Local artist inspired by music, ballet and color

Irene Torres Raphael Murrell

Lake Holiday artist Raphael Murrell describes himself as “the Black Dale Chihuly.”

Like the glass sculptor of local fame, Murrell wears an eye patch because he has no vision in his right eye.

He holds two fine arts degrees from the University of Washington. He says he got a formal education to remove barriers. “It energized me enough to make moves in painting,” Murrell said.

He wanted to travel to see what art means to people around the world.

His connection as a flight attendant through Alaska Airlines made that possible, he said.

After the terrorist attack on 9-11, he decided to retire from the airline business. “The rigors of work drain you of your creativity,” he said.

A U.S. Army veteran and now the owner of The Creative Principal Art Studio, Murrell specializes in fine arts paintings, prints and drawings. There are a few sculptures from his hands as well.

A conversation with Murrell feels like a visit to the mountain. He talks about the need for positive images, how art is spiritual. He advises those who listen “to center yourself” and “follow your conscience.”

“People need to understand the painting process. Success comes with people liking your work,” he said. One of his art students, Michaelina Tenney, said, “Raphael is an old soul.”

He said he is inspired by his love of music and ballet, color, and how they are deeply ingrained in the process of artistry. He likes creating social connections and “socially mixing natural energies.”

Some of his work is wall-sized, on a grand scale, though he says he is starting to paint more home-sized art.

Living on the Key Peninsula has helped him develop his own consciousness of nature in the country.

A New York Times article on Jan. 1, 2010 featured Murrell as “an African American artist of this generation.”

Now 68 years old, he still credits his UW professor Dr. Jacob Lawrence, for instilling an interest in funding for nonprofits like the Murals Project and the Directory of Black Artists, which he continues to support.

“It elevates people when they work together,” he said.  He spent time in Bali and two weeks in Paris and said he was amazed at the art culture. He decided that “it is not necessary that you suffer (for your art), but it is not a bad thing.”

He often travels for extended visits to Nicaragua and is excited to see how those visits will affect his color –– referring to the vibrant hues so abundant in Nicaraguan life and art.

He gives advice to aspiring artists, too. “If you want to paint, do it.  Express yourself, your inner feelings. Your mood will be affected by the light in a certain way,” he said.

He compares working with oils and acrylics this way: “Oils are more archival, they last longer. And you can control your strokes enough to emulate feelings. With acrylics, you have to know what you are going to paint before you start.”

Murrells art ranges from $3,500 for a 6-by-6 foot, 4-inch oil on canvas piece, “Lady In Red,” to a $25 butterfly print, ink on 8 ½ by 11 inch paper.

He recycles wood to make his own frames and canvas stretchers. He said he wants to become more involved in the local art community, as its artists strive to elevate and promote each other.

For information, call (253) 858-5095 or visitraphaelmurrell.com