A self proclaimed “design nerd”, Nick Murphy’s art combines elements of illustration and graphic design. With comic-like characters and fun splashes of color and typography, Nick’s work takes on a nice balance between art and design. After trying all kinds of different mediums and techniques, his style gradually transformed, taking on a more refined and distinct quality that sets it apart today. 


Denver (2015–Present) & Nashville (1991-2015).


Artistic tools of choice?

Pencil & Paper, Procreate, Adobe Creative Suite.


Guilty pleasure?

Collecting 90’s figurines and playing video games when I should be doing productive things.


Best advice you’ve received?

“Show up every day and be as useful as possible.”
This one sticks with me because it’s always relevant no matter who you are or what day it is. Showing up everyday with a positive attitude has helped me in so many countless ways in all aspects of my life.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you became an artist?

I received my Bachelor’s degree for graphic design & painting in 2015 and have always been obsessed with illustration. Around 2017 I started making paintings and illustrations under the name Iconick (ico “Nick” aka Nick Murphy). 


How do you like to describe your style of art?

I’d say my art style combines elements of illustration and graphic design. I use comic-book style characters paired with typography and minimal color palettes’ very much like design posters or gig posters.


What does your creative process look like?

I typically begin by having a character or saying what I want to make a piece about and then I start sketching thumbnail-sized scribbles that look a lot like chicken scratch using pen & paper. Afterwards, I make the chosen sketch bigger and flush out the general details. Once that’s done I switch over to digital and use Procreate and the Adobe suite to make the outline and colors for the final piece.

How did you come up with the name Trial By Fire Studio?

I started out with the name Iconick but ended up changing it when I realized how many other artists had very similar names, also people always struggled with the spelling. Ultimately I changed it to Trial By Fire Studio because it’s unique, I liked how it sounded and it just felt like the right move. It’s easy to spell too.


What would you say has been one of the biggest challenges in your career as an Artist?

Balancing all the different hats you need to wear on a daily basis. On any given day you have to shift gears from artist to social media content creator, brand manager, marketer and business owner. It causes lots of wear & tear on the creative battery so finding the right balance for all that is something I’m definitely still working on.


How do you find inspiration to come up with new ideas?

Sketching daily, quotes/sayings that randomly stick with me, listening to music while walking my dog or jamming in the car.. those are some of my go-to sources for new ideas.

What are some of the ways you stay in the creative flow?

Establish a routine, eliminate distractions, set realistic goals, embrace failure as a learning opportunity.


What are your favorite types of projects to work on?

Gig posters are hands-down my favorite projects, I would love to work on more of those.


How has your style evolved/changed over time?

It started out as doodles in my sketchbook. I took a comic-book-inspired approach when I first got into creating my own characters. A few years later I also became a big design nerd so I was drawn to stuff like minimal color palettes, patterns, and typography. I spent the longest time looking for a balance between art and design. After trying all kinds of different mediums and techniques, my style gradually transformed, taking on a more refined and distinct quality that sets it apart today. I like to convey stories and emotions through my work.

What other artists do you look to for inspiration?

Biggest inspirations are artists like Mike Mignola, Doze Green, Pierre Kleinhouse, Marcelo Ventura, Matt Gondek, Snooze One, and Ramz1107. Those are some of my creative heroes.


What upcoming projects are you working on that we can stay tuned for?

I partnered up with Abstract Denver so you can actually find my stuff in their shops now. Super stoked about that. I’m also working on a handful of things like a t-shirt design that has all the iconic Colorado landscapes, a series about the 7 deadly sins and heavenly virtues, as well as some gig posters too. So I’m excited to share those soon but I can’t name any dates just yet.