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“Farewell Blue Wizard”: Artist Jef Murray Passes Away

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Out of the cold of December, 2013 I walked into the lobby of the Maritime Institute of the Baltimore Conference Center and saw a smiling fellow in a trench-coat and leather ‘outback’ style hat. I was wearing the same kind of hat and instantly knew I shared an unspoken affinity with this traveler. At first meeting I did not know he was wearing cerulean blue underneath his coat, but at a quick mutual glance we recognized each other from cyberspace meetings and shared a quick handshake and a hug. Like so many at Tolkien conferences, we had never physically met, but already shared so much in common.

“Pleased to meet you for the first time old friend.”

Thus was my meeting with Jef Murray at Mythmoot II, the second annual conference of the Mythgard Institute. The pressing issue thereafter was how could we attain our first pint together and talk about what we both loved. Anyone who knew Jef would agree that he was immediately welcoming and embraced new friends like priceless treasure.

Jef once said, “I’m always embarrassed that I’ll either say too much and sound pompous or too little and sound elusive.” Modest, wise, immensely talented, always approachable and above all, a true gentleman’ I will sorely miss corresponding with, Jef. Tuesday, will always be Tolkien Tuesday! A true inspiration, your work lives on. “Echoes on the Road” – Artist and Legendarium Media Writer Joe Gilronan

Jef gave us an inside view of the magic of his studio back in 2012, and while it is only 5:55 long it provides us an invaluable perspective of his work.

I could write pages about my conversations with Jef, as could many of my colleagues and friends in the fantasy and Tolkien community. But all I find myself now wanting to say is, “Oh Jef, where have you gone, and why didn’t we have herald of your leaving?” How is it that beauty and truth leaves us this soon?

I can hear Jef say in response, “Oh don’t worry about it brother, Through the ages of the world we have fought the long defeat, the pressing issue will be when we can meet again and talk about what we love!”

“I didn’t know Jef Murray very well, but I’ve seen his art almost every week for the last couple of years. In fact, he provided artwork for some of my Narnia related projects. His artwork is inspirational and unique. Every painting told a story worth telling and you can almost see the characters in motion on every canvas. He and his art will be missed.” – Paul Martin, Co-Founder of Legendarium Media

Reciting the Signs - Narnia
Reciting the Signs – Narnia

To me, Jef’s legacy in art was light. Light was always the feature of his artwork. How light shone through leaves, how light shone through a forest or a ship’s sail. It was the light that shone through the frame of his canvas that he despaired to share, the light of his Messiah that he so longed to share with friends. None that knew Jef can deny that he did not try to share the light of that love.

I would be remiss in leaving off on a note of despair regarding Jef’s unexpected journey away from us. All of you who really knew Jef know that he would want to share a message of hope in his Savior. Any tribute that leaves out Jef’s Christian faith would be no tribute at all. If we wish to give Jef true tribute, lets remember the faith that directed every stroke of his brush. Jef’s faith was one that challenged the end and said, “ Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?” “ – 1 Cor. 15:55

“Jef was my first ever interview with Legendarium Media. He was kind and gracious and filled with knowledge! We had many conversations via Facebook chat. I wish that I had become closer to him. We shared many of the same faiths and beliefs. I am deeply saddened at his loss.” – Steve Fitch, Co-Founder of Legendarium Media

His faith and his contributions to Tolkien works will be greatly missed by all. Jef Murray was 55 years old.

Funeral and visitation details can be found HERE. The family requests that any donations are to go to Birthright of Atlanta, Ga.

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“In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! we are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory.” – JRR Tolkien

About John Di Bartolo

I'm just a minstrel on a wandering horse.