Wednesday, August 1, 2012

You found me??????

Well now, you probably found my shirts or ties through a Google image search or the like. You'd be better off going to to find what you're looking for. See you there! Meanwhile, here are my Dapper Fox Ties:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

To My Beloved 12 Followers

Dear 12 blog followers. I understand that at least half of you have been waiting teary-eyed at your computer since my last blog post of nearly a year ago. Fret not! I have moved this blog over to my T-shirt site, Scatterbrain Tees. I realized that most of my posts were T-shirt related anyway, so it made sense to combine them. I can't wait to see you smile again.



Friday, March 18, 2011

Fox 13 Etsy Feature Focuses on My Shops

I was fortunate to be featured on Utah's Fox news in a story about Etsy. Max Roth and a cameraman came to my studio and spent two hours interviewing and filming me, eventually paring it down to two 3 and 1/2 minute bits. I was happy with the positive spin and that the more embarrassing things I said didn't make the cut. You can see both segments here:,0,5506194.story

Friday, February 4, 2011

Screen Printed Neckties - Abraham Lincoln

Even very conservative dressers seem to be able to get away with wild looking neckties. It's a way for a man to wear something a little more "out there" without overdoing it. That's one reason I thought I'd branch out and screen print art onto ties. It's a different format than a shirt or even most other 2D artwork because the "canvas" is so skinny and long. But artistic challenges often bring about great results. I've got several designs now, but I'll save some for future postings. Some of them are carry-overs from my shirt designs, like this Abraham Lincoln Tie that is far and away my best seller. Coming up with a shop name was easy- it was just one letter switch from my shirt line to Scatterbrain Ties.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Yes. I paint, too!

When I tell people what I do, I start by telling them I'm an illustrator who does book and CD covers and such. Yet so much of my time has been devoted to working on my graphic shirts in the last while (as evidenced by most of the posts here), that the painting has taken a back seat. Yet that's what I intend to make my focus, which should happen over the next few months as I have four or five projects I need to work on. Here's a recent photo of a work-in-progress that proves that yes, I paint too!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Are there any song lyrics that really resonate with you? That almost seem like they were written for you, or even BY you?

In 1981, the experimental rock group King Crimson released an album with a new, but still very creative sound. Interlocking guitar parts in odd meters, Indonesian percussion, and several spoken poetry parts were part of the new Crimson.

The album was called Discipline, and had both a title track and an anti-title track, Indiscipline. It's in the latter piece we find lyrics that were based on a letter written to Adrian Belew by his then-wife Margaret, concerning a sculpture that she had made. The first half goes like this:

"I do remember one thing.
It took hours and hours but..
By the time I was done with it
I was so involved
I didn't know what to think.
I carried it around with me for days and days..
Playing little games
Like not looking at it for a whole day
And then.. looking at it.
To see if I still liked it...

I did!"

Yep. That's me! When I do a painting I play LOTS of little games. Squinting one eye, blocking a portion of it with my hand, looking at it in the mirror, turning it upside down, or standing way, way back. I can't always answer "I do" about whether I still like it or not. In fact, sometimes during the process I hate the piece from being so involved. But it's these little games that help me see a piece in a new light.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Queen City Deplorium

What do you do when you send someone a signed contract and $375 worth of merchandise to sell in their store, and then they pretend you don't exist? Well, Queen City Emporium has had 80+ complaints filed to the Attorney General of Missouri in the past few weeks. These are from people all over the country, including me. How and why did we collectively take action in such a short period of time? Well, let's start with our very one-sided email correspondence that took place over several weeks time:

Me: I haven't had any updates for a while about my Tshirts. Have they been selling at all?

Them (Queen City Emporium): Silence.

Me: Please respond to my previous email if you would. I'm getting a little nervous.

Them: Nothing.

(At this point I find out third hand that their internet has supposedly been out which, by the way, is no excuse given that I'm sure at least one of them had it at home)

Me: Here's hoping your internet is back up....

Them: AT&T was finally able to get our internet hooked up yesterday mid-day. Ahh...the joys of technology & 140+ year old buildings. I'm wading my way through emails and updates.

Me: Ah, best of luck. Thanks for letting me know. I'll wait for my turn- thanks!

Them: Nada.

Me: Hello?

Them: Zip.

Me: Please PLEASE respond to me. I feel like you're giving me the runaround.

At this point I received a reply with another excuse for not writing. In it they told me a check had been sent, but to this day I have received nothing.

Feeling frustrated with this and one other consignor, I turned to the Etsy forums for advice, but I kept the names anonymous. To my surprise, someone posted that they had started a thread about "Queen City Emporium" and how they had refused to return his girlfriend's items (which total $800) or pay for those items that had sold. I went to that thread only to find out that there were already several other vendors who had also been scammed, and before the end of the night the total was over 30. Things escalated during the next few days as more and more people discovered that they weren't alone in their frustrations with the QCE. Reports were filed with the FBI, the Better Business Bureau, and many others, and at this writing over 80 people have filed with the Attorney General of Missouri.

The media was contacted and a number of stories aired on the evening news in Springfield the following Monday and Tuesday, including one story that featured yours truly quite predominantly. The store hasn't opened since and we wonder what will happen next. I do feel sorry for the women who are at the heart of this mess, but every time I try and imagine that it was just a matter of getting in over their heads, I hear another story like these:

One vendor reported trying and trying to get payment until they finally sent a token check for $10. It was made out to the wrong person. When she asked for a new one, they sent it, minus the amount used for postage!

Or what about the man who went to pick up his wife's items (after having frustrations similar to the rest of us). When he stalled in the store to count the items before leaving, they called the police on him!

One person gave this report on Etsy: "Very disappointed with this seller. Placed order on 9/25/10 for jewelry cords; on 10/7 I sent an email asking if she had sent it and got no reply. I made more attempts and on 10/25 I received a package with a USPS Delivery Confirm label attached (for proof of delivery), it contained 4 insignificant buttons. Not what I paid for or ordered. I have no recourse from Paypal."

That package was sent without the real item, and with a delivery confirmation label for no other purpose than to keep them from being able to file a complaint with Paypal. This post ends here because I truly am speechless.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A return to the lily pad

Back in high school I was known to many as the guy who draws and paints frogs. I always thought it was a bit inaccurate as I had a lot of other subject matter as well, but looking back I can think of at least three paintings, two pencil drawings, and a number of pieces in my sketchbook that had frogs in them. I guess I was in denial because I didn't want to be viewed as some sort of one trick pony. And yet I was.

One day I was with a friend who had to get something from his art class after school. I was carrying one of my frog paintings, and the teacher asked to see it. I had a different art teacher, so I was surprised when this man disappeared into a closet, pulled out some flower still lifes, and proceeded to try and encourage me to paint things like this instead. I can't remember how I responded, but I remember thinking he was crazy and how glad I was I didn't have him as a teacher! A painting of a frog on a rock really isn't that "out there", so imagine what he would have thought of something REALLY creative.

Fast forward to college where I don't think I did any frog artwork. I'm sure this was at least partly intentional as I didn't want to run around in circles. But with the passing of another ten years, it was finally time to slide back into the pond scum and draw some frogs again. I can remember why I liked them so much- those big eyes, long toes and legs that bend back and forth a surprising amount of times. All the frogs of my past were well-mannered and friendly. These are frogs with sinister intent. Why? Because it makes for a cool alliteration: "Five Fashionable Frogs Forge False Friendships".

(And yes, it's on a Tshirt)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Circuit Board T-shirt

I've always been fascinated by the artistry of computer circuit boards. The one side looks like a miniature futuristic city, and on the reverse there's a hypnotizing maze of copper and green (which in itself is a great color combination). As I understand it, the copper lines are screen printed onto the circuit board, so screen printing a similar design onto a T-shirt seemed like a good idea to me.

Not having to worry about function, I created my own design in Adobe Illustrator and burned the images onto some screens. I tried all sorts of color combinations, but ultimately decided I HAD to use metallic inks to get the coolest effect. After spending nearly $50 per quart on both copper and silver inks, I struggled to figure out how to make theme look just how I wanted on the shirts. Well, after hours of trying all sorts of tricks I got it right. Worth resurrecting a blog after a year of inactivity to tell about it? I hope so!

Find it here: PhippsArt Tshirts

Friday, January 29, 2010

Listen to Your Shoulder Angel

I've been nominated as a contender for best Valentines' gift on, so now people are voting for their favorites. The top five will be specially featured on the site, and I'm at number 8 right now. Please go vote for my Angel & Devil shirt here: If you don't yet have an Etsy account, you just need a username and a password to join. Thaaaaaaaaaaanks!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Abraham Lincoln Shirt

Abraham Lincoln helped keep the U.S. together through civil war and introduced measures that resulted in the abolition of slavery. Sounds like he deserves to be on a shirt, so here it is...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Who Killed This Blog?

Whoops, a bit of a lapse between posts, I see. So much for my blog-related resolution! (See my Jan. 14th post. Or rather, don't.) I won't make any promises or predictions as to whether this will be resurrected. I'll just let time be the judge-- and you, depending on at what point in time you have found this sorrowful note. If there is a great deal of time betwixt the date of this message and the date of your arrival here, and if this post remains at the top of the page, then this blog has truly suffered an ignominious death. Sniff.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Lyrics often work so much better in the context of a song than on paper. That's the case with those that follow, but they work better if you imagine them being sung in a bluesy, gritty tone. This is from the opening track to Captain Beefheart's bizarre and amazing work "Trout Mask Replica":

My smile is stuck
I cannot go back t' yer Frownland
My spirit's
made up of the ocean
And the sky 'n the sun 'n the moon
'n all my eye can see
I cannot go back to yer land of gloom
Where black jagged shadows
Remind me of the comin' of yer doom
I want my own land
Take my hand 'n come with me
It's not too late for you
It's not too late for me
To find my homeland
Where uh man can stand by another man
Without an ego flyin'
With no man lyin'
'n no one dyin' by an earthly hand
Let the devils burn 'n the beggar learn
'n the little girls that live in those old worlds
Take my kind hand
My smile is stuck
I cannot go back t' yer Frownland
I cannot go back t' yer Frownland

Always manages to take me out of a frownland.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

You only write when you need us...

One of the foremost T-Shirt sites on the internet is A few things set them apart from the other sites that rule the search engines. The first is that generally their T-shirts are of a higher caliber than other T-shirt sites (speaking of the designs). The other thing is that all the designs are user-submitted. There are hundreds of designs constantly up for voting by T-shirt fans, and the ones that do well end up getting printed. Pretty cool, eh?

I decided I'd put myself up for potential public ridicule and submit a T-shirt. The problem was that if I had an idea good enough to possibly get chosen, I'd want to keep it for my own web site. So I chose an idea that's been in the back of my mind for a while that doesn't really fit the "look" I'm going for on my own site. So please, go on over to Threadless and give my design some love (in the form of giving it a high vote - you'll have to choose a user name and password). Leave a comment under it as well if you feel so inclined (and if you're feeling friendly).

So what's my concept? Well, argyle and Space Invaders- together at last. Of course! The black one is based on the colors of the original game (but toned down a bit!). The other is a subtler color scheme.

Here's that link again: Michael's Threadless Submission

Friday, January 30, 2009

After much deliberation I have decided on a winner for the URL contest. The chosen URL for my T-shirts is There were some really good suggestions, a few of which beat out the winner when shared with select friends and family. But ultimately I had to choose the one that sat the best with me. Funny thing is, the person who submitted this one is... myself. Um, isn't this like one of those parables where a seeker of knowledge ends up back home at the fulfillment of his quest, or finds his answer in a mirror? Um, let me get back to you on that one.

But, as promised, there are still some prize winners. I mentioned in the rules that if I chose one of my own ideas (and no, I didn't KNOW that I would) that I would still draw three runners-up to win one free shirt each. And so I did. Congratulations to Gabi, Beth and Nate & Dani, who have all been notified by email.

Now, if anyone read my new year's resolution post about being a "reformed blogger", you'll know I've already broken it. But so you know, I did spend a good deal of my non-blogging time creating the ScatterbrainTees website. I hope that's a pretty good excuse.