Bellamy Murphy’s favorite color is green. A seemingly inconsequential detail about the Georgia native, but when you get to know her, that simple fact perfectly describes her draw to all things lush and living—reflecting the rich southern ecosystem in which she grew up.
This self-taught artist has called Savannah home for nearly 20 years. During this time, Bellamy has become part of the historic landscape. While browsing the local boutiques in downtown Savannah, you’re bound to see one of her signature oyster shells or lush green marsh paintings adorning a wall. Her work, easily recognizable by bold, colorful strokes informed by a spirit that seems equally passionate and nostalgic, is inspired by the nature around her. Bellamy says this appreciation for nature was ingrained in her at a young age while growing up in Bluffton, South Carolina.
Throughout her childhood, Bellamy was always by the water. “Being in the mud and being in the marsh are my happiest memories,” she says. She spent her mornings running down to the water’s edge after sunrise with her three sisters and two brothers in search of what the tide had left for them the night before. They’d collect pieces of shells and bottles, clouded and hazy from the tide repeatedly running them against the sand and mud. Bellamy would carefully study the shells, taking note of every crevice on the rough outside and colors on the seamless inside. The rest of the day they’d spend crabbing, shrimping or simply playing on the beach. The adventure was only at an end when the crickets grew deafening and they could barely see in front of their eyes.
Bellamy’s first memory was when she was four and lying on her grandfather’s dock, looking up at the swaying palmetto fronds. She thought about how she could paint the fronds and all their layers of green. She’d never painted up until that point, but shortly after, Bellamy dove in. She would rip the covers off coloring books and use the blank part to make her own unique pieces for the sole reason that she hated coloring inside the lines. One of her sisters prided herself on her ability to stay within the lines, but Bellamy could not be swayed to do so.
Even now, she takes that coloring-outside-the-lines energy and translates it in her at-home Isle of Hope studio. When asked to describe her studio, Bellamy hesitates before saying, “It’s probably like organized chaos.”
There are two sides to her studio, one dedicated to oil paintings and the other to acrylic and water-based paintings. In between are pieces in progress, pieces she’s not yet started, baskets filled with tubes of every color of paint imaginable, half-full paint cans, mixing bowls with muddy green water from cleaning brushes, stacks of containers to mix colors together and many, many brushes. She has so much to work with, but for good reason.
“I try to grow as an artist and a person all the time,” she says. “And I try to do something every day that scares me.” For her, that means painting something out of her comfort zone—maybe something very tight and studied, a figure, or something very abstract to get her to expand her abilities as an artist.
Her biggest challenge, though, has been keeping her “creativity real and keeping it going.” For Bellamy, being an artist who people can relate to has always been a huge sense of pride. And while she has many buyers who want a custom piece, she’s found it robs her of her creative expression.
“What you have in your mind’s eye and what they have in their mind’s eye may never meet,” she says of the difficulty of painting for commission. She has decided to take a break from commission work, but when asked if she’s done for good, Bellamy explains that she’ll still do them here and there but she doesn’t want it to take up the body of her work like it once did. What’s more important for her is nurturing her creative side and letting her passion take over again.
“My best work is when I can just do what comes out of my heart,” she says. “If you do what comes out of your heart, then it just seems to be so much more authentic.”
And for Bellamy, what comes out of her heart is the immense love she has for the southern coast she calls home. Where she has grown up and continues to live has given her endless inspiration, from the way the marsh grass sways in the wind and the smell of the mud, to the way the sun and moon bounce off the tide.
“I have to give back to the southern coast and my southern heritage. Because I don’t feel that love in my soul when I go to other places,” she says. Her love for home is in every swipe of paint on her canvas, and the people who are from here recognize that—they can feel it in her work.
Which is why, of course, Bellamy loves the color green. It’s the color of nature, of the marshes she’s always lived by. And, according to her, it’s the color of the heart chakra, the chakra that supposedly colors one’s life with compassion, love and an appreciation of beauty in all things—the spirit by which her art and life are colored.