I learned fine art – I am self-taught.  I slowly started to produce painting after painting with oils and acrylics and loved it, including all the highs and lows.  Even still today I am not comfortable with any results of a finished painting – you always want to reach for better.


Inksplott: You’re also a sign-writer.  What’s the balance between sign-writing and fine art painting?   


Malcolm: The balance between signwriting and fine art is a difficult question, You just have to change hats , however if you see art the way I do I guess at the end of the day its all shapes and images the difference is the mediums used to express the motive in the picture. such as paintings seem to work well with oil and some images work well with enamels, its easy to make the mistake that one medium belongs to a specific criteria, and in many ways it does but you have to find out trial and era , is often the best approach and not being to critical on yourself in the process .

Inksplott: What do you think of the art scene around here?  How would you like to see it develop?


Malcolm: I think the aerosol art is fantastic however the fine art scene is a little behind in comparison to the rest of the country; there aren’t enough Galleries selling local work.



Inksplott: What’s your speciality?  Do you specialise in a certain medium?


Malcolm: No speciality – only the results of different mediums.


Inksplott: What advice would you give to aspiring artists?   How can they promote and sell their work?


Malcolm: I would say find a subject that really fills you with emotion and go for it.  Follow your hart and stay true to the subject the subject often finds you if you stick at it!  Also, search for Gallery’s that like what you are doing go to the gallery often and keep looking not only in Cardiff but afar as you can go.  Also online sales is always a good start.

Inksplott: You seem to love painting Cardiff – what’s the furthest you’ve travelled to paint?
Malcom: I do love Cardiff; its hard not to. I have travelled to Glasgow and Lands End with my commercial art projects.  I’ve always been on the move with the fairground business in West Wales.  I’ve pretty much covered the whole of Britain over the last 16 years.  My last job was for a showman client and I stayed for a month working in Boston, Lincolnshire.  You get see all sorts of life on the way – I have been incredibly lucky to experience these different places around Britain.
However, on balance, should I win the lottery I would like to settle in Cornwall!  As much as I love Cardiff, Cornwall just seems to be a mystical place, I can’t quiet but my finger on it!?

Inksplott: What’s your best story since starting out?


Malcolm: Winning the Parker Harris competition One love football art prize and having my work exhibited in the Lowry museum in Manchester along with L.s. Lowry himself, who himself also won the very first one love football art price.


Inksplott: Tell us a secret or something about Splott that we won’t know.


Malcolm:  That would be telling!


Inksplott: How do people find you?  Do you have a website / social media?  How can people interact with the project?


Malcolm: I have two websites with links to my Facebook page and Instagram also new to Twitter. 


Inksplott: That’s great – thank you so much for the interview!


You can read the Wales Online interview with Malcolm here: