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Spotlight on: Jim Phillips (part I)

shoutOut on 24/5/12 by travis.lyle1 in wordUp

Hello Leapers and welcome to the first Spotlight On! 'What's Spotlight On?' you ask - well, basically we scratch our brains and identify those all-time epic graphic artists that have influenced illustration and graphics across the board. In this particular case, we’re talking skate culture as we're putting the spotlight on Jim Phillips, the man whose most recognised work was done over the years 1975 - 1995 for Santa Cruz. Screaming Hand? Roskopp face? Jason Jesse’s Neptune? Slimeballs wheels? Yep, Jim’s the man. Here’s the lowdown:

SL: Firstly Jim, thanks very much for taking the time to answer our questions. Right, let’s talk shop - your designs are globally recognised icons of Californian skate and surf culture - where did the inspiration for designs such as the Screaming Hand and Roskopp face come from?

JP: From the cosmos I guess. During high school I drew a lot of surfing cartoons and often included a clenched hand sticking out of the water with shark fins circling, like a drowning surfer. The hand was sort of a character I drew on my book covers and notebooks. When Santa Cruz asked me for a logo for their Speed Wheels line I drafted the Hand for service, and to give it enough edge for skaters I added a screaming mouth.

SL: Were artists such as Ed Roth and (surf and rock illustrator) Rick Griffin instrumental in shaping your particular style, or were there earlier artists who contributed to the direction your style took?  

 JP: My first paying art job was also during high school, “Jelly-Roll” Parody, one of the upper-classmen who drove a custom 54 Oldsmobile, asked me to paint a “Big Daddy type” monster on the dashboard. I made up my own monster but Big Daddy was an inspiration for all of us. The Slasher skateboard deck is my tribute to Roth. Rick Griffin is one of the most amazing artists of his time. We were both drawing cartoons in competing surf magazines in the early 60s and becamefriends. In those days we were both influenced by the cartoon work of Pete Millar from Hot Rod magazine, and some of the Mad crazies like Wally Wood and Bill Elder, and even each other. 

SL: Over the years 1975 till the 1990s, your output for Santa Cruz consisted of hundreds of different designs for decks, wheels, decals and T-shirts. Of these classic pieces, are there any that your standout favorites?

JP: The favorites of my skateboard designs are Screaming Hand, of course, Slasher, and the Roskopp series two to five. I guess there is a tendency for me to like the designs that perform well and become icons. I’ve had plenty of designs I thought were good but didn’t get traction for one reason or another. There are a lot surprises and some bumps in the road for graphic artists, especially when marketing becomes all important. 

That’s it for this week’s Spotlight, design lovers! Stay tuned for Part II, where Jim gives us the lowdown on his influences and inspirations (and how B-grade monster movies helped him become one of the world’s most recognised illustrators!)

Till then, keep it colourful!

Enjoy the interview? Check out Springleap's other interviews in the Spotlight On series here.



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