Sophie Thunder-Murphy is an electric New York City based artist. She first grabbed our attention some years back as the wife of Daddy Long Leg’s drummer, Josh Styles. It’s not only her unique beauty that catches one’s eyes, but her fantastic vintage rock ‘n’ roll style. Sophie just happens to look like she walked out of an issue of 70s British Nova magazine or off a David Bowie album cover. Her look is that dead on. And don’t get us started on her super-fab shag hairstyle! Sophie also has the sweetest nature, showcased with the biggest smile in town.
Besides being visually stunning, her artwork is also quite alluring. An early fixation with pinups, sensuality and rock ‘n’ roll triggered her imagination. She studied Illustration in her birthplace, London, and began to take commissions for numerous record covers and poster artwork from bands and record companies. She also began to create more personal figurative pieces in oil, crayon, and watercolor, referencing snapshots, yearbooks, 17th century art and found images.
Exhibiting in London, New York and Paris over the years, she currently resides in New York and is pushing the scale of her portraits, recently completing her largest commission to date.
Photography Alexander Thompson. Stylist Maria Ayala. Vintage clothing courtesy Resurrection Vintage NY. https://www.instagram.com/painted_teenage_blue/?hl=en
PONYBOY: Sophie, you’re from London. Tell us about your upbringing and how you got to NYC.
SOPHIE THUNDER-MURPHY: I was raised in what I later realized was a very creative environment. I mean I always knew it, but it took a while to discover that not everyone was brought up surrounded by records and paintings and antiques. My dad restored antique furniture, so we never had anything later than 1930s in the house. All my mum’s records were stored in my room, so I would constantly return to look at the covers and eventually came to listen to them, once I could work the stereo system! My parents are both great artists in their own right with different tastes in a lot of ways, so I had a mix of interests that sunk in somewhat subconsciously. I came to New York after meeting Josh at a Stalkers show in London in 2007. After a kind of long distance relationship, we tied the knot in 2009 and I’ve been here ever since!
PONYBOY: Did you go to school to study art or how did you get into art?
SOPHIE THUNDER-MURPHY: I was always driven to draw from as far back as I can recall. So I couldn’t wait to leave school and study art. Once I did though, I started to feel it wasn’t for me. I felt very trapped in that environment. The only parts I sincerely enjoyed were the life drawing classes.
PONYBOY: Where do you get inspiration from for your work?
SOPHIE THUNDER-MURPHY: It’s actually usually photography that influences me. There were certain visionaries who were involved in the UK magazine world in the 60s and 70s, like Harri Peccinotti and David Parkinson. When I see their work, my mind completely correlates with what turned them on. On the flip side, I adore 17th century art, when certain painters took it in a more human direction. Anthony van Dyck and Peter Lely, I look to the most.
PONYBOY: What mediums do you primarily work in?
SOPHIE THUNDER-MURPHY: Primarily oil paint, also oil pastels and watercolor.
PONYBOY: How did the Iggy Pop “centerfold” image come about for Jonathan Toubin’s TV Eye rock club?
SOPHIE THUNDER-MURPHY: The club was in the works for a while and Jonathan had mentioned he wanted a huge painting to be the focal point of the bar, reminiscent of the baroque nudes you see in old bar rooms. After some back and forth over who the subject should be, Toubin suggested Iggy – the ultimate man loved by girls and boys alike!
PONYBOY: Do you have any upcoming exhibits?
SOPHIE THUNDER-MURPHY: I am currently working on a body of work to exhibit – when and where to be determined. I believe the first one could be Berlin though.
PONYBOY: What aspirations do you have in the future, as far as your art is concerned?
SOPHIE THUNDER-MURPHY: I want to keep the mental confines open and to keep taking the painting to new places – having ideas of creating sewn pieces or incorporating pictures into some sort of installation. Josh and I are also talking about collaborating on printing one-off fabrics and wallpaper.
PONYBOY: We’ve always been fans of your vintage look/style. What designers would you say over the years have been your favorite and most influential in your life and work?
SOPHIE THUNDER-MURPHY: Thank you! My favourites will always be Mr. Freedom, John & Molly Dove (Wonder Workshop), Granny Takes a Trip, Anthony Price, Kansai Yamamoto, 1940s and 50s tailoring, western wear, and anything Malcolm McLaren had anything to do with will always be on my want list. He had a foresight unmatched by anyone.
PONYBOY: You are obviously very influenced by music. What types of music or bands are you a fan of?
SOPHIE THUNDER-MURPHY: Wow, that’s tough! I guess it would all fall under what I would call rock ‘n’ roll. It’s all about the attitude really. I have an affinity for stuff that falls in that mysterious space between genres. Recent months constant rotation has been Brinsley Schwartz, Paley Brothers, Badfinger, Box Tops, Hudson Brothers, Sidewinders, Monkees, and as usual Doug Sahm, and Michael Nesmith.