Edie Murray is a working artist. Here she sheds light on her experience and career as a Visual Artist working through the lens of New Media. She tells Agora how she makes a living, and provides insight into her personal career development, to help support artists emerging into the Digital Art scene.

Emma McGarry |  Ed Peter Traynor| 26 February 2021

Edie Jo Murray, Ben Neal and Harmeet Chagger-Khan, Mood Pinball (2019 – 2020), 3D Digitally Rendered Image of Digital Pinball Machine, Commissioned by the Open Data Institute (ODI) in partnership with the University of Southampton DataStories @ Courtesy of the artists.

Murray, also known as EchoDeltaMoon, uses her colourful, highly stylised aesthetic to playfully re-imagine the gaps that exist within our realities. Murray’s screen-based practice navigates themes of escapist fantasy and alternate realities, underpinned by Grecian myth, folklore and imaginative story-telling. Her latest major work, Mood Pinball (2019 – 2020), commissioned by the Open Data Institute, operates as a digital pinball machine: re-imagining the use of city-wide data through a game and providing a neuro-diverse perspective on the effects of noise levels in urban environments. Murray was also commissioned in 2020 by ArtSpace Coventry to produce her vinyl shop-window installation EchoDelta, and by Coventry City of Culture to generate the in-browser VR environment, Isolation. Each project demonstrates Murray’s growing success as a Digital Artist in the West Midlands. 

More recently, Murray spoke about her career to students at Coventry University. We’ve worked with the artist to summarise her talk and delve into her top-tips for developing a successful art career. 

Edie Jo Murray, Wonder  (2019) in relation to the Wonder Exhibition (2019) at The Herbert Museum & Art Gallery, Exclusive 3D Digital Print, Commissioned by Secret Knock Zine, Coventry © Courtesy of the artist.

Tip 1: Your Work Doesn’t Have To Be Saleable To Make Money

I’ve sold one piece of work in my career: one physical item that someone purchased and took away with them. It was a digital print, large-scale in a frame. I sold that for 60 quid. A lot of the time when I was at university, I thought that was how you had to make money as an artist. I’ve since learned that there are many other ways you can do it and I wish I’d been told that when I was studying. Actually, the way that I make money is largely through commissions, for example being commissioned to make a digital image or video but without giving anything physical away: I still own it at the end and, instead, get paid for my time and service. It’s a more prevalent way of making money as an artist. If you google “how to make money as an artist”, you’ll come across a lot of traditional painters or sculptors who sell physical work, and sometimes it can be hard to situate yourself within that when you are working with New Media or Digital Art. It’s about understanding that there’s this whole separate world where you can get paid for your ideas, time and effort rather than selling artworks.

Edie Jo Murray, Wonder (2019), Exclusive 3D Digital Print, Commissioned by Secret Knock Zine, Coventry © Courtesy of the artist.

Tip 2: Make Yourself Known

I love it when people email me to let me know that they love my work and want to work with me – I think “Wow! Someone’s approaching me and wants to pay me” – and I haven’t had to do anything except exist as an artist and put my work out there. It makes me feel good and reminds me that I’m a valid artist.

Just make sure people know what you’re doing! I don’t use social media very much, so the best place to keep up with my work is my website, but social platforms might work well if you feel comfortable using them. Also, engage with other online opportunities to let people know what you’re doing. For example, I join in with #ArtChatCov on Twitter to have discussions and network with people. It’s important to make networks aware of where you’re at and what you’re doing right at that moment. You never know, they might think of you when they require an artist who matches their criteria. 

It’s not just about that though, you also need to be approachable: make sure people know how to get in touch with you. I was always nervous about sharing my email address, but it’s worth it and a much easier way of keeping in contact with important networks.

The other thing I would say is, situate yourself where you want to be found: don’t feel like there are rules – if you don’t think your work fits within a particular social network or a specific theme – don’t compromise! You have control over where you situate yourself and where you want people to position you in your field. Make the most of that: think about where you want people to find you, the types of people you want to find you and where those opportunities go. 

Edie Jo Murray, Out of Body (2020), 3D Digitally Rendered Image © Courtesy of the artist.

Tip 3: Offer A Coherent Narrative

Again, take control of how you present yourself and your work. In the same way as situating yourself where you want to be, take charge of your own narrative. For example, if you write well about your work, you’ll avoid the risk of being boxed in a category that you don’t want to be in. I’m learning this in my practice at the moment: I sometimes get pigeon-holed as a type of artist in a way that isn’t who I am or where I want to be situated. 

And also, provide something that people can digest easily. You don’t have to have a three-sentence snappy statement, but just like the famous elevator pitch in business, if you have a good story or narrative that people can digest and understand, it’s much easier for them to see how you fit into their programme if they’re a commissioner or a curator. 

Finally – and I can’t say this enough – document your work! A lot of shows that I’ve done in the past which were quite important for me, I didn’t document – it’s all mobile photos or whatever. I don’t have a record that I did this great thing. So make sure you always document your work well, so that you can tell that story later on in the future.

Edie Jo Murray, EchoDelta (2020), Vinyl Prints and Installation, Commissioned by ArtSpace, Coventry © Courtesy of the artist.

Tip 4: Perhaps the most important of all: Build, Strengthen and Maintain Your Network

I know we all hate the word networking, but it’s absolutely the most important thing when it comes to your art practice. I’ve secured lots of great gigs because a contact knew that I was the right fit for the job. That kind of word of mouth is a crucial way to get work, but it’s difficult at the beginning of your practice because a network takes time to build up.

 Open calls can be great – especially if it’s something that really interests you. For example, I worked on the #ItGetsLighterFromHere digital commission – a series of 60-second collaborative films produced by the West Midlands Cultural Response Unit –  because it was a really positive project in a cultural sense. The difference between open calls and being directly contacted for commissions, however, is that you are in a competition of hundreds of thousands of artists versus a competition of one. The process of being commissioned directly is so much easier, friendlier and less stressful than having to constantly reinvent yourself and re-write yourself for a new project or person that doesn’t know you. 

My biggest piece of advice is: attend events. Right now it’s much harder to network because of the pandemic, but back in 2017 was when I made a lot of the connections that helped me build my practice to where it is today. I was always going to events: art-tech socials at Birmingham Open Media (BOM), First-Friday sessions, exhibition openings – that sort of thing. I’m a shy person and don’t always know how to approach people, but if someone is an artist or curator or something, it’s totally normal to introduce yourself and tell them how much you love their work versus approaching a CEO with a business card – it just feels more natural.

With that in mind, right now you can attend online events, email artists or curators you admire, tell them you enjoy their work and schedule virtual meetings to find out more about their practice. You’ll get to learn more about their work, and in turn, secure a new contact. They might then be the contact who thinks “hey – you’d be great for this project!”

Edie Jo Murray, Ascension (2019), 3D Digitally Rendered Image © Courtesy of the artist.

Tip 5: Take Advantage of Other Revenue Streams

I don’t wanna say “go get a day job because you can’t be a full-time artist” but there are other ways to be a New Media artist other than through commissions. Sometimes there are indeed lulls: no commissions, no open calls, no grants, but there are other ways to make a living. For example, I’ve worked with BOM to lead some workshops aimed at art professionals who didn’t have Digital Art in their programmes, galleries or museums. I was teaching how 3D scanning can be done easily with smartphone apps, so they could make scans from their collections and put them online with New Media. It’s a really interesting topic for me and I was able to make money as well as valuable personal connections. Who knows, one of those galleries might contact me and say “hey – we want this 3D scan stuff, can you come in and do it?” I’ve also done some Augmented Reality workshops for both adults and children, as well as various other things like how to present yourself online as an artist, and I taught a module for the BA Digital Media course at Coventry University. Additionally – and I don’t generally do this but I know plenty of artists that do – it’s great to work with local communities and local authorities; there’s always scope and money there to put on workshops or collaborate with and support the community.

Edie Jo Murray, Solitude (2019), 3D Digitally Rendered Image © Courtesy of the artist.

Tip 6: Know Your Worth!

This has taken me a long time to establish. Knowing your worth is all about understanding the amount your client is paying, what can that money cover in terms of your time, and making sure it’s clear what it is that you can provide for that cost. You don’t want to end up doing multiple revisions or doing loads more than you’re being paid for. 

Most importantly, though: never under-sell yourself. Do this by calculating all of the costs you incur as part of your practice and always make sure they are covered. For example, I spend a lot of time rendering my work, which is time that can’t be spent working on other jobs. Therefore, I always keep in mind that I need the payment for that time. Also, make use of the tonnes of guidance available on the internet. A-N, for example, has a guide to paying artists fairly – it’s really useful to know what the going rate is so as not to undersell yourself or undercut the market for other freelance practitioners.  

Only do as much work as you’re being paid for! It’s hard not to get carried away with commission money and think that you need to create something that’s completely ground-breaking. Step back and remember that you need to provide what the commissioner has paid for. If it’s a micro-commission, don’t do more than the commission covers. If they want more, it’s going to cost more. It’s all about valuing your time and making sure you don’t do more than you need to, nor over-promise. 

When it comes to unpaid work, I’ve learned from experience that exposure isn’t always a worthwhile reward, and it sets the precedent that you will work for free. Honestly, I can’t think of anything I’ve done for free that’s been a huge game-changer. Don’t just think of free work in terms of currency, though: sometimes I have worked for “free”, but in exchange I got a gallery space to experiment in and was offered development and support with tech and space. That’s not quite the same as offering your work for nothing. 

One more thing, I’ve made the mistake of taking loads of opportunities purely to lengthen the list of my shows. The point of having that list is to demonstrate your experience, but if you’re not devoting your time or energy to those shows or learning from them, the whole experience isn’t worthwhile. It’s nice to have, but it’s not the be-all and end-all. People will look at your work, rather than your CV. 

Edie Jo Murray, Untitled (2019), 3D Digitally Rendered Video © Courtesy of the artist.

Tip 7: Know What’s Out There

 This is perhaps most relevant for those looking for opportunities in the UK, but I think that looking for opportunities outside of London is key. When I was an art student, I was taught that everything goes on in London: that’s where the galleries are; that’s where everything is focused. I feel that I was really naïve to have thought that because the Midlands – where I am now – is a really great place to be situated. While it’s previously been underfunded, Coventry won City of Culture 2021 and there’s now a lot more funding to encourage and support local artists. Even unexpected cities just like Coventry have a lot going on, so just be aware of what’s happening around you locally. Remember, make networks wherever you are, because if people know you and your practice, they will send you relevant opportunities or contact you to work with you. Like I said before, there’s so much more to being an artist than being in London, getting represented by a big gallery, or getting a solo show. But you need to look for it, and knowing the right people is the best way to start heading in the right direction! 

You can keep up with Murray on her website, where she shares all of her latest features, work and upcoming shows. We can’t wait to see what she does next!

About the artist

© Courtesy of the artist.
Artist Website

Edie Murray (b. 1992) is an artist based in the West-Midlands, UK. She works with the desire to disrupt ideas of reality and perceptions of space and the world(s) we live in. She completed her Master’s Degree in Digital Media and Culture from the University of Warwick in 2020 and has since received the Developing Your Creative Practice grant from Arts Council England. Using New Media tools such as 3D rendered images and immersive technologies, her practice seeks to visualise alternate worlds and reimagine those that already exist. With particular consideration for materials and their sensory properties, Murray explores how they can enhance or distort experiences of space through the lens of Digital Art.

An Artist Fellow at Birmingham Open Media (BOM) and an alum of Vivid Project’s Black Hole Club, Murray’s most recent commissions include those from the Open Data Institute, Coventry City of Culture 2021 and Unlimited.  

Memberships

2019, Birmingham Open Media Fellowship, Birmingham, UK

2018, Black Hole Club Artist Development Programme, Vivid Projects, Birmingham, UK

Past Shows and Fair booths

Group Shows

2020, ODI Summit 2020, The Open Data Institute, Online

2020, #ArtSpaceWindows, Arcadia and The Row, Coventry, UK

2020, Copy That? The Open Data Institute, London, UK

2019, Die Digitale Festival, Dusseldorf, Germany

2019, Hacked! Games re-designed, Birmingham Open Media, Birmingham, UK

2019, Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art, Coventry, UK

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