How a former graffiti artist graduated to oil painting

Malcolm P Murphy in front of a piece of his graffitiImage copyright Malcolm P Murphy Image caption Malcolm P Murphy as a teenage graffiti artist before he was caught by police aged 16

As a young graffiti artist Malcolm P Murphy spray-painted murals on brick walls and railway tracks around Cardiff.

But three decades later his oil paintings of the community where he grew up have gained far more attention than his rebellious teenage drawings.

Mr Murphy’s most recent scene, depicting Splott Road on a rainy evening, has been viewed by thousands of people on social media in recent weeks.

The attention has taken the professional sign-writer by surprise – he has shown work in galleries in the past, but painting is a hobby.

Artistic instincts

“People just pass by [these scenes] without taking a second glance. But in a painting I guess… it’s all about noticing, looking, seeing different angles.”

His artistic instincts were clear to his teachers. He was known to draw over his schoolbooks, while evenings were spent in his room where he would begin to plan elaborate murals.

He and h is friends would then paint late at night on blank walls and railway sidings.

Image copyright Malcolm P Murphy Image caption This picture of Splott Road in Cardiff has been viewed on social media around the world

“With a few friends, we called ourselves A Clash of Styles. We developed this group, and we were fortunate enough to find discontinued aerosol cans for sale in Newport.

“We would save up our dinner money, pocket money, go hungry at some points during the week, and go [to buy aerosols] every Saturday.

“We’d put them in our rucksack, and we would go out that night and spray these walls in and around the Cardiff area.”

Murphy seems to have no regrets about his graffiti art, which to others appeared to be vandalism.

Caught by police

Eventually, aged 16, he and his friends were caught, ending his graffiti career.

“We were spraying the back of Splott swimming baths, which was a great big white wall.

“As a result of being caught the police told the school, and we had to wash off this mural – which we hadn’t finished.

“Thankfully my form teacher at the time knew a traditional sign-writer who worked in Penarth, so I went there as part of the punishment.”

Here he learnt the techniques of the trade that would become his career.

Image caption Malcolm P Murphy works from his home studio in Splott

Now 47, he has enjoyed a full career, not just writing signs but also painting fairground attractions and the galloping horses of countless carousels.

Mr Murphy said he loved the reaction when a friend shared his painting of Splott Road online.

As well as being seen around the world, it prompted a flurry of emails enquiring about his fine art.

“When I painted that, I didn’t think for a minute that it would get any response whatsoever,” he said.

But Mr Murphy, who has converted the lounge of his terraced home in Splott into a studio, said he would not be churning out similar images.

And he has not sold the original image, despite several offers.

“I have painted commercially since the age of 16, so this is a form of escapism for me,” he said.