Share Tweet Share Email

Ina Murphy’s long, interesting route from Moldova to the School of Art and Design

December 16, 2019

For Ina Murphy, a summer job in the Wisconsin Dells changed the course of her life in many unexpected and exciting ways.

Ina and Wyatt Murphy

Ina and Wyatt Murphy

Ina grew up in Moldova, in eastern Europe, where her love of animation got an unlikely start. Part of the legacy of the years her native country was part of the Soviet Union, her access to cartoons and animated films were those that had been dubbed into Russian. She wanted to study art and animation in college, but it didn’t seem like a realistic plan in her native country.

“In Moldova, you can’t find a career path to a good job in the arts,” she said. “But economics wasn’t really my thing. I had studied all sorts of art before–ceramics, painting, drawing, art history–but it’s so hard to find a job in the arts there, and the ones you can are very underpaid, and, I needed something that seemed like there was a future in it.”

So, she attended a university in Romania and somewhat begrudgingly majored in economics, finance and banking. Her summers were spent, of all places, in Wisconsin, as part of her university’s work and travel program.  In 2013, she was working at a t-shirt store in the Wisconsin Dells when she met a tourist from Ottawa, Ill. named Wyatt Murphy.

To say they hit it off would be an understatement, as they were married later that year, and began attending Illinois Valley Community College together.

At IVCC, Ina was finally free to pursue her love of art, and after earning their associate degrees, both Ina and Wyatt transferred to NIU. Ina will complete her bachelor’s degree in December, and Wyatt will graduate in May with his bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics.

“I picked NIU because of the awesome animation program we have here,” Ina said of the School of Art and Design’s renowned Time Arts program.  “I like everything about animation. I like that I put so many hours into it and then see my outcome. I like the process 3D animation. Sometimes it can be stressful, but I love to see the creation. It’s art and movement, and I love it. I enjoy the technical part of it, too.  It doesn’t matter how good of an artist you are, if you don’t know all of those key points, or how to use the software correctly, your art isn’t going to turn out the way you want it to.”

Ina has been a mainstay on the Dean’s List during her years at NIU, and has earned several scholarships, including the O’Malley-Pugh Scholarship, the Cora Miner Art Scholarship and the NIU Transfer Merit Scholarship.

Her mastery of the art and technology that combine in 3D animation is so advanced that she occasionally is brought back to classes she’s completed to give demonstrations to students on innovative ways she’s found to use the software.

“Ina is a wonderful person who is a joy to have in class,” said Todd Buck, Assistant Director of the NIU School of Art and Design, Professor and Illustration Area Coordinator. ” She gave a demo to the class on how to take a model from ZBrush (a digital sculpting tool for 3D modeling, texturing and painting) and rig it in Maya (a 3D modeling software). She’s always positive and inquisitive and eager to learn.”

Ina said she was excited to give that demonstration.  “The software allows you to add rigging, basically bones and skeleton, to your object or character,” she said.  “I knew that class had created some really nice characters, and that they all wanted to be able to make their characters move.”

She’s not done with NIU, yet.  Ina will return in January to begin work towards her Master in Fine Arts in Time Arts. She will also be working in the NIU Digital Convergence Lab, where one of her projects will be a 3D modeling project in artifact hunting for the Center for Burma Studies, and she’ll be be working in the NIU photography lab. She will also help conduct NIU’s video game design camps.

Her long term goal is to work as a video game character creator, and with that in mind plans to study more programming to add to her already impressive art and animation skills.

Here are some brief examples of Ina’s digital animation work: