SciFiNow x Poster Posse: Sharm Murugiah takes on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Sharm Murugiah gives us his take on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

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With a new issue of SciFiNow on the shelves, it’s time to take a closer look at the latest in our collaborations with the amazing folks at Poster Posse.

This month, the awesome Sharm Murugiah tackles Susannah Clarke’s incredible Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, with the brilliant piece you can see above! We took the chance to chat with Sharm about his inspirations, his style and his dream commissions.

Tell us about your background as an artist. Where did you study and how did you get in to digital art?

From a very young age I was very interested in the design of things. I was always painting and drawing; building with Lego. I remember watching films like Terminator 2 and A Nightmare on Elm Street as a kid and redrawing imagery from those films. I studied art at school, spending all my time in the art room. My art modules covered sculpture one year and pop art the next. This was where I really discovered my love of pop culture related art.

I actually studied Architecture at university to see if I could apply my artistic skills to the built environment, but after graduating as a qualified architect, pop art called me back. I decided to pass on the stressful, often disheartening life as an architect ( I have many former student friends who can corroborate!) and go for a life in graphic design and illustration.

After freelancing for a year or two, I drew some attention from a small book publisher No Exit Press who gave me my big break designing a series of book jackets for their run of Jason Starr Novels. Around that time I joined the Poster Posse and since then I have been consistently developing my technique on both self initiated projects and projects for clients such as 20th Century Fox, AMC, Disney, Lucasfilm, Icon, Lionsgate, Little White Lies Magazine and Vertigo films to name a few… while also working full time as a graphic designer for a restaurant chain where I have the chance to brush up on my graphic skills through the projects i’m tasked with!

How would you sum up your style? And how has this developed over the years?

I’ve never really liked the word style. As a graphic designer I believe one should approach a gig by responding to the context of that brief but as an illustrator I guess I veer towards a certain output. So I would describe my approach as fun! It can be quite fun and silly at times not taking itself too seriously. I share a lot of love for the illustration scene out of east London.

Photo by Cyrille Choupas
Photo by Cyrille Choupas

What have been your favourite projects to work on so far?

I really enjoyed working on my officially licensed Star Wars prints for Lucasfilm and Disney. A dream project to work on which culminated in a Star Wars x Poster Posse gallery show in Marseille. I had a lot of fun on my Ant-Man for the Poster Posse and The Walking Dead for AMC.

A lot of your work is based on popular culture, what attracts you to this kind of work?

I think what attracts me most about this kind of work is being able to share my love of pop culture with an audience through my filters! Whether its a way I compose an illustration or through a certain choice of colour, I feel I am being brave and putting my art out there into the world and I guess thats all any artist hopes to do! Because Pop culture resonates with so many of us, the reaction one gets from their art is a special thing.

Are there any dream clients/collaborators you’d love to work with and why?

I think working on a cover design for the New Yorker would be a dream come true! Every time I see a cover design for that publication, it knocks me out of my chair. I guess its due to the amazing direction given and talent on display that results in astonishingly good covers! Transport for London would also be an awesome client to work for too!

Sharm's piece for The Walking Dead
Sharm’s piece for The Walking Dead

What is usually the most challenging part of a commission?

For me one of the most challenging parts of a commission is the general process of doing the job. Let me explain… The excitement comes when you get the job, whether it’s a client you’ve really wanted to work for or a subject you’ve been dying to do! The excitement also comes when you come up with a killer idea! but then after that its just quite a gruelling process of getting the thing done! Don’t get me wrong I love doing it! But that for me is the most challenging part. In some cases exciting things happen during the process but more often than not I have pre planned things in my head and its a case of eat sleep draw repeat!

What is your process? Are you a ‘tight’ sketcher of ideas or does it start loose and come together digitally?

As mentioned, I roughly pre plan things in my head allowing myself the freedom to adapt during the process. When a job comes in, an idea comes quick, then its about sketching out some of the options and picking one that works. Working over a hand sketch in a digital format starts to refine things to get to the finished piece!

What programs/tools can’t you live without?

So long as I’ve got a pen and piece of paper, and a functioning brain I’m happy. Although I find Photoshop and Illustrator are very helpful in turning my ideas into more refined pieces of work!

But one thing I really enjoy doing while working is listening to as many film podcasts as I can get my hands on! whether it’s Quentin Tarantino being interviewed by Bret Easton Ellis or Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo waxing lyrical over the weeks film releases! I find it helps me work better!

Sharm's Ant-Man piece
Sharm’s Ant-Man piece

What would you say separates you from other artists?

Thats a tough question… I guess what separates me from other artists is the fact that I’m me! Everyone is different. We all have our own experiences and influences that we have grown up with and which in turn shape our art.

What advice would you give to yourself if you could travel back in time to the start of your career?

I would tell myself to stick to my guns! Stick to what I believe. Dismiss the naysayers and maybe have a bit more of a social life!

What would be your three key tips or pieces of advice for artists trying to start a career?

  1. Do some form of drawing every day.
  2. Always carry a pen & sketch book and if have an idea for a drawing, however crazy, get it Down!.
  3. Work bloody hard!
Sharm's cover for Jason Starr's Savage Lane
Sharm’s cover for Jason Starr’s Savage Lane

Anything you are working on/upcoming that you would like to plug?

I have some more Star Wars prints in the pipeline. A new Jason Starr cover, and I designed this years Eastern Electrics festival artwork. Developing further from my 2015 artwork for Eastern Electrics.

See Sharm’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell piece in the new issue of SciFiNow, on sale now!