Daniel Patrick Murphy discovered he had a knack for art at age 13.
“I saw this picture of my grandfather, and I just drew it,” said Murphy, 62, of unincorporated Yelm. “I showed it to my mother and she just freaked out. She didn’t know I could do it, and I didn’t know it either.”
But ever since that moment, art has been a huge part of his life.
Murphy is a self-taught artist who specializes in face sculptures. The method he uses involves pressing stoneware into an original mold. Each piece dries for almost a month before he fires it for about 17 hours at temperatures that reach up to 2,300 degrees. After that, a permanent stain is airbrushed on the sculpture, and then it’s sealed.
Murphy prefers using multiple earth tone colors of clay; the process gives each piece a much different look than poured ceramic. Instead of clay, his sculptures look like wood carvings.
“It’s an ancient method,” he said. “But the method gives you a thicker, stronger piece. The greatest compliment I get is when I’m at an art show and the wood carvers come up and say, ‘What kind of wood is this?’”
Murphy recently paired up with Beverly Vines-Haines, co-founder of Ice Chips Candy, to begin marketing a limited series of sculptures they’re referring to as “patriots.” So far, he’s finished ones of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne. Sculptures of Charlton Heston and Ronald Reagan are in the works.
They also are planning to include a famous woman for the series, which they hope to sell for $349 each. Eventually, they would like to market the series to Cabela’s and other retailers.
Even though the subjects for that particular series are famous Republicans, Murphy said he doesn’t create art to make a political statement.
In fact, there are famous faces, including Democrats, that he’d like to sculpt and market in the future.
“I’ve always wanted to sculpt John F. Kennedy and Abe Lincoln,” he said. “I’m not very political, personally.”
Murphy did art shows for many years around the region, and most of his work — which he signs “Murf” — involved Western faces such as cowboys and Native Americans. He estimates that he’s created hundreds of sculptures.
One of them is a bronze memorial that pays homage to fallen police officers and was commissioned by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs in Lacey, and a bronze centennial marker in Yelm City Park. He’s also created work for Caesars Palace and the MGM Grand casinos in Las Vegas as well as at several Northwest-based banks and restaurants.
“My stock has never been big,” Murphy said. “I’ve always sold everything I’ve made.”
Besides art, Murphy finds great joy sharing Christianity with others. He is an ordained minister, and led a church in the Wenatchee area for several years.
Murphy offers “preach and teach” art classes, where he teaches an inspirational message while working in clay. He has created several sculptures of angels and Jesus Christ, and memorial sculptures on commission.
“I don’t need people to sit and model for me, I know the anatomy of the face so well I can ad-lib with photographs,” Murphy said.
“I will never, never retire,” he said. “I will sculpt until I breathe my last breath. I will preach the gospel until I breathe my last breath.”Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 firstname.lastname@example.org @Lisa_Pemberton