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Brighton Journal | 25th January 2020

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Meet Dayna Murphy – Up & Coming Illustrator Making Instagram Her Own

Meet Dayna Murphy – Up & Coming Illustrator Making Instagram Her Own
Hannah Midgley

Looking at Dayna’s Instagram, she might strike you as the ultimate cool girl, but her illustrations are what really make her stand out. At only 19 the budding artist has garnered a respectable following on social media with over 5,000 followers on Instagram – the main platform she uses to showcase her work. We hunted her down to talk all things Brighton, uni, collabs and of course, art.


A post shared by Dayna Rose (@dayna.murphy) on

As I sit down to begin my interview with Dayna I see her drawing in a small notebook the size of a palm, “I was just drawing some people sat over there”, she gestures. It’s obviously something she does a lot…”I feel like I don’t really know when I’m gonna do a big drawing, I’ll just doodle all the time but sometimes I’m like ‘hey, this is pretty good’ and I just keep going”… “Once I try to force myself then I can’t do it”. 

Jokingly I ask if she takes paper with her everywhere she goes, “Yeah I’m that person drawing on the back of a bus ticket”, she laughs before trailing off, “I actually have done that before…”. That’s not the only form of doodling Dayna does though, “I like to draw in my notes”, she says whilst showing me her phone screen with a quick, but impressive, sketch of Jesus on.

Speaking of when her love of art began she tells me, “when I was 20 months old”. “My mum still has one of the drawings I did then…it’s actually pretty good” and not just for a 3 year old, apparently.

Dayna has a strong following on social media, which she says she “likes to think” comes about from her artwork. “I kind of wanted just to have an art Instagram but then I found that keeping a balance between my personal life…I feel like you’re approachable”. Her lifestyle is clearly a huge part of where her followers come from and why they’re so invested. In regards to her Instagram account she’s had it for a while, but gained a bigger following a couple of years ago.

to complete the trifecta A post shared by Dayna Rose (@dayna.murphy) on

Studying illustration at the University of Brighton, but hailing from Essex, Dayna has to juggle studies, social media and her personal work. Speaking of the opportunities her course awards her, “We had a New York exhibition, because we went to New York earlier this year…We had to make some work to represent that” she says excitedly. She used a combination of “Some images that I took myself and then some found imagery”.

In regards to her influences Dayna credits the trip “Well I’m actually pretty inspired by New York right now”. She goes on to say she loves how bold it is, “not necessarily the city itself but the taxis are yellow, the people are unapologetic”.

As well as focusing on producing prints and commissions, the young illustrator has her own big cartel site selling t-shirts, totes and hoodies. “I was scared that nobody would buy them…but then I started posting drawings, like this would be good on a t-shirt” and the rest is history. In regards to managing the site, Dayna’s not going it alone as she has her mum to lend her a hand, “It’s actually pretty stressful, sometimes we’ll get to quite a lot of orders.”

Another addition she ponders about is the idea of a print ‘lucky dip’, “you’d just order it and I’d send a random drawing…like a lucky dip”. As the conversation progresses it’s clear that there are many avenues Dayna could go down in the future, “Instagram is like testing the waters”.

“I wanna make really cheesy things like mugs or fidget spinners”, you can tell her work is definitely about creating something fun, “I also wanna make socks, everyone always need socks”. She explains it’s not as simple as it may look though, “If I was to do a patch I’d have to adapt the drawing so that it could sewn, like if it’s too detailed it won’t show up”. It’s a process of “trial and error” as she says. 

A post shared by Dayna Rose (@dayna.murphy) on

Speaking further of her clothing designs thus far she says, “I would love to do like actual fashion design”. She goes on, “I love high fashion…I appreciate it”. Her love of fashion is clear in many of her illustrations of people, “I look at fashion magazines, a lot of those shoots inspire me”. As far as a particular designer goes, Vetements is her favourite for inspiration right now, “with my drawings of girls I do really oversized ears and really oversized eyebrows”. Platform heels are also a common feature.

With Instagram being an accessible source of her work, she’s often approached by brands and companies to produce commissions. Currently she’s working on a particular collaboration project that’s yet to be announced, “I’m collaborating with Sullen Girl [@sullengirluk on Instagram] , it’s gonna be a limited edition collection of my drawings and designs, so there’ll be t-shirts, bags, bucket hats, boob tubes and stuff”. Questioning where her inspiration for these soon-to-come designs came from she says, “The art was kind of inspired by stuff I was doing before.” And in regards to her favourite collaboration so far it’s “Probably the one I’m doing now, they’re a really cool brand”.

When questioned about the leniency given to her for commissions she comments, “Some people give you quite a lot of freedom but some people are like ‘we want this, this and this'”. Another issue faced by illustrators is their struggle to actually get paid for their time, “some bands approach me and I’m like…’yeah pay me'”. “People think that because it’s drawing and because it’s fun for you [it can be free]”.

One day everything will be accepted A post shared by Dayna Rose (@dayna.murphy) on

Many of Dayna’s personal works reflect the social climate of the time, even if inadvertently, such as her piece ‘raceless sexless faces’, “they’re supposed to be this neutral, lone androgynous thing”, “it’s a reaction to the binary, not putting yourself into a box”. Her t-shirts also reflect some of these socio-political thoughts as she mentions that her most popular t-shirt design is the ‘boys wear makeup one’, “‘boys wear makeup and it’s not weird’ – that’s what it says”.

Hailing from Essex, Brighton appealed to Dayna primarily due to the University, “as soon as I got accepted to Brighton I didn’t go to the rest of [her university interviews].” When I ask her what she likes about Brighton she responds happily, “I just love how everyone is in Brighton, you feel more comfortable to express yourself and that eventually affects your work…everyone is so accepting”. I ask if she thinks she’ll remain in Brighton after her course has come to an end to which she responds nodding vigorously with a big smile, “Yes. Being around creativity inspires more creativity”.

Dayna tells me excitedly about some of what her course entails, “Every week we get a professional illustrator in and they do a talk”…”We all get to design a poster for them and then the illustrator will pick and you get a prize”.

Apparently they’ve even had a calligrapher come in, Seb Lester, who’s responsible for most of the satisying videos you’ll see on Facebook. “They’re always so inspiring, like ‘wow, I wanna be that'”. “I think I like the idea of giving a talk but if it came down to it I’d be too shy”.

Speaking further of her course she tells me, “I’m actually writing my dissertation on South Park…I’m really into satire”. ‘Is that something you’d want to do?’ “On my list of many things to do in my lifetime…” “My mum really wants me to do cartoons”.

A post shared by Dayna Rose (@dayna.murphy) on

As for Brighton’s culture, she has a few favourite food places, “the chilli pickle is so amazing”. She also remembers excitedly, “I love black mocha…they do soup and a sandwich for £5”. Part of Dayna’s appeal certainly has to be her distinct style so I ask about shopping, “when I’m in the lanes you find those one-off pieces” but she confesses she also likes “Topshop and stuff”.

After chatting about life in Brighton for a while I question where the artist sees herself in 5 years, “I really have no idea because if I look at myself 5 years ago, I would never think that I’d be where I am now”…”I would hope to be a successful illustrator”. Dreaming big, “I’d hope to start my own collective” which would include some of her other illustrator friends. Ultimately “The dream is to have a studio in London or Brighton.” But she also has other interests: “I’d like to have a constant collaboration with like a club where you do the posters”. Dayna’s previously been commissioned to create posters for bands.

The process of producing her art is drawing, scanning and editing to “make the blacks more black” and other technical stuff, “I’m really into digital collaging”. As for art, drawing isn’t the only form she’s interested in: “I wanna get more into film making…like image making” but not quite animation. She seems enthusiastic about the idea of teaching herself, as she has done for most of her art career. At only 19, Dayna is definitely open to the idea of furthering her skills, “I feel a bit like a baby”. She umms and ahhs over the idea of doing a masters once her current course is complete.

Talking of where her skills lie she says, “I wouldn’t consider illustration to be fine art but I feel like a lot of people don’t consider anything but fine art to be proper art…” Asking about the idea of  a potential exhibition in the future she says, “A lot of people that wouldn’t even think about going to an exhibition would still be on Instagram and see it” “It’s just like an online portfolio”.

Digressing to talk of tattoos, that’s yet another field that Dayna says she’d like to venture into one day, although apparently people have had her work tattooed on them. “I put a drawing on Tumblr and loads of people messaged me saying ‘Can I get it tattooed?'”

In regards to where she finds inspiration she says, “Some aesthetics of films really inspire me…about a year ago I was using a lot of pastel colours because of Wes Anderson”. “I definitely like ugly things and making them more aesthetic”, this idea is reflected in her mixed media New York art that she did for her course earlier in the year.

Funnily enough, Dayna has an interview later today for a sales assistant position at the art shop, CASS, which she seems excited about, “it’d be fun”… especially due to the discounted art supplies. I joke that her house must be full to the brim of art supplies already, “Literally, I’ve got five pots full of pens and I’ve got a massive draw full of art stuff”…”There’s lots of mediums I want to try, at the moment I just use pens, scan it and play with it on photoshop but I kind of want to do more painting”

Despite having a love for drawing from a very young age, Dayna confesses jokingly, “I had a bit of a quarter-life crisis…I thought I wanted to do beauty…It’s still art so I was really into that” but apparently after the interview she was drawn straight to the art department”. Yet she says she still does makeup for fun alongside her art.

“In college I sort of realised what illustration could be…I was very much just like ‘I like art'”. “My tutor was actually the best, she exposed me to the illustration world and that’s when I was like ‘that’s what I want to do'”.

The tap in question, pictured by Dayna

The tap in question, pictured by Dayna

We pause for another coffee, “I really like that tap” she gestures over to the lower half of a male statue, “I’m feeling inspired”, she laughs.

Her following still seems fresh to her as she anecdotally tells me, “A girl came up to me in the train station like ‘Are you Dayna? Can I get a photo?” I ask if that happens a lot, “That was the first and only time and I was so excited”.

I point out another drawing that catches my eye on her Instagram page, “oh yeah that was a live drawing”, she explains she drew it during an live session broadcasting to her followers. Dayna likes to interact with her followers, “I would like to do more of that, it’s quite fun, you can talk to people”.

Photography is yet another thing on Dayna’s ever-growing to do list, “I want to get into film…I like the idea of not knowing what you’ve taken until you get it developed”. “I want to do sort of the collage-y thing but with images that are mine”. In regards to what she’d focus on with that type of media she says, “forms and angles moreso than people”, “when the sky’s perfectly blue, I love how that looks on film”. “I love primary colours”, which is clear to see from looking at her work.

Trying to describe her art-style she goes on, “I don’t know because I can’t really look at it from an outside perspective” but with a little probing she says “I’d like to say bold…and contrasting…I do draw a lot of ladies”. “I draw myself a lot…but then sort of change things so it never actually ends up looking like me”.

Drawing with a beautiful pregnant life model A post shared by Dayna Rose (@dayna.murphy) on

She’s also dabbled in life drawing, “the way I draw from life is much more different”, “a lot more sketchy and fluid”. Despite finding it enjoyable she does say it can be challenging, “You get sometimes two minutes or two seconds or ten minutes, you’re not thinking about it too much”. To anyone who hopes to follow in Dayna’s footsteps she says, “life draw as much as possible…you’ll get used to using your hand”.

Mr puppet A post shared by Dayna Rose (@dayna.murphy) on

Scrolling through her Instagram it’s interesting to see how the style changes over time, however Dayna claims that’s mostly down to uni pushing her out of her comfort zone. For example, “I had to make puppets…So I stopped drawing for a while [to do that]”. She confesses it was a lot harder than she thought, “It is really tough”, but her creation (named ASAP Socky), looks pretty good to me. “It was fun though”.

Party update A post shared by Dayna Rose (@dayna.murphy) on

She’s also tried to experiment with 3D, which is something she wants to do more of but again, she laughs “It is really hard, it’s really confusing”. “It’s 3D on a 2D screen so you have to move the axis”.


A post shared by Dayna Rose (@dayna.murphy) on

Lastly on her (seemingly) endless bucket list, Dayna says she wants to do print making, but has been limited as there’s a specific course for it. “I really love the process of screen printing…You kind of have to separate all the colours into different layers, make them all black then expose the screen” she explains enthusiastically.

‘Do you ever need a break?’ I probe, “Yeah but I feel like I’m on that break right now”. Now that uni is over for the summer, Dayna is looking forward to a much needed pause, “You do need to take a step back sometimes otherwise you get into a rut”.

I question, ‘if you weren’t into drawing what would you be doing?’ “I really don’t know…Since I was so young my family were really encouraging”.

So what’s her plan for after uni? “No idea. Hopefully stay in Brighton for a little while.” But are there any other locations on the cards? “New York, for sure. But that’s definitely way down the line”. “Sometimes I think about Berlin – it’s very arty”.

As our talk comes to an end she says with a smile, “it sounds really cheesy but I’m really excited about my life at the moment”.

You can follow Dayna on Instagram here.

Check out her website here.

Find her clothes and prints for sale here.

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