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Spotlight On: Jim Phillips (part II)

shoutOut on 31/5/12 by travis.lyle1 in wordUp

Aaaand we’re back, putting the Spotlight On Jim Phillips, in Part II of his big and dandy interview here on The Leap. Eyeballs? Screaming faces? Famous skateboard designs that went on to become coveted T-shirts? Yep, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s pick it up where we left off…

SL: So Jim, your work in the skate, surf and rock industries consistently reflects a love for poster-style design and rich colour. Did you study fine art? 

JP: In 1965 I was awarded a scholarship to study fine art at the California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, CA. After one year the school administration discovered I didn’t have a high school diploma and cancelled my scholarship. But I had great teachers, I liked the classes and did well in them giving me a good background in anatomy and design, which were indispensable when I turned to commercial art, and it helped me to be able to incorporate as much art as possible into the dry button-down world of advertising and product design.  

SL: Throughout your output, there's a healthy streak of tongues, teeth, flesh, blood and eyeballs - care to share with us where this love for physical graphics comes from?

JP: Growing I was a big fan of monster movies and everything sort of grew from there. As soon as Jimbo was old enough to appreciate them we would make a list each Friday, of all the creepy 50s movies that were on TV for the weekend, then as we watched them we would add drawings of eyeballs and severed hands all around the list margins. Monsters are just fun, and it makes art more enjoyable to draw fun stuff... like otherworldly stuff.

SL: Your son, Jimbo, has followed in your footsteps in designing skate, surf and rock graphics (see Jimbo’s album artwork for Durban-based band Lowprofile below). Are there any words of advice you'd like to give upcoming designers or illustrators?

JP: Yep, he had the same training I did...monster movies. And of course I’m very proud of him for carrying the torch for creepy monster fans everywhere, and my grandson Colby James is already a pro at age 10, he’s had a few jobs and some that he’s working on. To young artists, I would say the key is dedication and experience. That means drawing a lot. All through high school I made drawings during the most boring classes and gave them to my friends. It didn’t do much for my school credentials but pretty soon I got to be known as an artist and that’s how I got the dashboard monster job. As soon as you are commissioned for art jobs the pressure is on and that will hone the techniques you have been practicing. Then you will attract more jobs, and when more money is attached to it the more you are able to spend quality time and create something notable by putting even more effort that you are getting paid and at the same time investing in yourself and your future art career.  

SL: Thank you very much for agreeing to answer these questions for us, really appreciate it. And all the best with your recovery from that hernia surgery!

JP: I’m doing well! Thanks Travis!

Well there you have it folks, great insights from one of the true legends of illustration, whose work was instrumental in raising screenprinted T-shirts to an artform. So – what have you got up your sleeve? Is there a Jim Phillips in our design community? Could it be you? Well get to it - we’ve got contests waiting for you to enter! 


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


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