Dom Murphy | ARTIST INTERVIEW | Studio Meala

Dom Murphy | ARTIST INTERVIEW | Studio Meala

HELLO and welcome to our new series of artist interviews! 

Here at Meala HQ, we love finding out about our favourite artists, how they entered the industry, built their craft, maintain their social life, what pets they have, and so on...

Sharing is caring, and we want to showcase some of our current Artists, past Artists, people we admire, people who are doing something unique and all around brilliant folks in our space. 

SO without further mumbling, let's start with one of our talented Character Designers and all around good guy, Dom Murphy!


Dom Murphy -  Character Designer at Studio Meala

BIO: Dom "Scruffy" Murphy, known as scruffyshenanigans online, is a Character Designer for the Animation Industry working in feature and T.V animated productions! He's a lifelong sufferer of chronic doodle-itis and an avid pun-mancer! 


1. When your friends ask you what your job is, what do you say?

Like most I guess I say I work in cartoons, coming from and currently living in a mostly agricultural area though, however you never know how that is going to be received. There can be genuine curiosity and amazement when you explain what you do though, and that is always a good conversation! One of my oldest friends put it in a way better than I ever could, that all of us folks working in animation are doing something very few get to do, work and follow our dreams, which is a lovely way of looking at it!

2. How did you get into animation as a character designer?

I've always had an interest in animation, and it was something I actively pursued for years, but, for the most part my career in animation kicked off pretty late in the grand scheme of things, it wasn't until my late twenties/approaching my thirties that I got a solid footing in the industry after a decent amount of time and graft trying to break in, which gives credence to that old saying I suppose of its never, ever too late and to hang in there. Having spent a few years posting my work online and gradually getting to know a few folks in the industry from it, a number of opportunities came my way from that. The main hurdle of getting into animation as someone that didn't go the college route I've found is that initial chance that gives you that "in" and little bit of experience to build on. A LOT of doors get shut in your face. I was fortunate enough however that a few directors had come to know of me and my work through instagram and they reached out giving me my first taste of TV and feature productions and what those pipelines looked like. Once that opportunity arose, it's been a dream come true ever since! I guess you could say I took the long way around!

3. Where did you study?

I didn't have the opportunity of going to college, family circumstances due to sickness at the time meant all hands on deck, so dreams and aspirations took a back burner and were replaced with building sites. I'm painfully working class as a result, not to say there is anything wrong with that, if anything it brings over a certain work ethic into animation, if something needs to get done it gets done. I was fortunate enough however in the first few animation projects I landed being incredibly insightful into multiple sides of the animation production process, they were masterclasses in a way and I try to treat every project to this day as such. There's something to be learned and taken away from each!

4. What do you use to create your artwork? 

I mostly use Adobe photoshop for my professional and personal work utilising a Wacom Cintiq and (multiple) ancient bamboo tablets. I default to photoshop for the most part, as it is the industry standard and being familiar with it allows you to integrate into a number of workflows and pipelines. In regards to the drawing tablets, there's a bit of a saga to the Wacom products with me. The Cintiq is great and all to get up close and personal with digital art. It helps to simulate the feel of traditional drawing and can be a big help with work, with it being the preferred tool on some projects. But I'd happily only use a bamboo tablet for the rest of my drawing career though if I had to. They were the perfect introductory tablet to anyone looking to take up digital art, took up little to no space, anything you want to do digitally you can more or less accomplish with them AND as far as tablets went they didn't break the bank account. The only downside was that they fried at the drop of a hat. Still though, it was a sad day when they stopped making them. I regularly scour Ebay and second hand places to thrift old ones for spares or parts. At the end of the day, the best tools for the job are the ones you have at your disposal and are most familiar with. There are other equally as impressive software and programmes out there!

5. Tell us about your drawing process!

My drawing process all depends on whether it's personal work or professional as I have different approaches to the workflows of each. In regards to personal work, like most things, it all starts with an idea, the inspiration for which can come from anywhere. For example, most of my ideas and brainstorming happens when doing the most mundane of things, be it walking/working out, listening to music or just mindlessly doodling, I find I am better able to untangle my thoughts and lay them out in my head that way. Once that idea is there then I start exploring and doodling. I'm my own worst enemy when it comes to being decisive in my own work so this can take anywhere between one page of drawings to a couple dozen, until a design gets locked in I consider everything a WIP that can be improved upon. I'm a character design guy at heart, it's my bread and butter so whenever I can, I try to apply that approach even to my personal work. Once that design is locked in I try to give it the full works of turns, expressions, poses etc.  Professional work on the other hand can be a very different creature altogether. Very rarely do you find that you have the luxury of  time allowance you would have in your personal work, for the most part there are deadlines and quotas to meet so I try to be as efficient as possible. The first step in that process may look like getting the design brief from the director/art director or reading a script/watching an animatic and from there I take away notes of what needs to be done, what they would like to see, research anything that may be required for design callouts then I try to deliver as many rough options  as I can that time allows for a first pass to give them an idea. After a round, or a few (depending on complexity of design and project), of notes, the design is refined and polished until one that the production is happy to continue with is locked in! 

6. Before you worked digitally, what did you use as your creative output?

I was always on the creative side of things, I doodled anywhere and everywhere I could, scraps of paper, cereal boxes, inside the margins of school books (much to the dismay of teachers). I was big into stop motion and claymation, Aardman were heroes of mine growing up. I remember even as a kid using those throwaway wind up instant cameras for claymation fun and trying to replicate Wallace and Gromit or Morph. All that carried over into later life where I still doodle (probably more than I should) and dabble in more hands-on physical forms of art like watercolour, keeping sketchbooks and messing with clay in my spare time. I've found the deeper you get into the commercial art world, where it can feel sometimes that everything you do creatively should have monetary or career furthering value attached to it, where a certain level of guilt can arise if it doesn't, having a few art hobbies you keep back just for yourself and your own pleasure can be a wonderful thing in keeping that creative spark burning!

7. Show us your work space!

  1. Asus pro artist monitor- great when you want to take it easy on your neck
  2. Cintiq 16 inch pro - gets the job done while not taking up too much space and easy to move around
  3. hydraulic desk riser - great addition to any workspace without going all in on a standing desk, can adjust to a height you need at any given time
  4. Ancient laptop - don't have it in me to part with it, too many memories
  5. Wacom bamboo - my trusty little doodlin' companion
  6. Orthopaedic chair with Lumbar support - a must have for any artist in my opinion, look after your back kids!
  7. Desk light- helps the peepers
  8. Tunes - a necessity!
  9. Poor wire management
  10. PC that keeps on keepin on
  11. Can never have too many screens
  12. "Fossil" collection
  13. Gum - helps me think
  14. Post it notes - I use too many

8. Do you listen to anything while you work?

Of course! I'm not one that likes or requires complete silence when I work. While that may work for some, it ain't my scene. I'm a Springsteen guy, as a result nothing gets done without having some of the boss' music on in the background, it's a necessity!

9. How do you handle work life balance?

 I can only speak from my own experience, but the very nature of the animation industry can lead to work/life balance being a difficult one to strike. With there being very little security in the animation industry for the most part as a whole, be that short contracts or living project to project, you can find yourself in this constant mindset that something always needs to be done to keep up with it, that you need to be updating and working on your portfolio/body of work/socials, as you don't know what the future holds. It can easily spill over and eat into your downtime. Thankfully though, through trial and error, I've found that keeping normal work hours as best as you can and being strict that your off time is your off time and switching off can help get a better handle on it. It's a battle of attrition to get right and it doesn't always go to plan, but your body and mind will thank you for it and you can even become more productive because of it!

10. What do you like to do when you're not working?

I'm fortunate enough that I still gain a great deal of pleasure from just drawing and doodling for myself. Also, video games play a big part in my downtime. When not doing that I like to cook and bake, I'm currently on that never ending quest to bake the perfect bread. I lift heavy stuff, there's a certain level of satisfaction and simplicity in moving something heavy from A to B especially in the hustle and bustle of the modern world where most things are overly complicated, it can be therapeutic in a way. I spend a good amount of time puttering around the garden in an attempt to grow stuff, be that flower or veggie experiments.  I also like to go for the odd ramble and hike, Kilkenny is situated right bang on the south Leinster way so there's no shortage of options for strolls with a fair few ring loop wood walks dotted throughout. Basically old folk hobbies, even bird watching is starting to look appealing!

11. What's your best bit of wisdom for younger artists? 

Honestly, if anyone was to take any bit of advice or wisdom away from anything I say it would be this, be ready. I don't mean be ready in the sense of skill or quality of work, chances are when the opportunity arises you will be more than capable of that. It's more in the sense of being ready for the workload and work ethic that comes with a professional animation industry job. Very rarely do I see folks explain to younger artists and graduates what workload to expect when entering the industry. As a character designer/designer in general for example, you can expect to be doing dozens of drawings per week, if not more, depending on the project. There is very little room for ego, falling in love with your initial designs can be counterproductive as you will need to take notes and apply them to deliver results within the production time frame. Now most studios are good at managing your workload out and actively encourage you to take it easy and not overwork yourself,  but If you find yourself overwhelmed with the workload it can lead to burnout pretty quick, so going in with a plan and adhering to it, recognising when to ask for help can make all the difference and keep the job being fun, which is why we all got into it in the first place!

12. Favourite Artist at the moment?

Another hard one to pin down as there's a few at the minute. One that keeps popping up, or a few would be more accurate, are old cartoons and their styles from when I was growing up, the classic Klasky Csupo cartoons in particular, Rugrats, Real Monsters, The Wild Thornberrys etc. There was a certain aesthetic to those styles I find very appealing, rare occurrences in kids tv where they aren't afraid to show the little quirks and unique features of human characteristics in their designs, not being afraid to break stereotypical beauty standards or having something look pretty just for prettys sake. Something I'd love to see more of in modern cartoons and try to apply to my own work.

13. Who are your artistic influences?

Oh wow, how long have you got? There are loads of influences in my work! Not just in the field of animation, but video games, literature, illustration and live action film. I was a 90s kid, and as a result I got exposed to that perfect blend of nostalgia of the 80s from older siblings and then the kookiness that the 90s brought, with a sprinkling of anime in between. In animation, I grew up on the classic Saturday morning and after school shows of Cartoon Network, The Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, to get more specific there's the obvious ones such as Genndy Tartakovsky and Craig McCracken that filled my childhood with so many memorable shows that left a lasting impression, also, Peter Lord and Nick Park of Aardman with Wallace and Gromit, all artists whose current work still fills me with awe. Some of my earliest cartoon memories are that of Don Bluth's feature work, to this day I get misty eyed over The Land Before Time, and of course, there's the great Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. Further afield then, there's video games.  With how much of a part they play in my life on a near daily basis they can’t help but influence my work. In literature and film, you have the likes of Tolkien's books and Jacksons adaptations of them, Tove Jansson and anything Moomin related, also Roald Dahl with Quentin Blake's beautiful illustration work! I have to say also, every person I've had the pleasure of working with, past and present, has influenced my work greatly, a little bit always seeps into your personal work, currently that would be the Meala gang and the certain style and flavour they bring to their productions thats spilling over into a lot of my personal work at the minute! It's a mixed bag and melting pot of influences!

14. What else inspires you? 

It might sound like an odd way to be inspired but I love seeing friends/coworkers and peers succeed in whatever it is they are doing. There is nothing more inspirational for me than seeing someone's idea/concept go from humble beginnings to full blown projects/pitches or productions through sheer hard work, perseverance and passion. It lights a particular kind of fire under you that you can't help but feel inspired by!

15. Any advice you want to share?

One last bit of advice I'd like to add, especially the way the current climate is across all creative industries, I can't emphasise enough how beneficial social media can be for you and your work being discovered. It's why I always recommend keeping somewhat of a presence online, no matter how small, even if it's just posting your doodles every now and again, you never know who is watching or who it might end up in front of! That also leads into what artwork you post, posting what you are passionate about and enjoy drawing is always a good shout, it shows through in your work! Furthermore, originals and unique ideas are the bread and butter of character design, however, don't be afraid to have a crack at fanart of established characters and properties you enjoy every now and again too, some of my biggest opportunities came from directors or producers seeing my takes on already existing properties and reaching out! Take advantage of all the avenues and tools at your disposal to get yourself out there and your work seen!


Of course I'd love to give Doodle Girl a shout out! A great one to keep an eye on from Studio Meala and my first outing with the studio! It's a project that is really pushing the genre of kids tv shows to new heights with unique takes and approaches with a brilliant team attached. I'm excited for folks to see the finished product! I also have been chipping away at some fun stuff in my spare time, main one at the minute being Sir Scallion, it's a story about the trials and tribulations of a little green onion knight and his trusty steed Horseradish as he tries, albeit very poorly at times, to revive the ways of chive-alry throughout the lands of Cropshire and Kingdom of Marrowmere. It's a punny one that's sure to tickle the fancy of any lovers of high fantasy medieval veggie adventurers out there!

You can catch Dom at the links below:



Thanks to Dom for his generous answers and for providing so many resources and images!

Buzzz x

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