From Disney to NASA.... Ross Murray

Monday 06 March 2023

Welcome to Creative Patapatai, our ongoing series of interviews with artists, cultural figures, and creative producers from across the Bay of Plenty.  Ross Murray is influenced by a combination of comic books and vintage advertising. He’s created artwork for clients such as Lonely Planet, NASA, Disney, Apple, Rolling Stone Magazine, The Washington Post, Garage Project, and The Spinoff. Part of his work involves re-watching Disney princess movies. Yes, we’re jealous.

Enjoy this excerpt from our Korero and for the full podcast find us on Spotify or Apple Music.

I’m an illustrator. My work is used for all sorts of things – from books and beer cans to editorial illustrations and ad campaigns. I also make comics for grown-ups and picture books for kids. My most recent picture book is called Muki and Pickles and is out now from Beatnik Publishing.

What are the earliest stories you remember hearing? The ones that told you about the world?

I remember stories of great grandfathers. One of them clinging to floating wreckage all night in the middle of the ocean after his ship was bombed during the war. Another doing the back-breaking work of turning wetland into pasture on the Rangitaiki Plains. Stories of endurance through hard times which mostly had the effect of making me feel pathetic about ever complaining about anything. I’ve since found the strength to overcome that.

What’s your favourite Bay of Plenty landscape, park, building, location, suburb, or side street? 

Grieve Road in Otakiri is pretty special to me. It’s where the family farm is and where multiple generations of Murrays have grown up. The bridge on the corner is an especially memorable spot and where I once ran over a cow in my Mazda 626.


For you as a creative person, who are three influential artists or thinkers?

I was fortunate enough to be tutored by Welby Ings whilst studying graphic design at AUT. Welby is a terrific teacher and instilled in me the importance of setting high standards and caring about your work.

Naomi Klein has influenced how I see the world. Her books No Logo and This Changes Everything had a big effect on me.

In terms of artists, I’d have to say Stanley Kubrick. I’ve always been in awe at the dizzying range of his films. From noir to absurdist comedy to science fiction to psychosexual drama to period pieces to war films to horror! But no matter what the genre, his immaculate sensibility reigns supreme.

If the Prime Minister asked you to make up a new policy or law for New Zealand, what would it be? 

Probably a Universal Basic Income.

In one sentence, can you define art?

Art is an awkward attempt to make sense of the world.

What was your first real job?

It probably can’t be called a real job but I taught English in Japan for a couple of years after uni. When I got back I got a job as an in-house artist / designer at an ad agency in Auckland. After 3 or 4 years doing that, I started what I’m doing now which is being a freelance illustrator. In the last couple of years I’ve done a lot of work for Disney. When I’m sitting around during the day rewatching Disney Princess movies for reference, my kids will often ask me when I’m going to get a real job.

What word of advice would you offer an aspiring creative person?

Do it for yourself. If other people connect with what you make, consider it a bonus.

What is your definition of happiness?

Extreme health and a little more time.