After raising a family as a single mom and spending 30 years in the public relations business, Barbara Murphy-Leary had had enough of focusing on others and decided to concentrate more on some me-time.

She had painted a bit during her years at Villanova, mostly for “relaxation” purposes, but she never fully had the time to commit to it then or in the years that followed.

Now with grown children and having sold her business, she decided to pick up a paintbrush again a few years ago. And she hasn’t stopped creating since.

Her style changes dramatically in each painting, going from palette work and expressionism to realism and perhaps her best know subjects, her mermaids.

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“Since leaving the (P.R.) agency — you can tell by my style — I’m cramming in a lifetime of art,” she laughs. “It’s been a great, great experience.”

In truth, though, as a self-taught artist, Murphy-Leary wasn’t convinced that she had any real talent. However, she found the courage to enter a judged show in 2014, and received honorable mention.

“It’s like exposing yourself (submitting work in a show). You don’t know if it’s any good,” she says. “Sure, my family and friends liked it, but when people you don’t know like it, it’s encouraging.”

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Not long after gaining that positive reinforcement, Murphy-Leary saw an article in the Press of Atlantic City on the Cape May Artists’ Cooperative Gallery and joined. Last year, she became the coop’s president.

“It’s a great opportunity. My art is selling and it makes me focus on painting,” she explains. “It’s a combination of my business side and the artist in me — it’s a nice merging of my worlds.”

Recently, Murphy-Leary, whose work can also been seen at Dompierre in Marmora, decided to impose a bigger challenge on herself — to paint 100 women in under 100 minutes each within 100 days.

“The Women’s March on Washington (D.C.) inspired me,” she reveals. “It’s all about empowering women. I raised kids as a single mom, I was a woman business owner, I have granddaughters and daughters that I love dearly — all my worlds collided.

“It’s a personal challenge and right now I’m having fun with it. It’s sort of cool.”

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Murphy-Leary knows cool. At the top of her website, GreenFairyProjects.com, is a tagline she developed: “From the mind of a creative, everything is art.” Meaning essentially that if you have a creative mind, no matter where you go or what you see, you can find art in anything and everything.

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And as for Green Fairy Projects, that name stems from the once-banned-in-the-U.S. alcoholic beverage absinthe.

“‘Green Fairy’ was the nickname for absinthe and was used as the muse for many bohemian artists back in the day. Van Gogh was rumored to be on it when he chopped off his ear,” she says. “I don’t drink it — but I like the name.”

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