SOLANA BEACH — Their creations couldn’t be more different, but two artists who will be featured in the ninth annual ArtWalk NTC @ Liberty Station have one thing in common: Solana Beach.
Todd Murphy’s eclectic works run the gamut, from pop art and abstracts to dog portraits and a combination of comic books and movie classics with a touch sarcasm.
Inspired by Andy Warhol, music, movies and mutts, Murphy said his art can’t be defined by one style.
“I swing like a pendulum, from decorative to things with a message,” he said. “It’s just the way I create. I try not to do something twice. I don’t think my work could necessarily be recognized as part of a ‘Todd Murphy collection.’ “I definitely like pop culture,” Murphy added. “I like art that defines a distinctive time period and subcultures.
“Say you’re a ‘Star Wars’ fan,” he explained. “People in that subculture, they want to get their hands on a piece that’s distinct because it has an emotional connection for them. They’ve put their livelihood into it.”
A Los Angeles native, Murphy graduated from the University of California Santa Barbara with an art degree and was trained in painting, drawing, ceramics, woodworking and photography. He moved to San Diego in 2005 for a job as a retail designer.
At one point he was hoping to design logos for T-shirts, skateboards and surfboards. “That kind of illustrating has always been attractive to me,” he said.
No longer involved in retail, Murphy is a disc jockey for private parties and classifies himself primarily a painter — his favorite medium — currently focused on dog portraits. He plans to show his “smush-faced dogs” at ArtWalk.
“I create other things but this is my anchor,” he said.
Murphy began painting canines to pay back a favor to his girlfriend. The pieces are hung on the wall across from his front door.
“As people came over, they would say they knew someone who would want something like that of their dog,” he said. His first “commissioned” portrait was of a dog that had passed away.
Murphy said he would like to own his own gallery one day, but for now he enjoys showing at festivals.
“I like to be with my art and talk to people,” he said. His pieces are also on display at gyms and office buildings rather than galleries in Cedros Design District, which is just a few blocks from his Solana Beach home.
John Maher’s work, on the other hand, is prominently displayed at Form and Function, a contemporary boutique on Cedros Avenue.
A professional surfer, Maher said he transitioned to ocean photography after receiving positive feedback from pictures posted on a blog designed to share his travel adventures.
“The blog was tailored to appease sponsors,” he said. “As it gained momentum, people were asking if they could buy the photographs. Last year enough people had approached me that I upgraded my gear.”
Not professionally trained as a photographer, he got advice on lenses and settings from his father, a marketing director.
His most popular shot — and one of the most challenging he’s taken — is a black-and-white underwater photo of a breaking wave.
“It’s the beauty before the beat down,” he said.
The picture was taken last September in the Mentawai Islands off Sumatra.
“It’s kind of abstract,” he said. “People think it’s storm clouds. All the elements aligned — the area on the reef, the water quality. It’s hard to get exposure under water. You need a lot of light and the wave breaking cuts out the light.”
Maher said he was slammed into the reef and slightly injured trying to get the shot.
At ArtWalk, Maher will be displaying a collection of photographs taken of La Jolla’s Black’s Beach in the past six months that feature several unique angels, he said.
His advice to budding photographers is to focus on passions.
“A lot of good comes from documenting something else you are good at,” he said. “Someone who plays soccer, for example, can tell a story about the sport with their lens.”
Formerly called ArtWalk on the Bay, ArtWalk NTC @ Liberty Station will feature more than 175 artists from throughout the country and Mexico. The Aug. 16 and Aug. 17 event will also offer music, food and a wine and beer pavilion.
“It’s important that people from North County make an effort to go to live art events downtown to see what’s out there,” Murphy said. “These events depend on attendance. Because of the Internet, it’s easy to view things online.
“But if you want the arts to stay around you have to support them by being there,” he added. “Otherwise they’ll fizzle out.”